I'm going to be straight with you – I hate politics. But I only hate it, because I love it. I love to hate politics because it’s mean and messy. Especially in today’s political climate, where whole ideologies are boiled down to bumper stickers or yard signs. And talking, screaming heads are the order of the day. It’s ugly out there. And no matter what side of the aisle you place yourself, it’s actually kind of depressing.
During this last campaign cycle the typical mudslinging became out and out brawls. Depending on the news channel you watch, you could get an entirely different worldview – as if there were two Americas out there, each claiming to be the true voice of the country. Lately, it hasn’t really felt like the United States of America. It’s felt more like the “Disunited States that Happen to be located near each in America.”
As Christians, of course, we also get wrapped up into this big, globular, political thing that’s going on. If you tell your friends that you are a Christian, all of the sudden you get categorized. “You’re a Christian? Well then, you must be for the war against terror.” Or, “you’re a Christian, then you must support welfare.” I have a hard time telling folks that it’s messier than that. And really, that’s because you and I live in a different political reality.
Our true leader is not some slick politician that may or may not get re-elected next time. As Christians, we don’t put all our eggs into the basket of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, or even that super-whacky constitution that we have here in Texas. Our religious faith doesn’t come and go in election cycles or ride the economic rollercoaster. We aren’t disciples of the typical seats of power in Waco, or in Austin, in D.C. No, we are followers of Jesus Christ. And the seat of power is no seat at all, it’s a cross.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. That’s right, Jesus Christ is not a President, a Supreme Court Justice or a Senator. He’s a king. Like any good king, he’s not elected by the people he governs, but has a coronation ceremony. The story we just heard, the crucifixion, or, as I like to call it, the execution story, is Christ’s coronation. As sick, and as twisted, and as perverse as that may seem, Jesus Christ is king from a cross because God has this cool way of turning everything on its head to make his point.
With the help of folks like Thomas Kinkade, we have forgotten what the execution was really like. There was blood, and there were guts. Some soldiers were there – and so there was probably some dirty talk. And Jesus was executed along with some two-bit criminals; maybe they were thieves, murderes, or maybe they were just your run-of-the-mill thugs.
This isn’t your typical coronation. Kings love the pomp and circumstance of their whole realm getting together to celebrate their kingship. But whereas kings ride in fancy carriages to their coronation, Jesus Christ carried his own cross. And kings like to hear the crowds cheer their name, Jesus Christ was scoffed, mocked, derided. A king may get a whole country to love him, Jesus Christ had only one fan at his execution. One of the thugs, who was being executed one cross over.
And that sign, you know that sign they put above Jesus on the cross. It said, “This is the King of the Jews.” You know, they were trying to ridicule him. That sign was to be a final, sarcastic slap in the face to the man born in a barn. And in all the gospel stories, this is the only thing that we know that was ever written about Jesus during his lifetime. It was supposed to be like one of those snarky bumper sticker or yard signs, but that inscription above Jesus, “This is the King of the Jews,” was speaking the truth. By trying to mock Jesus, they were actually decorating Christ’s throne for his coronation.
In all of this mockery, ridiculing, in all of this scoffing and deriding, in all of this ill-will and hatred – Jesus is crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Pretty freaky, huh?
We elect leaders and give them all sorts of power. They have to power to make laws, to levy taxes, to wage wars. They have bombs that can make whole cities vanish in a flash. And those leaders aren’t there forever. Not just because they may not get re-elected, but because they are humans, and they will die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. They pass through this life with crazy amounts of power, only to cough it up as they lose an election or submit to humanity’s final fate.
But then there’s Jesus. What power does he have? Well, none really. Our allegiance is to a man with no power. He can’t hold a scepter because his hand is nailed to a beam of wood. He can’t speak because all he has to wet his whistle is some sour wine.
What does he have? All he has is a promise. A promise made to a common thug as he was being executed. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus has no armies, no Senators, no ability to make laws. All Jesus has is a promise, “today you will be with me in Paradise.” But it’s because of that promise that all of us, every tongue that confesses Christ as king, owes our allegiance to him that is nailed to that cross.
Living in the United States of America we can get our political wires crossed up. We can think too much about Bill White or Rick Perry, we can cheer or boo for Chet Edwards or Bill Flores. When really, our true representative before God in heaven is Jesus Christ.
And we can join the Democratic or Republican parties. We can wear silly hats and show up to political rallies or make phone calls or put out yard signs. But in the end, our allegiance isn’t to the donkey, or to the elephant. It’s to the lamb.
I don’t want us to think of ourselves as liberal Christians or conservative Christians. We shouldn’t put any modifiers, adjectives, or special phrases in front of our Christianity. We can’t call ourselves Sundays-only Christians or skeptical Christians or committed Christians. Why can’t we just call ourselves Christian Christians. Because that’s what it takes to live in the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ as the king.
It’s a different political reality when Christ is king. You can’t turn the news channel to find one that fits your political preference. You have to read the Bible because it’s the only one we have. We can’t work our way into another political party in order to fit our particular ideology. We have to join the church, because we are disciples of Jesus. In the kingdom of God, there is no way to put out another yard sign in order to show your allegiance to yet another candidate. Because in the kingdom of God, we have one sign, that is the cross with that inscription that reads, “This is the King of the Jews.”
Being a Christian, living in the kingdom of God, following the King of kings is a messy business. But it’s the only one worth pursuing. Because Jesus Christ is King of our lives, king of our church, and yes, Jesus Christ is even king from a cross.