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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
Last Pentecost - Christ the King
November 23, 2008
The Rev. Kristine Hill
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
Small Parish - Big Heart
The little church you've been looking for!
All are welcome!

To worship
the Lord

To serve the
community

To grow the
church
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
lines,  it  says  “when  the  Son  of  Man  comes  in  his  glory  and  all  the  angels  with  
him,  then  he will  sit  on  the  throne  of  his  glory…”   In  other  words  --   the  time  of  
glory  is  not  here  yet.     To  hear  some  speak  about  God’s  word,  you  would  think  
the  time  of  glory  had  already  arrived,  that  Christians  had  risen  above  the  
hardships  of  this  world,  were  untouched  by  the  sufferings,  the  tragedies  of  human  
life  because  their  faith  in  Jesus  acted  like  a  protective  shield  that  kept  anything  
bad  from  touching  them.   But  today  we  hear  Jesus  say  “when  the  Son  of  Man
comes  in  his  glory..   then  he  will  sit  on  the  throne  of  glory…”   That  time  has  not  
yet  arrived.

The  mainline  Christian  church  has  long  be  wary  of  any  preaching  or  teaching  that  
smacks-of  a  “theology  of  glory.”     What  is  a  “theology  of  glory?”    It’s  a  way  of  
talking  about  Jesus  that  skips-over  the  cross  and  goes  right  to  the  glory-of-God’s-
kingdom.    A  “theology  of  glory”  presents  the  life  of  a  Christian  as  so  joyful,  so  
serene,  that  nothing  can  hurt  us;  we  are  so  blessed  that  we  do  not  have  to  
experience  any  sacrifice,  deprivation,  any  loss  or  longing,  any  weakness  or  
uncertainty  or  grief.   In  the  theology  of  glory,  Christians  are  those  who  have  
arrived  at  the  victory  with  Christ;  we  are  the  successful,  the  ones  with  whom  God  
is  well-pleased;  we  deserve  the  material  blessings  we  have  in  life.   A  theology  of  
glory  pampers  us  with  the  pretty,  soft,  luxurious  things  of  life;  it  declares  that  
Jesus  has  rescued  us  from  injury,  from  poverty,  from  sickness,  troubles,  and  all  
that  “icky”  stuff.     

Those  who  preach  a  theology  of  glory,  focus-so-exclusively  on  the  victory  of  
Jesus’  resurrection  that  they  ignore  reality.  They  forget  that  God  loves  this  world  
and  all  its  creatures,  that  God  cares  for  the  suffering  and  sent  his  son  to  bring  
healing  and  hope  to  a  suffering  world.    The  Episcopal  Church,  (like  the  Lutheran  
Church)  knows  that  the  Word  of  God  grows  out  of  a  theology  of  the  cross,  not  a  
cheap   theology of  glory.  We  see  the  theology  of  the  cross  in  the  life  of  Jesus;  
we  hear-it  in  his  teachings;  we  watch,  as-it-is-played-out  in  his  suffering,  death  
and  resurrection.    The  theology-of-the-cross  reminds  us  that  God  came  to  be  with
us  here,  in  this  world  where  there  is  joy,  but  also  sorrow;  where  there  is  great  
goodness  but  also  evil;  where  there  is  life  and  health,  but  also  brokenness  and  
death.    Whereas  the  theology  of  glory  denies  the  pain  of  the  world  to  focus  
exclusively  on  the  victory  of  Christ,  the  theology  of  the  cross  acknowledges  both  
aspects  of  life,   honors  the  total  experience  of  human  life  and  brings  all  of  it  
before  God,  declaring  that  God  is  for  us  --  loving  us,  guarding  us  --  when  we  are  
hurting  and  when  we  are  rejoicing.    We  are  theologians,  not  of  glory,  but  of  the  
cross.

A  famous  Church  theologian  differentiates  between  the  theologian  of  glory  and  the  
theologian  of  the  cross  this  way:  “the  theologian  of  glory  calls  evil  good  and  
good  evil.  The  theologian  of  the  cross  calls  a  thing  what  it  is.”  Let  me  
demonstrate:  Several  years  ago  there  was  a  story  on  the  radio  about  an  
earthquake  in  Alaska  in  1964   that  caused  in  a  tsunami  along  the  Pacific  coast.    
As  a  result,  Crescent  City,  California,  was  completely  destroyed.  Gary  Clawson  
lived  in  Crescent  City  at  the  time.  He  remembered,  the  night  the  tsunami  hit,  
going  with  his  family  down  to  their  tavern  at  midnight  to  pull  the  till  and  take  it  
home  in  case  things  got  worse.  There  was  some  flooding  but  they  were  able  to  
get  around  as  needed.  Gary  was  at  the  tavern  with  his  Mom  and  Dad  and  his  
fiancé.  When  the  clock  struck  midnight,  bringing  in  the  new  day,  it  was  his  Dad’s  
50th  birthday,  so  his  Dad  poured  himself  a  beer  and  said,  “happy  birthday  to  me.”   
A  moment  later,  water  burst  through  the  front  door.   Everyone  jumped  up  on  the  
bar,  but  the  water  was  rising  and  Gary’s  Mom  couldn’t  swim.

