Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:1-12
January 3, 2021
— Christ the King at Epiphany
I have to imagine that when those Arab astrologer magi, whom we call the wise men, came to honor the young Jesus, it did not look exactly like the scene we often imagine. They had no idea who was going to be at the end of their journey. All they knew is that according to their star readings, a king was being born among the Jewish people. Jupiter and Saturn were lining up just like they did here recently. They travelled those many miles with gifts through dangerous places where robbers were fairly common. After all of that, they arrived at the home where Jesus and his family were living. It was a year or two since Jesus’ birth, and his family was living in a home by this time. It could not have been anything fancy – they were poor. Jesus would not have looked very kingly.
I can picture one of the magi looking to another and saying, “You sure that we got the address right? Should we try next door?” There was no GPS, of course, not even good maps. And stars could only be but so precise with how to identify a particular house. Regardless, they did get there and offered the gifts marking Jesus as a king whether they understood what they were doing or not. That was why there were there, of course. They honored him and made their way home. This is what the day of Epiphany is all about which we officially recognize this Wednesday. The word means to realize or perceive something. We have all had epiphanies from time to time. I had a big one when I realized it was time to go to seminary. This kind of church epiphany here, however, was much bigger. Here we see with both eyes open through the gifts of the wise men that Jesus, the Son of God, is King. God has shown up here as a King in Jesus, so this kind of epiphany means to catch a glimpse of God.
So what is Jesus the King of? That is the question driving me today, and it is a bigger question than saying he is definitely king of Norway, for instance, or Northern Europe, the eastern hemisphere, or the whole world, even. We cannot think about this King as we understand other kings. He never had an actual king’s crown or throne or kingdom in any traditional sense. He was also certainly not very good about ruling people or lording over anyone. In fact, no one treated Jesus like a king except for these wise men, and yet, this is one of the most common ways we think about Jesus today and one of the most powerful ideas for who Jesus is.
So to be clear – while we love to think of Jesus as a King, he really is nothing like any idea of king that we have. It is almost as if we have a notion of Jesus as King that is a mystery to itself that is hard to understand.
There are so many things that are mysteries that we do not understand but take as fact. Gravity is a mystery. Why does a spinning planet keep us grounded when normally things would fly off something spinning? Seeds are a mystery. How can a seed produce new life, even very old seeds, when they have no signs of life themselves? Fruitcake is a mystery. For some reason people still make it, and I do not recall ever having a need to eat fruitcake.
It turns out that Jesus being a King is also a mystery – literally. This is what Paul is telling us in Ephesians. Jesus our King is the one who has come to share the mystery of God – that Jesus is the one who reveals the mystery of God as King. There is some fantastic, deep truth that has always been buried just beneath the surface of it all. God worked some amazing and profound truth in the very fabric of the world’s DNA, and no one was able to see this mystery until Jesus came. But when Jesus did come, just his appearance in the world flipped the switch and brought the truth to light. Truly, this is the reason Jesus was born. He is here to show us what God has wanted us to see the whole time.
That is what makes it hard to look out into the world and see everything else. When you look out into the world, what do you see? I’m going to suggest that it is probably not all puppies and rainbows. In reality, we probably see more wrong with the world that what it right. This is highlighted in the news which promotes what is wrong and shares stories that concern us, and with so much concerning material to work with out there, they are not that interested in entertaining us or inspiring us or comforting us. Yes, there is lots of good out there to celebrate – lots of good in here to celebrate, but any good that we know is itself a gift of God because the world is oriented the other way. The world is grounded in sin and selfishness and brokenness and suffering and isolation. Try living in the dark for a while and you get so used to the dark that you forget what light is all about. But God planted the light of Christ Jesus, King Jesus, as our true light and life and a message to all people. Jesus is the message to everyone that there is something better out there for us. God is working something better in the world.
I want you to I see that “something better,” also. When we began this journey into pandemic, the predictions for devastation were dire. While we have thankfully not seen the death toll that some had imagined, we have seen many more deaths than needed to be. And we are far from out of the woods with real threat coming closer and closer, but I believe you are like I am in taking great hope in the achievements of the vaccines. We all know that the only future we can imagine involves a vaccine. We also probably all know that under normal circumstances a vaccine takes years. Our so-called Christmas Miracle is a number of vaccines available within months of the beginning of the work. If you are wondering why I am going on about this, it is to show the beauty of this miracle as a group effort. People from all over came together and created this opportunity and new hope. People from across borders and beliefs and backgrounds and languages and cultures came together for something greater than national division or selfishness. People from different ends of the earth invested in our common future and brought their gifts together through the companies and agencies and all of the hands that took up the challenge. We did it by the grace of God.
When we bother to set aside our differences and strive together for what is good and right, we see the mystery of God played out. The same God who loves us loves every heart under the sun and wants us to realize our place in God’s family, gives us our calling to be a greater people together in Christ.
Jesus is the King, but he is not just the King of you or me. He is the King of God’s love for all people. He is love for all people, and he has come to make us ONE. It should not have to take a global disaster to show us how we are greater together and share a divine calling to rejoice in God’s love. Our Maker has given us so much to share in every imaginable way, and even in unimaginable ways – ways we have not yet discovered. We desperately need to realize more and more the heart of Christ our King. As the world becomes more divided, more hostile, more challenged, it will become more and more paramount to find the mystery of God between us. Christ the King has come; he is our life, our hope and our future.
To God be the glory. Amen.