About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Date: 11/21/2004
Feast: Christ the King
Church: LHPC
Bible text: Luke 2:1-19, Luke 23:33-43
Theme: Dedication Sunday

READ1: In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.

This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

All went to their own towns to be registered.

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

READR2: When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

READ1: And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

READR2: Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

READ1: In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

READR2: And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!"

READ1: Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

READR2: The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"

READ1: But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."

READR2: There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."

READ1: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

READR2: One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"

READ1: When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

READR2: But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong."

READ1: When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

READR2: Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

READ1: But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

READR2: He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

Everything always seems to come at once. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to over the past couple of weeks who’ve said this. And they’re not saying it because they’re excited – “I’m overcome with glee!” No, they usually say it with a sigh, and an ironic smile that says, “I’m holding up, but somebody really needs to talk to God about scheduling.”

Maybe your life runs in neat little rows. You complete Task A, then move on to Task B, and so on. Your spirit is meditative and sublime. If so, keep it to yourself. Because the holidays are coming soon. Which for most of us means whatever illusions of order we have are about to get blasted out of the water. Between now and the first of the year, chances are that everything will seem to come at once, extra much, extra fast, with extra gravy. So let’s all take a deep breath… and square our shoulders… and get ready for the ride.

On the church calendar, today is Christ the King Sunday. And on Christ the King, we’re given scriptures of Christ’s birth and Christ’s death. We get the manger AND we get the cross, all at once. We go from angels singing glory to criminals mocking God. We get a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and soldiers casting lots for his clothing. We get the shepherds with good news of great joy, and the crowds feasting on the sour wine of senseless tragedy. On this Sunday before Advent, the Sunday before the holiday season gets going in earnest, the scriptures do a time-compress from the beginning of Jesus’ life to its end. And when events get so conspicuously crunched together, one of two things happens. Chaos erupts. Chaos erupts and the voices just crash together, going, “Glory Hallelujah, Crucify crucify, Ho-ho-ho, Happy Thanksgiving, don’t eat too much dear, Peace and goodwill, Hurry Mom get the parking space, Only five shopping days left, God bless us every one. Chaos. Chaos erupts… or... the other thing that can happen when human events crunch together is God transcends. God transcends the chaos. God transcends the chaos of even the Savior’s life so through the thick, confusing blur of everything happening at once, the stillness of the eternal begins to shine through.

Christ was born a king. But if you look at the events of his life, things sure don’t look very kingly. From the cradle to the cross, the wild mix of highs and lows look anything but royal. Things don’t add up for the Son of God the way you’d think they should. And yet, in the end, everything does work out. God transcends.

For you and me – folks who on a regular basis feel like we’re taking a deep breath and squaring our shoulders for this week’s episode of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the kingship of Christ – Christ the King – is a very good thing. It says – Yup, things may feel pretty chaotic. Things may seem out of control, or overwhelming, or just annoyingly out of order. But God’s not asking you to put all things right. God’s not asking you to solve the world’s problems, and maybe not even all of your own. What Christ the King says is that there’s more to life than the sum total of its events. Even when it seems everything’s happening all at once and things are spinning out of control, there IS something that does NOT change, there IS something sure, something trustworthy, something infinite. That something is God. And if we can brace ourselves on that one sure thing, we’ll become transcendent, too.


Where do you find stability in a shaky world? That’s a tough one. Some people have given up on anything resembling stability. They’ve resigned themselves to the fads of the day and the whims of the moment. They just smile and go on, because what else can you do?

Like many of you, I, too, was overcome with glee that the long-awaited “Spongebob The Movie,” finally opened this weekend. I read a review – and you have to wonder why anyone would need to write a review of “Spongebob the Movie,” much less read one – which declared that Spongebob is exactly what the world needs – absorbency and childishness. Absorbency to soak up our messes and childishness to teach us that it’s OK to float along the shallow surface of trouble with a smile on your face. I had no idea Spongebob Squarepants was so deep (pardon the pun).

While other people have gone 180 degrees the opposite direction. Instead of ignoring the world, they hold the world in contempt. Extreme fundamentalists -- whether Islamic, Christian, Jewish, whatever – have such hatred for “the world,” that there’s little redemption to be found in this life, and even less worth redeeming. Where scripture says “hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good,” they hate what is evil and can’t find anything good.

But life deserves more than blissful ignorance, just as it merits more than destructive hatred. Transcendent moments come when we realize that our bliss and our hatred, our highs and our lows have more in common than we’d expect. We cry at weddings, we laugh at funerals, and those are the moments we remember the most. They’re the times when the extremes come together, and something true and transcendent becomes real enough to touch.

Anyone who’s ever owned a house, or a car, or a computer knows it’s true – everything does fall apart at once. We get older and we go to the doctor, and they tell us the same thing about our bodies. But on the other hand, there are times when it seems everything comes together at once, when the blessings of a moment might be enough to last a lifetime. You could call them transcendent moments, you could call them “God” moments, you could call them “Christ the King” moments, as well. From birth to death, from ancient history to “infinity and beyond,” you realize that you’re part of something greater, and – for a moment – you’re greater because of that.


Jesus took the bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat. This is my body, broken for you.” I wonder how his hands looked as they cradled and offered the bread. Carpenter’s hands. Peaceful hands. Hands weathered by the road. Hands that healed the blind and lame. Hands that holding out to them the bread of life. These were the hands that not all that long ago would have wrapped their gentle, newborn grip around mother Mary’s little finger. These were hands that not too long from now Jesus would show them as proof of eternal life, hands with nail holes, hands with wounds that would not heal. From birth to death to beyond death, these hands would be changed, would cause change. They would bring the world’s greatest love and bear the world’s ugliest shame. And yet, they were the same hands, the hands of Christ the King.

But that night, these hands that held the fate of the world were just the hands that broke the bread. A simple act, with simple words in which everything came together. As the world swirled around them, these hands were an island of peace, the hurricane's eye in the midst of the storm.

Before you get swept away in the holiday flood, let the hands of Christ the King hold you for a moment. Let them cradle you, and comfort you, because that's what everything is really all about. From your birth, to your death, to beyond -- barely a blink of God's eye -- everything that we are comes together in the mercy and love of Christ. He makes us whole. He keeps us from flying apart. He gives us the daily bread to make it through. He helps us transcend the extremes, and find peace in the simplest things.