End Times 4: Christ the King

Preached: November 22, 2009

Christ Reigns In the Church Year
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Welcome to St. John's Lutheran Church as we gather together to hear our Lord's promises and to praise him for his grace and mercy. We follow the order of service as outlined in the bulletin. As we celebrate the Last Sunday of End Times: Christ the King, we take to heart how he reigns in the church year from Advent through End Times. We begin with the invocation

P: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

C: Amen.

Lord Jesus, by your blood you ransomed us to be your people and brought us into your kingdom through the Gospel. As our risen King reign over us in your grace and mercy until we stand before your heavenly throne in glory; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

P: Dearly beloved, we enter the presence of a great King, a holy and righteous King. With penitent hearts, let us confess our sins before our merciful and gracious King. We use the order of private confession on page 154 in the front of the hymnal.

In the peace of forgiveness,we praise our Savior-King, Jesus Christ, by singing “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” hymn 341.

Diagram of the Church Year

A. The King Comes

Introduction: Genesis 3

What does the government do with rebels? When the Thirteen Colonies rebelled against England, King George III sent soldiers to put down the rebellion. When the southern states rebelled against the federal government, Abraham Lincoln sent soldiers to put down the Johnny Rebs. And when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, he sent his Son to die for them. How different our King is!

Let's go back to that tragic day. The Lord God had richly blessed Adam and Eve. He had created them in his image, so that their hearts and minds were in perfect sync with his will. He gave them dominion over his wonderful creation. His lavish love brought them together as husband and wife and provided them the Garden of Eden. He gave them the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With that second tree they could honor, worship, and thank their God by obeying his command not to eat from it. How rich and generous God's love was!

But Satan deceived Eve. She and Adam rebelled against God's love. They ate from the tree, doubting God's truth and believing Satan's lie. They became rebels.

That's the heritage handed down to us. We inherited Adam's sinfulness. We confess, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5 NIV). For “flesh gives birth to flesh,” (John 3:6 NIV), as Jesus explained Nicodemus. So every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts were only evil all the time (Genesis 6:5). For “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7 NIV). Yes, we were rebels.

But did God send his armies of angel hosts to put down Adam and Eve and destroy them, as the rebels they were? Not at all. He came calling to them in the cool of the evening. He brought them to admit their guilt. “I ate it.” He made it clear that instead of blessing they had brought the curse of sin down on themselves. Eve would face pain in child birth. Because of Adam, the ground was cursed. Painful toil for food would fill their days. For thorns infested the ground. And finally they would return to that ground in death. “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19 NIV). Cursed! How dreadful sin is!

But the Lord promised not to abandon these rebels to Satan. He promised to send the Satan-crusher. Speaking to Satan, the Lord says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers” (Genesis 3:15 NIV-footnote). “You, Satan, have lured my children away making them your friends in sin, so that they rebelled against me. I will change them. I will bring them back to me so that they become your enemies once again. I will put enmity between you and them.”

And how would the Lord God do that? He would send the One, born of a woman. This coming One would crush Satan's power. The Lord makes that clear to Satan: “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NIV). What hope for Adam and Eve as they listened in! One was coming, more powerful than Satan. One was coming to set them free from the curse. One was coming to rescue them from death. How they longed for the coming One!

Advent

So we begin the church year longing for the coming One, the Satan-crusher, our King, Jesus Christ. Advent means “coming.” Expectation, anticipation, and hope fills us as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of our King.

So Advent is a season of preparation. How unworthy we are for this King! For like Adam and Eve, we too have rebelled against God. How unfit our hearts are for such a royal guest! For sin and its filth stain us inside and out. How can we welcome him aright?

Only his word in Scripture and the Sacraments can prepare our hearts. For through these the Holy Spirit cleanses us. Your King comes to you through them. His word in Scripture and the Sacraments -- not gifts, trees, and decorations -- truly prepare us to celebrate his birth.

Christmas

And what a celebration Christmas is! Christmas is the first high point in the church year, as you can see from the diagram in the bulletin. Our King comes. He comes to this earth in flesh and blood. He comes to free us from the curse. He comes to rescue you. Your King comes.

He came in lowliness, no crib for his bed. So he's laid in a manger where animals have fed. Yet angels herald his birth. “Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King”(Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” 61:1) He has come! The One long foretold has come. “Today in the town of David A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 NIV). How great our joy!

So let's sing in celebration that our King has come, as we join together singing “Joy to the World,” hymn 62.

Epiphany

The twelve days of Christmas celebration starting on the eve of December 25 draw to a close on January 6, the Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord. That's when we remember that wise men, magi, from the east came to worship him. The Epiphany season gives us time to reflect on who this child and man is. Look at happens when he is baptized. The Spirit descends in the form of a dove. The Father speaks, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:22). Watch as he turns water into wine. Look! he heals the sick and calms the storm. This man is our God. Our King is none less than the eternal Son of the Father. He came from the Father. He is God in man made manifest.

