The Feast of Christ the King with Holy Baptism
November 20th, 2016
The Rev. Austin K. Rios
St. Paul’s Within the Walls
Sisters and brothers it is a great honor and a privilege to be gathered here today for the Baptism of Wisdom and Solomon.
If I were a film director, or at least a liturgical magician, I do not think that I could have planned a better Sunday for these two boys to be baptized together, considering their names and the feast day on which their baptism falls.
Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year, when we acclaim Christ’s place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in a world that is still wrestling with power and kingship 2000 years after powerful people put Jesus to death as a criminal.
We hear from Luke’s account about that scene today, listening to the crowd and the religious elites’ taunts and jeers, and his fellow two criminals’ varied reactions to their mutual plight.
“If you are the true king, get us down from here and save us,” says the one.
“Remember me when you come into YOUR kingdom,” says the other.
Jesus only responds twice in this scene, uttering “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” to the leaders and mocking masses who crucify him, and “Today you will be with me in paradise” to the criminal who asks to be remembered.
I don’t know about you, but in this new world in which we live…a world in which demagoguery is on the rise and its purveyors successful at the ballot box across the world…it bears repeating that this Jesus movement in which we are involved has always lifted up another way…another kind of kingship…another sort of kingdom worth pursuing.
The kingdom of God, that Jesus so boldly proclaimed was already among us, certainly had roots in the historic united monarchy of Israel…from the days of King David and King Solomon, in which Israel knew a form of temporal power that would never be replicated.
So much of the messianic hope, especially of those who suffered under Roman occupation during Jesus’ day, contained a political component…the hopeful were looking for a strongman to rise and throw off their oppressors through victory in war and fearsome displays of power.
Jesus was not the kind of power, not the kind of King they were seeking.
Although an extraordinarily gifted healer, and filled with a wisdom that rivaled that of King Solomon, Jesus was poor, hung around known sinners and the unclean, and had a small army of 12 who spent more time fishing and wondering than wielding weapons of war.
He told his followers that the way to be great in his kingdom was to serve each other and the world.
And after all his teaching, healing, exorcising, and praying…his road had led to this ultimate symbol of defeat…death on a cross…the triumph of the world’s vision of kingship, and the sign of his kingdom’s final demise.
Kings are normally seated upon thrones of honor, holding court in full sight of their subjects.
Christ the King has the mocking crowd as his court, and the hard wood of the cross for his throne… tangible reminders of the stinging defeat his kingdom has suffered.
If that were the full story for us, we would not be here today, baptizing these two wonderful children into new life in his body together.
We are here because even crucifixion and death, although real and unsettling, cannot prevent the kingdom of God from coming.
Life is God’s purpose, no matter how often the kingdoms of our world seek to convince us otherwise…life and life in abundance actually.
In the beginning, it was life and light that came to be, and when the people of Israel crossed the wilderness after being freed from bondage in Egypt…it was life and light that accompanied them.
Prophets proclaimed life when bad rulers steered Israel in another direction, and Jesus came into this world so that “we might have life and have it in abundance.”
Life grows when love conquers hate, and expands as we understand and proclaim that all the superficial ways that the kingdoms of the world try to divide us are nothing compared to the common ancestry we all share in the creator.
The water of Baptism is a reminder of our fundamental shared genesis…97% of our very bodies is water…and the water of Baptism is also a reminder of the perilous and frightening path that divine wisdom faces in our world.
God’s wisdom, while enlightening and enlivening, is often resisted in the public square, and sometimes quite violently.
We the baptized know this at the outset, as we are baptized into Christ’s death with him.
But just as we are buried with him, we are also raised with him…raised to love…raised to light…raised to serve and proclaim that God’s kingdom is indeed among us and the only reign to which we will give our ultimate allegiance.
Saying yes to that kingdom means participating in God’s continual work of freeing the enslaved, of helping the blind see and the lame to walk, and it means being willing to risk your life in service of the true wisdom…even if the misguided kingdoms of the world strike back in defense of their own.
It is no small thing we do here today my brothers and sisters.
Just like all who have been baptized, Wisdom and Solomon are joined together forever through this body they will now share, and no worldly king can ever erase that.
All of us are called to remember our own promises and proclamations as we join with them and their families in this mystical union, and be strengthened to attend to the work and grace of extending this alternate kingdom wherever we go through daily action, prayer, and fellowship.
On Christ the King Sunday 2016, in a world of competing claims to kingship, will you once more choose life and love over death and division?
Will you once more choose to be a part of this Jesus movement that has as its genesis and terminus the kingdom of God becoming more real on earth as in heaven?
Will you once more choose to witness together so that the world will know the saving power of God, and the indomitable Spirit that animates the people of God to proclaim resurrection even in the face of death?
If so, then you have come to the right place today!
Let us say yes with boldness today, let us say yes with these two little brothers, and let us say yes to life, love and God’s kingdom which unlike the many reigns of this world… will never end.