Pastor Michael Frye:
Most children, at some time in their childhood get frustrated enough at their parents that they threaten to run away.
I know I did.
Rodger Nishioka says that this decision often happens in some dramatic fashion.
The announcement is made, important items are packed, food is gathered for the long arduous journey, and the child starts for the door (usually very slowly).
For many years the prevailing wisdom recommended that parents engage in conversation with the child:
“Son, we realize that you are frustrated and want to leave.
Where will you go?
How will you live?
Why not take some time to think about it and we’ll talk tomorrow?
My father and mother used a more direct approach:
“No, you may not leave.
You are part of this family, and we belong together, even when we get upset with one another.”
Nishioka goes on to suggest that the question of belonging is at the heart of the conversation between Pilate and Jesus in today’s gospel lesson.
Pilate is trying to determine if Jesus claims to be the King of the Jewish nation (which would be a crime under Roman law).
Jesus responds by asking Pilate questions; then he explains that the kingdom to which he belongs is not a political one, rather a theological one that is not earthly bound.
This gospel account is usually designated as “The trial before Pilate.”
But it might as well be called, “Pilate on Trial,” according to Peter Peery.
Pilate understands “king” and “kingship” in earthly terms.
Jesus’ response redefines those terms:
Jesus comes from and belongs to the Kingdom of God.
The question of belonging continues to be a crucial one for the church today.
Just as children test the reality of belonging to their families, adults often test their belonging to their communities of faith.
Some test their belonging by delivering ultimatums.
Some simply drift away quietly wondering if anyone will notice.
Others take time to engage in conversation and then prayerfully discern whether to stay or leave.
All of these tests of belonging place the focus on the individual’s decision making.
But Jesus’ words in the gospel lesson for today indicate that those who belong to the truth listen to his voice, the voice that emphasizes belonging to God’s Kingdom – God’s family.
The reign of God is larger than any one individual, even Jesus himself.
Our belonging is up to God, just as Jesus proclaims:
“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
In the Revelation According to John from our second lesson today, Jesus is speaking to all the tribes of the earth:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega… who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
As Americans we usually take a dim view of any possibility of our being under the authority of a king or queen.
We value our freedom of expression and personal rights granted by the Constitution.
William Boyer writes that King George III of England was devastated by the loss of the thirteen colonies, soon to be known as America.
He even made the comment that George Washington would soon have himself crowned as “Emperor of the New World.”
When he was told that Washington planned to surrender his Military commission and return to farming at Mt. Vernon, George III commented: “Well, if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”
King George didn’t understand, and neither did Pilate, that there is power in giving up power, in emptying oneself.
Jesus certainly knew that to be true. He knew that to be the only way to win back the world that God the Father had created.
As Christ’s disciples in this perilous world today, do we understand that there is power in giving up power, in emptying oneself for the sake of another?
Or do we, instead, get caught up in the world view of everyone for him or herself?
A view that foments vitriol and enmity between us and others who may see things differently?
Such a world view only leads to chaos, cruelty, and protectionism.
That world view certainly does not see all the peoples of the world as being children of God for whom Jesus sacrificed his life.
Living in the truth of Christ means that we must come to an understanding of what that means as far as living out our lives in total devotion to Christ the King.
We must come to view the world, and our role in it, in the light of Christ’s words in John, Chapter 13, verse 34; “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
It was that love for the world which gave Jesus the courage and the strength to stand up to Pilate and later to King Herod on his way to the cross.
How can we do anything less as we live out our lives as disciples of Christ in today’s world?
In his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed, Martin Luther wrote:
“I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.
“Daily in this Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins – mine and those of all believers.”
Daily, our sins are forgiven.
Daily we are called, gathered and enlightened with God’s truth.
Daily, we are called through the gospel to do the right thing.
If we truly believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, we know because of his own teachings and example, what is right in the eyes of God; we know when someone is being taken advantage of; we know when someone is being discriminated against; we know when an injustice is being done; we certainly know that when someone is hungry or homeless, Jesus would not turn a blind eye or stand idly by.
His kingship is the kind that assures that all of his subjects are cared for with dignity, compassion, and love.
As Christ’s disciples in today’s world, should we not be just as willing as Jesus to risk ridicule and scorn in order to do what we know is right in order to assure love, acceptance, and justice for those who otherwise would be out in the cold?
If you feel inadequate or fearful of following Jesus down that path, remember these words from Henry W. Baker’s hymn:
“The King of love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never; I nothing lack if I am his; and he is mine forever.”
True discipleship means that we take such words and feelings to heart as we emulate our servant king with all our hearts, souls, and minds as we seek to do his will.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, give us grace to set a good example to all among whom we live, to be just and true in all our dealings, to be strict and conscientious in the discharge of every duty; pure and temperate in all enjoyment, gracious and generous and courteous toward all; so that the mind of Christ the King may be formed in us and all may know that we are his disciples; in whose name we pray.