Gary  found  a  boat  and  came  back  for  his  family.  They  rowed  a  long  time  and  
were  only  a  few  yards  from  safety  when  the  water  began  to  recede  dramatically  
and  swiftly,  causing  the  boat  to  spin.  It  went  straight  toward  a  tunnel  under  a  
bridge;  it  entered  the  tunnel.  The  tunnel  was  filling  with  water.  The  far  end  was  
closed  off  with  a  grate  that  was  beginning  to  stack  up  with  debris  --  cars,  
furniture,  tree  limbs.  Then  the  boat  flipped,  dumping  everyone  into  the  cold  water.  
Gary  pushed  himself  deep  into  the  water  and  swam  toward  the  grate.  He  managed  
to  kick  loose  a  couple  of  bars  in  the  grate,  get  to  the  other  side  and  swim  free.  
He  was  the  only  one  in  his  family  who  survived  the  night.  

What  does  a  Christian  say  about  something  like  that?   We  know  God  in  Jesus  
Christ;  people  –  understandably  –  want  us  to  say  something  at  such  a  time,  but  
what?     Those  who  work  from  a  theology  of  glory  might  tell  Gary  something  like  
this:  “Don’t  grieve  for  them;  they’ve  gone  to  a  better  place.”  Or  “This  is  all  part  
of  God’s  master  plan.”  Or   “God  must  have  needed  them  in  heaven,  and  so  he  
took  them.”    Well,  what  kind  of  a  God  does  that  represent?  A  God  who  would  put  
anyone  through  such  an  awful  ordeal  because  God  “needed  them?”  Better that  we
say  nothing  at  all  than  to  say  that.   That  Church scholar  was  right  --  A  theologian  
of  glory  calls  evil  good  and  good  evil.   But  those  who  work  from  a  theology  of  
the  cross  calls  a  thing  what  it  is,  and  thus  they  might  say  to  Gary  “oh,  how  
horrible!  What  an  awful,  awful  thing.  There’s  no  way  to  explain  it.   But  God  never  
leaves  us.  God  was  with  your  loved  ones  as  they  suffered,  and  God  is  with  you  
in  your  pain.”    The  cross  tells  us,  not  that  suffering  is  good,  not  that  Jesus  
suffered  once  for  everybody  and  now  we  never  suffer  any  more,  but  that  God  is  
here  with  us,   where  grief,  sorrow  and  death  are  a  part  of  daily  life.   God  is  by  
our  side  when  we  have  to  endure  those  things.

If  we  buy  the  theology  of  glory  --  that  there  is  no  real  suffering  in  the  world  --  
we  will  not  notice  people  around  us  who  are  hurting.    And  if  we  don’t  respond  to  
the  needy  who  live  down  the  street,  we  certainly  will  not  respond  to  the  needy  
around  the  world.     On  the  other  hand,  if  we  remember  that  Jesus  gave  up  being-
god  to  be  one-of-us,  with  all  the  difficulties  and  pains  as  well  as  the  joys  and  
fun,  we  will  be  equipped  to  care  for  others.    Knowing  Jesus  crucified  and  risen  
we  are  not  ashamed  to  care  about  people  whose  lives  are  messy  --  people  who  
have  spent  time  in  jail  or  people  with  mental  illness,  foreigners  who  are  not  
always  sure  how  things  work in  our  country.  The  theology  of  the  cross  gives  us  
versatility  to  respond  to  all  of  God’s  people.

