Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Christ the King 11/25/2012

We’ve never done confirmation on Christ the King Sunday before.  In most churches it’s most often been celebrated either on Reformation Sunday or on Pentecost Sunday and that’s true here too.  I have to confess that it was more or less by accident that Confirmation happens to be today, there wasn’t a lot of deep thought that went into it, mostly it was about juggling calendars; but once we had set the date, as I thought about it, Christ the King Sunday really is a good day for confirmation; it may in fact be the perfect day for it. 

You may remember that Christ the King Sunday is a relatively recent addition to the church calendar, relatively recent as such things go anyway, having been instituted by Pope Pius XI back in 1925 so it’s not even 100 years old yet.  He added this day to the church calendar to emphasize that for Christians, their primary allegiance is to Christ, not to any earthly nation, ruler or ideology.  I think in 1925 the rise of fascism and communism were the Pope’s main concerns but at any time period there are other allegiances that can be tempting.  So to combat that, the Catholic Church began observing Christ the King Sunday in 1925 and many Protestant denominations picked it up not long after that.

For Confirmation Sunday though, it’s perfect.  What young people do when they are confirmed is to affirm their baptismal identity, Affirmation of Baptism is the official name for what we do today, and with that affirmation, Thomas and Jessica declare their allegiance to Christ, to his rule, to his reign in their life.  That’s no small thing; it’s no small thing for you two, because as Pope Pius knew, there are and will be other things calling for your allegiance, even demanding your allegiance and some of them are good things, but whether the competing claims are good or bad, to claim Christ as King over all of them becomes an increasingly radical thing to do.  That claim doesn’t mean there can’t be other allegiances; it just means that your baptismal identity as a child of God, a follower of Jesus comes first, and that sets you apart.

Therein lies the challenge, the question of how to be faithful in that primary allegiance to Christ in the midst of all the other things that are out there.  It’s a challenge we all face, all the time, but for Jessica and Thomas, this is your day, let’s think about you for a moment; what does this have to do with you?  There are probably a lot of ways to come at this, but looking for some common ground here, I know that for both of you, part of your identity, for the next four years anyway, is as a Hematite.  That’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing and I know that among other things, both of you are pretty good athletes so I’m pretty sure Hematite nation is glad to have you.

The question for you is how to honor Christ, who you claim as king today, as you go to school and study and play and socialize and whatever else young Hematites do these days.  There are choices to be made, there are always are, and what you say today, is that as best you can, you will follow Christ as you make those choices, trying to do the right thing, the thing Jesus would have you do.  Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not so easy but the more you do it, the more you make God pleasing choices, the more it becomes a part of who you are and then you draw strength from those times. 

Directly or indirectly both of you have witnessed and been part of a couple of living sermons on this very thing.  First there was the way the school and especially the football team embraced Eric Dompierre and made him a part of things.  Then there was the way the football team took some very tragic events but didn’t let tragedy have the last word, instead making them the rallying cry that led to a state championship yesterday.  I dare say that for you and for everyone at Ishpeming High School these are things that you’ll always remember as you confront other cases where someone who is “different” needs support or when you have to respond to the tough hands life sometimes deals.  The choices your school community made are the kinds you make as you follow Christ as you live as the person he would have you be.

If Christ the King Sunday is a good day to celebrate confirmation, the gospel text for today is also an excellent match.  I added part of the next verse when I read it though, a line that isn’t printed in the bulletin, the part where Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?”  I added it because that is really the question that is raised on Confirmation Sunday.  What is truth?

This version of Jesus on trial is different from the way the other gospels tell it because in John’s version it’s almost like Pilate is the one on trial rather than Jesus.  Either way though, what the back and forth between Jesus and Pilate centers on is truth.  Jesus says, “For this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”  The truth of Jesus though is a truth that has never been real popular. 

The truth the world buys into tells people that power is what it’s all about, might makes right, a big enough army and the most advanced weapons will keep us safe.  It tells us that we can buy our way to happiness, that if we just had enough money, everything would be just fine, our worries would be gone and too bad if someone else doesn’t have enough; that’s their problem.  It convinces us that the right combination of drugs and cosmetics will keep us young forever, immortal.  It convinces us that we’re in control and human intelligence, skill and ingenuity can solve any problem.

What is truth?  Jesus confused people with his teachings because they didn’t fit with the prevailing truth of his time any more than they fit with the prevailing truth of today.  His stories about unlikely people taking care of and providing for people who were foreign to them didn’t fit.  His stories and demonstrations of compassion and forgiveness when judgment would have been appropriate didn’t fit.  His welcome of people who were thought to be outside the boundaries of welcome, didn’t fit.  With Pilate, Jesus failure to fight for his life and his freedom, his failure to use the power he could have used to defend himself, didn’t fit. 

The truth of Jesus is the truth into which we are baptized.  Baptism marks our entry into the truth and reality of Jesus and today you two affirm that.  Again you say that Jesus’ truth is the truth by which you will try to live, as counter to the ways of the world as it can sometimes be.

The words that you will use today are the words that Christians have used from earliest times to proclaim their allegiance to the truth of Jesus.  In a few minutes you will confess your faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed.  Those are the words that we as Christians use to talk about God.  With that though, there is always the question of what it means when we say the creed, whether it’s the Apostles’ or the Nicene.  For any of us, is it a believe it or else kind of statement?  Do you have to believe it all lock, stock and barrel to honestly stand up here today, to honestly affirm your baptism to honestly belong to the church?  Do you have to understand it all, all the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons stuff, how can one be three and three be one, things like that?

Here’s one way that I have found helpful to understand this.  Both of you play basketball so I think you’ll be able to relate.  You know that in basketball, the fundamental object of the game is for your team to put the ball in the basket more times than the other team does.  The team that does that wins.  Imagine though if that was it, if with that as the goal two teams were then sent out there to go at it.  What would happen?  It would probably be brutal wouldn’t it?  It might be that no one would ever score because everyone would be hurt.

You need rules; you need rules to say what is permissible and what isn’t.  However, you also know that within those rules all kinds of things can happen and they do.  Every game is different (despite what my wife thinks) because within the rules there is freedom.

I think that’s a good way to think about the creed.  The creed establishes the rules by which Christians talk about God, but then within those rules a great deal of discussion and interpretation concerning God can take place and, in my opinion, we don’t all necessarily have to agree on the particulars of that discussion and interpretation.  But still, it’s not a free for all.  We’ve agreed to a set of rules just like when you step on the basketball court you agree to a set of rules. 

For me then, the creed is one of the most important parts of what we do in worship.  It is a reminder of the tradition we are part of, a reminder of how Christians have interpreted the truth of Jesus for 2000 years.  The creed grounds us in the basics of our faith and that’s important.  With and within that grounding we’re free to probe and think about things, to raise questions but we always come back to the security of the statement of faith in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit that has sustained Christians for 2000 years.  It’s all part of the journey we call faith.

Thomas and Jessica, you’re at an important point in that journey today.  In some ways it’s an ending, in more ways it’s a beginning, in other ways it’s neither, just a point in the journey.  It’s not always an easy journey, but at every point, beginnings and endings and everything along the way, the Christ you claim as King today will always be with you, supporting you in whatever is to come.

Rev. Warren Geier

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
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