Sermon – November 24, 2013 Christ the King

Christ the King Sunday, 2013

Here are your latest AstroNews Headlines.

“Researchers have identified a trio of galaxies hidden in a cloud of dust nearly 13 billion light years from Earth, placing them close to the beginning of the universe.” For those of you keeping score, a light year is about 5.88 trillion miles. So these galaxies are about 13 billion of those away.

The largest and brightest cosmic explosion ever witnessed has been captured 3.7 billion light years away. Astronomers have called the gamma ray burst ‘the monster’ because it created five times more energy than the largest previously-known blast and if it had been closer to Earth, our planet could have been destroyed. Happened a mere 3.7 billion years ago.

Reminds me of a joke. A photon books into a hotel. The receptionist says “Can I help you with your bags?”. The photon says ” No, I’m travelling light”

Closer to home, Astronomers at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory an the South Pole have found 28 highly energetic neutrinos thought to have come from beyond our solar system.

This is could herald a new direction for astrophysics, with astronomers now looking at studying neutrinos rather than light. They hope to gain new insights into black holes and exploding stars as a result.

That’s the science of this stuff and folks are actually pretty excited. Me, too. But what’s so awesome to me is that it is beautiful evidence of an immense and almost incomprehensible universe. This is something that God made. From a believer’s perspective it is confirmation of the vastness and hugeness and awesomeness and majesty of the God who created the universe. Little glimpses of the wonder that is drawn out of us when we look into the vast, sparkling darkness of the nighttime sky. And for believers that is an encounter with wonder and majesty.

In the Renwick Arts and Crafts Gallery in Washington, D.C. there is a painting on the second floor, which is one of my favorites. Every time I go to Washington, I set aside some time to stop and gaze at this painting. Let me try to describe it for you. It is a large oil painting of an angel in pastel colors. Her head is turned away and her wings are folded inward, arresting her upward flight. And shining on this angel is a tremendous, bright light that almost washes her out. Carved into the bottom of the frame are the words, “Even an angel might find the coming into the Presence, into the great white light, too overpowering and clutch her wings to arrest her upward flight, turning away her face with closed eyes.” This painting is an expression of the awesomeness, the majesty, the unapproachable glory of the Lord. So much so that even the angels ar rest their flight and turn away because it too much glory for them

This is the God Moses encountered in the third chapter of Exodus which reads, “Moses hid his face for he was afraid he would die.” A majestic image of God of such great power that to look upon him is too great a risk for prophet or angel. This is the God the psalmist encountered when he said, when I behold your majesty, how is it that you would care about little old me?

This is an awesome God of the universe from whom prophets hide their face and from whom angels turn and arrest their upward flight. . . . . . . a God, who without the person of Jesus Christ, might be too big, too far away, too full of mystery. . . who, without Christ, might be too much for us. But God stoops to the world for the purpose of loving his children, we little specks on the 3rd rock from the sun, for tending his sheep, for nurturing his creation, for the purpose of giving the understanding that there is a relationship–initiated by God, sustained by compassionate love–between this awesome God and these little people, you and me. And it is through the person of Jesus Christ whom we celebrate today as king, enthroned with God, ruling from the cross. . . it is through this humble person who took on our humanity so that we might live in the outrageous circumstance of the creator of the universe loving us little people. God stoops do wn and it is an awesome act of love, can’t be anything else. So that we might understand who we are to him. .

The beautiful surprise of God’s goodness is that the powerful and majestic God of the universe, creator of all things and judge over all things, identifies with the lowly and the suffering and the simple folk who stare up at the heavens in awe and wonder and sometimes in fear, and sometimes in fervent hope.

Some of you today may be suffering, feeling lowly, feeling bound and imprisoned, even convicted and crucified. But the words of Christ, in whom, as Paul says, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell–today are that God identifies with you, Christ comes to us at the very point of our suffering, our imprisonment, our hunger and thirst, our brokenness. Just as he came to the thief on the cross, he comes to us in the midst of conviction for our sin, comes to us with words of promise, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise. Today you will understand what it means that I have come to restore and reclaim and rebuild this relationship of love between the awesome God of the universe and his creation. I come today to you at the intersection of hope and despair, and I bring you to me.” This is a promise only a king could make, a king not concerned with petty temporal power, but one in whose hands are contained all the power of the universe. This is a God who understands our fear and shame and brought us this Christ to say everything you need to know about me, behold in him, this one crucified and raised triumphantly. Through him you break through the majesty and wonder and know that the universe turns on this cross, this throne of love. Everything you need to know about me, see in the one who identifies with the lowly and the sick and the outcast, one who loves us to death, shares our humanity, calls us his friend. And from his throne promises us that we would be with him in paradise. Isn’t it amazing, isn’t it awesome, isn’t it majestic, that God would stoop to share in our sometimes difficult and pathetic lives, just so we would know that he loves us and wants to be with us?

This has always been God’s intention. We’ve often struggled to penetrate the mystery, but listen to the words of Jeremiah again, “I will raise up shepherds for them and they will not fear any longer or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing.” God claims us and counts us. Everyone matters. NO one is left out. Again, Paul says it in Colossians when he said, what you need to know about God, look at Christ: “for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” God seeks our peace. And in Luke, Jesus first seeks God’s forgiveness for his tormentors, and then hearing the confession of the condemned man and his prayer, makes this promise to him . . “today you will be with me in Paradise. Out of the breathtaking majesty and mystery of God shines this beautiful light of love revealing love itself, Jesus Christ.

Grace abounds in all reaches of this vast universe and in the dark recesses of our hearts. The beautiful surprise is that the regal face of God which causes prophets to hide in fear and angels to turn away and arrest their upward flight, has been revealed to us in the gentle, suffering face of our Lord Jesus, who calls us friend, calls us to obedience, promises fellowship with him in Paradise. Clouds cannot obscure his glory, death cannot challenge his kingly reign, and nothing, not even our own brokenness and shame can temper his love for you or me. And that is a gift and wonder greater than all the stars in the sky.

Amen