What  better illustration  of  a  right  understanding  of  the  gospel  message  than  today’
s  scripture  reading  from  Matthew.  Here  on  Christ  the  King  Sunday  we  see  how  
Jesus’  kingdom  operates  on  earth.  How  interesting  that  when  the  Son  of  Man  
comes  to  judge  the  world,  both  groups  of  people  are  surprised  by  what  they  
hear.  As  each  group  had  lived  their  respective  lives,  neither  had  thought  they  
had  seen  the  Lord.   They  had  not  recognized  the  Lord  in  their  everyday  world  
where  folks  went  to  work,  where  some  were  honest  and  some  were  not;  where  
some  had  more  than  they  needed,  others  barely  made  ends  meet,  and  still  others  
had  to  beg;  where  business  deals  were  made,  some  in  the  open  and  some  under  
the  table;  where  those  with  big  names  were  favored  and  those  who  were  
nobodies  were  forgotten  --  who  would  have  expected  the  Son-of-Man  to  show  up  
in  a  world  like  that?     And  especially  in  the  places  he  claimed  to  have  been  
inhabiting?    So  of course  nobody  recognized  him.  

For  the  unrighteous,  all  they  saw  was   the  route  to  work  in  the  morning,  to  the  
market  in  the  afternoon,  and  home  again  at  night.   They  didn’t  see  the  beggar  
and  her  children  pleading  for  food.    Strangers  came  and  went,  as  in  any  town,  
but  they  knew  better  than  to  get  involved  with  people  who  were  not  ‘from  around  
here.’    They  may  have  heard  about  an  uncle  being  put  in  jail,  at  some  point,  for  
failure to  pay  his  bills,  but  that  wasn’t  their  problem  so  they  didn’t  really  think  
about  it.  Visiting  the  parents  on  week-ends,  when  they  could,   they  heard  that  an  
elderly  Aunt  was  very  sick  with  something,  but  they  were  busy  raising  their  own  
family  and  she  was  just  an  old  maiden  Aunt  with  no  children   --  they  didn’t  have  
time  for  that.   Never,  in  any  of  those  places,  did  they  encounter  anyone  remotely  
like  ‘the  King  of  the  Universe.’  

And  to-tell-the-truth,  the  righteous  had  not  seen  him,  either.   On  their  way  to  
lunch  they  always  saw  that  family  on  the  street  and,  a  few-times-a-week   they  
would  give   part-of-their-own-sandwich- and fruit-to-share  -  they  could  spare  a  little.   
There  were  also  some  immigrants  who  worked  construction  all  day  in  the  hot  sun  
and  who  didn’t  have  any  water;   they  let  them  have  a  few  sips  from  their  jug  -  
not  too  much,  but  enough  to  keep  them  going.   Their  neighbor’s  3rd  cousin  had  
been  arrested  --  most  likely,  he  deserved  it,  but  their  neighbor  was  a  good  guy  
so  they  went  with  him  sometimes  to  visit  the  cousin.   And  when  their  co-worker’s  
boy  had  been  so  sick,  everybody  stopped  by  to  see  him  whenever  they  could,  
poor  kid.     But  none  of  them  came  across  anyone  who  looked  like  a  King.        
Neither  the  righteous  nor  the  unrighteous  had  ever  seen  the  Lord  in  their  daily  
living,  just  their  neighbors  and  their  families,  a  few  strangers  and  the  usual  
people  of  the  community.

It  will  be  the  same  with  us.   As  long  as  we  are  living  in  this  world,  we  will  not  
see  King  Jesus  with  our  eyes.    We  will  not  witness  the  fullness  of  his  glory.   He  
will  not  be  before  us   like  a  shining  light  that  we  can  easily  follow.  That’s  not  
how  life  is  here.  Here  we  still  face  struggles  and  hardships;  here  we  follow  our  
Lord  by  trusting  God’s  Word  and  proceeding  in  faith.   God’s  Word  for  us  today  is  
that  in  the  kingdom  of  heaven,  the  Lord  will  welcome  those  who  ministered  to  
him  here,  saying:  “for  I  was  hungry  and  you  gave  me  food,  I  was  thirsty  and  you  
gave  me  something  to  drink,  I  was  a  stranger  and  you  welcomed  me,  I  was  naked  
and  you  clothed  me,  I  was  sick  and  you  took  care  of  me,  I  was  in  prison  and  you  
visited  me.”      When  did  we  do  that?    Whenever  we  cared  for  the  least  likely,  the  
least  ‘important’  people  around  us.    

Today  is  Christ  the  King  Sunday,  but  we  won’t  see  Jesus  in  his  glory  just  yet.    
Not  in  his  glory,  but  by  faith  we  can  find  him  -- as  a  lonely  widow,  or  a  child  half-
starved  and  dying  of  AIDS  in  Africa,  a  young  man  roaming  the  streets  of  
Philadelphia,  a  frightened  refugee  in  a  new  country,  or  a  homeless  person  
searching  dumpsters  downtown  for  food.    Christ  our  King  --  we  gladly  worship  
him  here;  may  we  be  equally  glad  to  care  for  him  out  there,  in  all  his  
need.                        amen.