Friday, December 2, 2016

The Extraordinary: Jesus Christ as King of kings

The Extraordinary                                                                 11/20/16

Revelation 22


Our story starts out in Trenton, NJ, in a conference room for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.  Two possible tracks are created for every child that enters the foster care system:  re-unification or adoption.

Having been involved in the system as a Foster Parent, these two tracks are intriguing.  Re-unification means that children who have been taken out of their home will be reunited with their parents after the parents satisfy the state’s requirements for children to return.  Adoption is the creation of a new permanent family (often nicknamed ‘the forever family’) when the state formally terminates the rights and responsibilities of biological parents, and then rules that those rights and responsibilities are given to adoptive parents.  In adoption, the child becomes a full forever member of the family into which he or she is adopted.

In creating these two tracks, the state was on to something big.  Hidden in the government’s layered complexity of process, definition, legal ramifications, and broken, difficult family dynamics is an extraordinary story.  Children can be reunified with the family that they were born into, or for some, they can enter a more hopeful story by being adopted. 

Simply put, this is the same story that Scripture tells.  Scripture includes the story of two redemptive tracks.  Both lead to the same Lord.

Hebrew Scripture tells the story of Israel, with whom God makes a covenant and wills to bless the world through his chosen people.  Hebrew Scripture (what Christians also call the Old Covenant, or Old Testament) tells us of Israel’s wanderings, faithlessness and rejection of the LORD.

The New Testament, after announcing Jesus Christ as Israel’s Messiah by his atoning work, proceeds to tell the story of new family members being added to the Covenant.  The Gentiles, that is, the nations previously outside of God’s covenant, are allowed to enter relationship with the True and Living God.  We do so by being adopted into the family.

Extraordinary news!

Now I need to take one step back and clarify something.  All children that enter the foster care system do so because of some level of breakdown in family life.  The parents have done something to involve the state’s entry into the conversation of what is best for the child.  This is where the metaphor breaks down for our sermon series. God the Heavenly Father, and Creator of heaven and earth, is not the problem.  We are. 

In fact, humans have brought so much dysfunction to the story that it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if no Scripture had been written at all.  If God had just washed his hands of humanity, no one could have accused him of injustice.

The Extraordinary story is that God makes covenant.  He chooses the people Israel to be his people in this world, and the people by whom the Messiah will come.  And after he comes, there is still more extraordinary:  the nations are invited in.

In the coming weeks and years, we are going to become familiar with this extraordinary story of the Bible.  We are going to revisit stories that are more popular, or at least recognized within popular culture, as well as stories that we are less familiar with.  But all along, we are going to encounter an Extraordinary God.

In case you are wondering:  The definition for extraordinary from the Oxford dictionary is…

1.  very unusual or remarkable, unusually great

The word is a late middle English word, from the Latin extraordinarious, or extra ordinem, which meant outside the normal course of events.

That God intervenes in human history is extraordinary, literally outside the normal course of human events. That God redeems is extraordinary.  And that God will right the world with his son Jesus Christ as King of kings is extraordinary.

Today, we start our journey by looking at the end of the extraordinary story of the Bible:  Revelation 22.  We do so on Christ the King Sunday, November 20th, 2016. We do so on this last Sunday of the Church Calendar year, before our journey of Advent, which announces the new church calendar year.  And this year, Thanksgiving is in between the end and the beginning.  What a special season of God’s goodness!

Do any of you read the final page of a novel before you sit down to read a story?  I’ve heard it done, though if reading a novel, I don’t want to know if the Butler did it.  To me, that is kind of the point of reading the book in the first place:  to find out.

Turning to the end of the biblical story is always a helpful practice for Christians.  We can not grow tired of the good future that the Lord has promised his people.  “The one who has this hope purifies themselves” (I John 3:3). 

Today, we remind ourselves that there is but One King:  The Lord God.

Today, we remind ourselves that this King’s intent for creation and for humanity is good, gracious and life-giving.

Today, we remind ourselves that however far we feel from the certain reality that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, we can turn to him and find the righteousness of God.

          --no matter how much we have sinned

          --no matter how far we have gotten off course

          --no matter what systems threaten us or neighborhood

          --no matter what little decisions we’ve made along the way

                   that over time have distanced us from our Maker

          --no matter what anxiety robs us from God’s life for us

          --no matter what apathy we have fostered

          --no matter what prosperity has divided our focus

          --no matter what idol we have falsely served

          --no matter what disease or difficulty has entered us

          --no matter what work of the evil one has made its way into

                   our lives

          --no matter what


No matter what, the Extraordinary is before us today.

“Come!  Let the one who is thirsty come, and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17)

Revelation 22 speaks a picture of eternal life that is good and pleasing, and fulfills human life with its goodness and justice.  This is the way of life offered with Jesus Christ as King.

“They shall see his face” (vs 4).

Revelation 22 reminds its readers not to put anything in the place of God.  “Don’t do that!  Worship God” the angel warns John (vs 9).  Jesus Christ the King should be first.  That is the only appropriate order.

Revelation 22 warns us against adding to, or taking from what the Lord has spoken.  God’s word alone speaks to us the salvation that we need.

Revelation 22 tells us the King is coming soon!  His servants welcome that word:  Amen, Come, Lord Jesus (vs 20)

Revelation 22 ends with a blessing, a benediction:  “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.  Amen”.

We will need God’s grace for our journey.  But make no mistake:  God’s story is Extraordinary!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.  Amen.


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