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Christ The King

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Edward F. Markquart

Christ the King
The Lord of the Land and the Sea

Christ the King     John 18:33-37    

Today is Christ the King Sunday and we focus on Christ being King of creation, king over the heavens and the earth, king and ruler over your life and mine.

During the past few years, I have come to love the words to a new contemporary praise song that we often sing at our 11:00 worship.  The words go like this:

“You are the Lord of creation, the Lord of my life, the Lord of the land and the sea; 
You were Lord of the heavens before time began, Lord of all Lords you will be;
I bow down and worship you Lord; I bow down and worship you Lord; I bow down and worship you Lord, Lord of all Lords you will be.” 

Today’s sermon is in the form of three stories, three biographies, three sagas that reveal how Christ has ruled over three lives.

His name was Sam Ratigliano, and I was going to hear him give a speech to a crowd of Lutherans at a banquet.  Sam was a football coach in the National Football League, a Lutheran layman, and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  I assumed I was going to hear one of those “jock for Jesus” banquet speeches in which I would be told how Jesus helped him win so many victories, how Christ provided the inspiration for the big moments in the big game, how Christ provided the spiritual path to a successful football career.  I had this cynical attitude and I was humming my favorite football hymn in my mind, just before he spoke:  “Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life, end over end neither left or the right, straight through the heart of those glorious uprights, drop-kick me Jesus through the goalposts of life.”

So I was surprised when I found myself engaged by the man.  Maybe it was his New York accent.  Maybe it was his Bronx twang.  Maybe it was his no-nonsense way of speaking.  But he was captivating as he spoke.  And he told this story:  He and his wife were driving one evening with their two year old daughter in the back seat. Suddenly a car was upon them;  there was an accident;  their car rolled over;  the child was thrown out; and when everything had stopped moving; their little girl was pinned underneath the car.  And ...and ...and...and  I thought, here we go again, with one of those “jock for Jesus” stories....”. He would tell us, “I found enormous strength in myself, picked up the back bumper of the car one inch, just enough for my wife to get her safely out.”  Or he would tell us, “Suddenly, miraculously, a tow truck came driving by at that very instant;  latched onto our car;  lifted it up; and we pulled her safely out.”  Or he would tell us, “ The ambulance arrived, so did a tow truck. She was taken to the hospital; we prayed for months; and she finally was healed.”  But instead, he simply said: “ She was dead.” ... He then went on to tell that the two of them grieved so deeply for so long. It was an awful time for them, one of the most difficult moments in their marriage.  Time went on, and they got pregnant again, finally, an answer to prayer, and that baby was about to be delivered ... stillborn.  It was too much for them to take, too much to handle, too much to grieve.  As time went by, Sam started to negotiate with God, “God, if you bless us with another pregnancy, we will give our lives to you and dedicate the child to you.  If you give us a healthy child, we will be yours and do what you want us to do with our lives.  If you...If you.”  And a quiet voice spoke back to Sam’s inner spirit:  “No deals, Sam.  No deals.  No manipulations.  I rule over you in all times of your life.”

So here we were at this banquet, and Sam went on to say:  “God has called me to be his servant in my turf, the National Football League.  He rules over all aspects of my life, when winning or losing, in triumphs and tragedies.  How about you?  Where is your turf?  Does God rule you there in your turf, in your situation?  Not just when you’re winning, but when you are losing.  Not just during the triumphs but during the tragedies of your life?  Does God rule you then?”  ...  There was silence, a profound silence, echoing the silence from the book of Job.  No, this was no “jock for Jesus” speech. ...  Does God rule in our losing?  In our tragedies? 

“You are the Lord of creation, the Lord of my life, the Lord of the land and the sea;
You were Lord of the heavens before there was time, Lord of all Lords you will be.
And I bow down ...” (These words can be sung.)

The second story is about Dietrich  Offeldt.  This is a story from right after World War II and the separation of East and West Berlin.  It was that moment in history just when the division of East and West was becoming painfully apparent.  All his friends counseled him:  “Dietrich, flee to West Berlin.  It will be better for you, better for your family, better for your freedom, a better place to be a Christian.  Don’t remain in East Berlin.  It is family suicide, spiritual suicide.”  But Dietrich was one of the many thousands who chose to remain and live as a Christian under communism.  He wrote in one of his letters of which I have a copy.  I am recalling the following words from memory and these words capture the essence of what he said:  “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.  He is the ruler of my life, and he can dispose of my life in any way he chooses.  I have found that every Christian finds himself or herself in a particular circumstance, a particular time, a particular place in which they live out their discipleship.  My circumstance is communism;  my time is the Cold War; and my place is East Berlin.  I chose to be a disciple here. To survive, I found that I needed to make two decisions:  first, to accept the task that God had placed before me; that is, to live as a Christian in a communist state.  The easy thing would have been to run away, to run someplace that was less difficult.  But an essential key to life is to accept the God-given task that God has placed right in front of you and not run away from it”.  ...  How about you?  What is the task or tasks that God has placed in front of you?  The challenge?  The difficult duty?  What is it that you want to run away from and not face?  What is it that you want to escape and run away rather than to face it and handle it?  These are important questions for your life and mine.  Are you taking on the task that God has placed in front of you? ... Dietrich’s letter continued:   “The second choice is to raise my flag and show my colors, to let those around me know for sure that I am a Christian, that Christ rules my life.”  Dietrich went on to tell about how some Christian parents in East Germany advised their children to be cautious in revealing that they were Christians and that such children became tense and not free but slaves to the fear of being found out.  Dietrich found it much easier to be up front, to show his colors, to let people know he was a Christian.  For example, one day his school principal confronted him, “Mr. Offeldt, communism teaches that there is no God, that God is a figment of our imagination.”  To which Dietrich replied,  “God is not the figment of my imagination.  God created my imagination and yours.”  Up front, colors flying high.  Dietrich knew that he couldn’t teach his beliefs in God at school, but he wanted his principal to know where he stood.  ... How about you?  Do you fly your colors?  Do you let people around you at work or in your neighborhood or family clearly know that Christ is the ruler of your life, that you are more than just a mere church member and worship attender? Or do you subtly cover it up? 

