Sunday, January 03, 2016

Sermon for 1/3/16: The Epiphany of Our Lord

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

King Herod was a troubled man. The birth of the Christ child troubled King Herod because he figured someone had been born to replace him as king. But Jesus has not been born to be an earthly king with a palace and a golden crown and a throne and an army. He has come to reside in the palace of the stable in Bethlehem, to be crowned king with a crown of thorns, to be enthroned upon the throne of the cross, to lead a ragtag army of disciples who would abandon Him. His kingdom is not one of a particular border, but one comprised of people of all nations. It is a kingdom whose citizens are all sinners, and the King gathers His sinner subjects to himself. Jesus is a king who saves us. The kings of this world raise armies and send their soldiers to defend their realms. But Jesus comes not to ask us to sacrifice ourselves for Him; He has come to sacrifice Himself for us. He leads the raid into the devil’s territory to rescue us from sin and death and bring us into a promised land paradise of everlasting life. That's the sort of king Jesus is.

King Herod is worried. He shouldn't be. Jesus didn't come to take his place. But King Herod knows, like we do, that the coming of the Savior changes things, and Herod doesn't want to take part in it. He doesn’t want the competition for power. He doesn’t want the competition for attention. And you have the same problem as Herod. If Jesus is the King, that means you can't be. If Jesus is God and king, that means you have to fear and love and trust in Him more than you fear and love and trust in yourself. Your kingdom is going to be torn down by Jesus. There can be no more acting like you're the high and mighty one who gets to boss everyone else around. You can no longer act as if everyone else's lot in life is to serve you. There can be no more going out of your way to get your way all the time. There can be no more acting like you are the one who is always in charge and always right, no more being sinned against by another person and thinking "off with their head!"  That's all the kingdom of the Old Adam, the sinner who must have his kingdom thrown down and destroyed. How's that for a New Years resolution? Repent of acting like you're the king! Stop acting like you’re all that matters. Jesus being King rescues you from all that! He'll do the work of being the king so you don't have to. And His kingdom is not a terrible one but one of life and light.

The truth is, you have been made a royal nation, a kingdom of priests. You have been given the crown of Christ's righteousness in your baptism. You have been robed in the royal baptismal garments of the kingdom of God. You have a personal herald, your pastor, whose one job is to declare the pronouncements of the King: “Hear ye! Hear ye! Your sins are forgiven!” You get to dine in the royal banquet hall to enjoy the feast of salvation in His kingdom. And what happens when The Lord makes us true royalty? We stop being kings unto ourselves and become servants to others. Baptized, absolved, and fed with Christ's body and blood, we are rescued from having to show others that we are boss; we instead live to serve. No wonder the Old Adam is scared of Jesus! The wise men offered their gifts to Jesus, but it was really Jesus who had gifts for them: forgiveness, life and salvation. He is now and always will be the king who has the same gifts for you. And it is the reign of this King, the King of salvation, Jesus, who is the Light who shines in the darkness, who makes us royal heirs before God. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. 

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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