See also that our high King, our divine King, has come to save. His miracles show not only his almighty power but also his mercy. His baptism shows how he has stepped to our side to take our place in every way. For as our God, he had no sin to wash away. He was baptized for you. See how even as a baby he received the worship of Gentile wise men, for he has come as the Savior for all people. Your King came to save you, dear friend. Epiphany helps us reflect on what child this is, whose birth we celebrated at Christmas. Epiphany makes it known that this Jesus is our God and Savior.

As we reflect on this, let's sing “What Child Is This,” hymn 67.

B. The King Conquers

Lent

As Epiphany comes to a close, we catch a glimpse of the glory of our King as he is transfigured before Peter, James, and John. A shadow of his divine glory shines through as his face glows like the sun and his clothes become dazzling white. And with that glimpse ended we enter the Lenten season to prepare for the second high point in the church year.

Lent, like Advent, is a season of preparation, preparing us for the Easter celebration. As we contemplate the suffering of our King during Lent, we see how serious our rebellion is. For you see, our sin, our rebellion, was laid on him. As Isaiah writes, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted, But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4, 5 NIV).

So as we see, the cross and nails, the strips of torn skin and the bloody thorns, as we hear the mocking and scorn, as we shiver at his cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 NIV) and feel the cold darkness of those word, we confess, “Ah! I also and my sin Wrought your deep affliction; This indeed the cause has been Of your crucifixion” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now” 98:3). How serious our sin is!

But how much greater the love our King pours out on us! For you see, he took all this on himself willingly, for you and me. As the Lamb going uncomplaining forth, he offered himself as the sacrifice in our place. While we were still rebels, godless sinners, he died for you. His kingly love bursts all bounds. What King ever died such an ignoble death to rescue those who were his enemies? But our King did. He did it for you, dear friend, for you. “What wondrous love is this That caused the Lord of bliss To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!” ((Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal “What Wondrous Love Is This” 120:1)

Lent prepares our hearts as we survey the wondrous cross on which the King of glory died, “See, from his head, his hands, his feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e'er such love and sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown?” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” 125:1)

Easter

And with our hearts so prepared, we are ready to celebrate as the darkness of Good Friday gives way to the dawn of Easter morning. Come to the tomb. “He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid him”(Mark 16:6 NIV), the angel proclaims.

Yes, our King has conquered. He has conquered sin, Satan, and death. For he has risen. He has risen indeed! “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NIV). Let's celebrate our conquering King by singing “He's Risen, He's Risen,” hymn 143.

The Easter celebration continues for the seven Sundays of Easter. In fact, every Sunday is a little Easter celebrating our risen King. As the Easter season draws to a close, we see our King ascend. Our Conqueror returns to his heavenly throne. He has accomplished the mission the Father sent him on. He has crushed Satan's head. He has freed us from the cruse of sin and death. He reigns over all as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He works all things for the good of you his people. For he is our great, our glorious, our gracious King. Let's continue to celebrate our conquering King as we sing “See, the Conqueror Mounts in Triumph,” hymn 174.

Pentecost

Jesus ascended on the fortieth day of Easter, and the Easter season comes to a close on Pentecost, the fiftieth day of Easter. Our conquering King did not leave us as orphans. He poured out the Holy Spirit on the disciples on that day of Pentecost. By the Spirit's power they proclaimed the Good News, Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Messiah. Through the people had crucified him, God raised him from the dead. In him alone is forgiveness, life, and salvation. Take to heart those words Peter spoke on that day: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off -- for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38, 39 NIV).

So during this time of Pentecost and the Sundays afterward, we reflect on what our conquering King means for our life now and hereafter. He pours out the Holy Spirit on you and me through his word in Scripture and in the Sacraments. He gives us the Holy Spirit so that we live as his children, as citizens of his kingdom, believing his promises and eager to do what is good. For the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see the great mercy of our King.

During the Pentecost season we reflect on our conquering King's Easter victory and live a new life in him. As Paul writes in Romans: “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. . . Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-4, 11-14 NIV).

As we reflect on the Easter victory of our conquering King, the Sundays after Pentecost urge us to offer our lives as living sacrifices in view of the great mercy our King has shown us.

And what assurance we have as well as we reflect on our conquering King during this time of the church year! For through Good News the Holy Spirit is at work to comfort and strengthen you. When guilt accuses you, the Spirit testifies “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV). When we struggle with the adversities of life and do not know what to pray, the Scriptures testifies, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26 NIV). When we doubt whether the Easter victory our King won really counts for us, the Scriptures testifies: “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:14-17 NIV). And when we face death, once again the Spirit upholds us as we reflect on conquering King's Easter victory. The Spirit leads us to confess with Saint Paul, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NIV).

And so Pentecost closes with the season of End Times. We anticipate our conquering King's returning in his glory. We anticipate standing before his throne, the throne of the Lamb who was slain, but now who reigns in glory everlasting. We anticipate joining with our fellow believers, God's people from every age and place, fellow citizens of the heavenly kingdom, the new Jerusalem. We reflect on the unending Easter celebration, the wedding feast of the Lamb, our heavenly home. We sing “Jerusalem the Golden” hymn 214.

Offering

Prayer

Lord's Prayer

Blessing

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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