“You are Lord of creation and Lord of my life; Lord of the land and the sea;
You were Lord of the heavens before there was time; Lord of all lords you will be.
And I bow down...” (These words can be sung.)

The third story is about Eric Little. Eric said about himself that God made him to be a Christian and that God made him to run fast.  Eric Little was the fastest young boy in his village in Scotland when growing up in the early l900s.  His legs could run faster than all of his buddies.  In 1919 and thereabouts, he experienced one of those Wesley revival meetings that were sweeping through Scotland, and he gave his life to Christ in a new and deepened way, and soon he was traveling with a revival tent meeting.  The revival crew would pull into a small Scottish town, set up the big tent, and Eric would go into town, challenging all the young men to a race, a hundred meters race and a four hundred.  By noon on Saturdays, all the young men of the community were set for races down the main street.  Eric would whip up their enthusiasm, then beat them in a race, then invite them to the rally that night. At the rally would tell them about Christians running the race and winning the crown of salvation.  His favorite theme was:  “Honor God with your life, so God will honor you.”  He always ended his revival sermons with that theme. 

Soon, it was 1921, and his friends said:  “Eric, we believe you are the fastest man in all of Scotland.  You should try for the Olympics.”  So Eric trained for three years while working for the revival. Sure enough, he won the victory and was to represent Scotland in the 1924 Olympics.  He traveled to one of the greatest cities in the world, to Paris, France, with his young Scottish eyes bugged-eyed with awe at the most sophisticated city he had ever seen.  ...  It was time for the trial heats, and, and, and they were scheduled for Sunday morning.  Oh, no.  He couldn’t run on Sunday morning. That violated his religious principles.  That’s the way it was in those days.  Nobody in his hometown opened their stores for business on Sunday morning.  None of his friends played rugby on Sunday morning.  That’s just the way it was.  And he had told everyone at his revival sermons that we are to honor God in all aspects of our life, even when it was not convenient or easy.  O no.  What was he to do?  ... He decided not to run and pressures soon came against him from every direction?  “What are you, some religious fanatic?  Some legalist? Some religious nut?”  Even the Prince of Wales put pressure on him, telling him he needed to run in order to honor his country.  He replied to the Prince of Wales:  “God my King is greater than the king of England, Wales and Scotland.  To honor God is more important than to honor the king of England.”

It was now Sunday morning of the time trials and Eric was not at the trials but inside the great cathedral of Notre Dame with its splendor of spiritual heights and spiritual spaces. He was at Sunday morning worship. The images of the race kept flashing through his mind during the worship service, with men’s muscled bodies lunging forward to cross the finish line first.  As he left the cathedral, a friend asked the poignant question:  “Any regrets, Eric?”  His answer was a classic:  “O yes, regrets.  But not doubts!”  Yes, regrets that he didn’t win the gold in the hundred meters.  Regrets that he didn’t taste the thrill of running against the best athletes in the world.  Regrets, Yes, regrets.  But not doubts.  Not doubts that he stood up for what was right.  No doubts that he did the honorable thing.  No doubts that he did what his heart told him to do.  ...  And how about you, when you are faced with those complex moral choices in front of you?  Are you willing to do what is right, knowing that it may cost you your satisfactions and pleasures?  Are you willing to pay the price?  Are you?  Are your God-given principles more important than you pleasures? Are you willing to stand up for what your heart knows is right?  These are crucial questions for those people whose lives are ruled by Christ.

“You are Lord of creation and Lord of my life; Lord of the land and the sea;
You were Lord of the heavens before there was time:  Lord of all Lords you will be.
I bow down....” (These words can be sung.)

Today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday.  On this special day, we remember that Christ is Lord over the whole creation, the entire universe and all the galaxies. Christ is   Lord over this little earth, this lovely planet on which there is life.  We remember that Christ rules over our lives ... during triumphs and tragedies, in all circumstances, all times, all places, and during the complex moral decisions that we face day by day.  Yes, Christ is...

“The Lord of creation and Lord of my life, Lord of the land and the sea.”  ...  Amen.

CHILDREN’S’ SERMON  Bring a globe up front and hold it up in one hand.  Ask the children what it is.  Play with their comments.  Ask whether or not you (the pastor) can hold the whole world in your hand?  The earth?  All the stars? Can Christ hold the earth in his hands?  (Yessssss.)  Can Christ hold all the stars of the sky in his hands?  (yessssss)  Sing the song:  “He holds you and me brother in his hands;  he holds you and me sister in his hands. He holds the whole world in his hands.”  Then take a little girl and hold her up high in one hand for all to see and ask the children if Christ can hold all the little girls in his hand.  (Yessssss)  Then take a little boy and hold him up high in one hand for all to see and ask the children if Christ can hold all the little boys in his hand.  (Yesssssss)  Yes, Jesus is Lord.  He holds the sun and the moon, the earth and the stars, the girls and the boys, and the little bitty babies in his hand.

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