Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 20th, 2014)

What is the great story of the Bible?  Yes, I know, the Bible contains many stories.  But there is one story in which all the stories of the Bible coalesce, all the stories come together, and this story, the whole story of the Bible, is about how God is the world’s true king.

And the Bible is not just referring to any God that we might prefer, but the God of Israel- the God who reveals himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… The God who spoke to Moses and revealed himself in signs and wonders through the Biblical prophets… And finally, the God who in Jesus Christ, accepted for himself a human nature and lived, like us, a real human life- this God, the one, true God is the world’s true king.

For those who accept this story, the implications are extraordinary.  One is accepting not only that God exists and that he is personal God who involves himself in his creation and the lives of his creatures, but that our lives belong to him and fulfill their purpose only in relation to him.  In other words, if God is the king, he can’t just be for us a nebulous universal force, an idea in our minds or a feeling in our hearts.  If God is the king, God is a divine person, and my life, your life, our lives belong to him.

All this cuts against the grain of the culture into which we have been immersed.  Our culture doesn’t want a king.  No, our culture wants a untold number of kings and that’s everybody.  In our culture the individual and their desires are king and so help anyone who gets in the way of those kings.

Thus we are in a predicament and faced with a decision.  Who is will be our God and king?  The culture gives you an answer- you.  The Lord Jesus gives you answer- him.  No one can serve two masters.  We all have to make a decision.

If you choose yourself, you are choosing a particular way of life.  If you choose Christ the King, you are choosing his way of life.  This is what being a disciple of the Lord Jesus is about- choosing his way of life and learning how to live it.

The predicament, the decision that we must make now (that)- either God is our king or someone or something else is our king is not new.  In fact, the whole Bible is commentary on this decision for or against God the king.  What happens to us when we choose a king other than God as our king?  What happens when we choose God as our king?  Two different ways of life emerge- one leads us to sin and culminates in death.  Sin is not just violating some kind of legislative text.  Instead, sin is a loss of relationship with God for which we have been created, and with this loss, there is a diminishment of our dignity, a loss of meaning and purpose.

This is what happens to us when God is not our king.

There is an alternative.  There is another way.

The other way leads us to God and culminates in participation in God’s own life- a participation that will look like the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

This other way opens up for us and reveals its grace and truth when we accept the invitation of the Lord Jesus to follow him, when we accept Christ as the king of our life.

This is what the Church is all about.  The Church is the way of life that Christ gives to us through which we live out the implications of having accepted Jesus Christ as our king.  It’s not an easy way, and compels us to change, and for these reasons we try to make the Church into something more palatable to our tastes.  We reduce the Church to a faith based initiative and tell ourselves that we are serving Christ simply by making sure the institutions we support serve our personal needs. The Church’s efforts become mere extensions of our political and ideological causes.  The Church’s worship becomes faith-based entertainment.  The Church’s way of life becomes a means to achieve your personal ambitions.

In these ways we miss the true way.  In these ways we refuse Christ the king and try to seize his kingdom for ourselves. It never works.  But try we do.

The Bible knows all about this and reveals the consequences.

This is precisely what the Old Testament Book of Samuel is all about, an excerpt from which we heard today.

The Book of Samuel is about how Israel refuses to accept God as their king and what God does about that refusal.

What he does is set in motion events that will lead to the revelation of Christ, and one of the pivotal events leading to Christ’s revelation is described in today’s scripture today from the Book of Samuel.  What does God do? God chooses a king for Israel (a man named David), but not for the purposes Israel thinks.

Israel thinks that God is giving them a king so that they can have wealth, pleasure, power and honors.  But this is not God’s purpose.  God’s purpose is to set up for himself a family, David’s family, through which he (God) will come into the world, become a man, and reveal himself as the world’s true king.  That is what God is up to.  He is getting to show the world the real king.

This actually happens in the revelation of Jesus Christ.  God enters human history, inserts himself into the family of King David and reveals himself as Christ the King.

Once the true king is revealed, then humanity will be compelled to a decision and faced with accepting a distinctive way of life.  This is what the revelation of God in Christ bears into the world and into our lives.

We have to make a decision.  Do our lives belong to God the King- Jesus the Lord?  Or are we playing some kind of faith-based game that is simply a pious mask we are using to cover up our refusal of God the King?

That pious mask is really a blindfold and this blindfold is what St. Paul is referring to in his Letter to the Ephesians.

He is saying those who follow Christ were once like people who were groping about in the dark looking for a light.  Christ is that light and you come to see him by removing all that is in your life that is obstructing your vision of him.  What is obstructing our vision of Christ?

Saint Paul says “evil deeds”, deeds that are often times done in secret.  By this he means that we often try to appear to be virtuous when in actual fact we are the opposite.  The appearance of virtue fools people, but it doesn’t fool Christ.  He sees through the mask.  He casts light on the truth of what we have done and failed to do.  He pulls off that blindfold.

And what happens to us when that blindfold is removed is what today’s Gospel is all about.

In his Gospel, the Lord Jesus restores sight to a blind man.  What does this mean?

On one hand, you are seeing the divine power of God the king.  Jesus Christ is God and he does things that show forth not only his divine power, but how he will exercise his power.  His power is about restoration, healing, setting things right.

Thus does God the king, Jesus, heal the blind.  To show us the kind of king that he is for us.

But on the other hand, the blind man is a stand in for ourselves, who being rescued from the darkness of our sin and coming to know Christ are faced a decision- a decision that will radically re-orient our lives.

To be for Christ the King will necessarily mean that we are against other kinds of kings.  To live Christ’s way of life necessarily means that we are living differently than other ways of life.

The blind man, once healed, finds himself positioned differently in terms of the world, in terms of his relationships.  Once he has been claimed, that is, healed by Christ, his life is necessarily altered.  He has changed and a lot of people don’t like it.

And there is the lesson.

To know Christ the King, to accept him as your King, and to follow his way of life by necessity changes you, re-orients your life and your relationships.  You are fooling only yourself if you think that the way of a disciple of Christ is one of easy accommodation and assimilation.  His kingdom is not here for us to negotiate and manage.  We change for him.  Christ doesn’t change for us.  Christ’s power does not come from popular consent.  He chooses us, even before we choose him.

And in terms of what happens when the mask is lifted, when the blindfold comes off and finally in Christ we see things rightly know this:

Opposition to you because you are his disciple is not just a theoretical possibility- you can count on it happening.  After all, there are a lot of other kings who think they have a great deal to lose if the true king returns and takes back his throne.

And Christians, listen to this:

If you are unwilling to change your life for Jesus Christ, then you are not willing to accept him for who he really and truly is.  And who is Jesus Christ?

He is God the King.



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