Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 21 November 2021.
• First Reading: Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14 (His dominion is an everlasting dominion and His kingdom will never be replaced)
• Psalm 93
• Epistle: Revelation 1: 4b-8 (He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him)
• Gospel: John 18: 33b-37 (My kingdom is not of this world … but now My kingdom is from another place)
It is intriguing that the more insecure a regime feels the more it has to demonstrate its power.
It controls the media, or at least can manipulate the way it is represented by the press and broadcasters. It has to display its public support hence the mass rallies which offer due adulation but rarely debate anything meaningful.
It has its military parades with all sorts of armaments on display and its massed troops strutting and preferably goose-stepping across a public square, often with ranks of 20 or more across.
And of course there are crowds of adoring women and children. And it is all a display – the image is presented, even masquerading – as the reality, and there is a ferocious blame culture by which the leaders absolve themselves of any genuine responsibility for failures in their policy or its delivery.
The real thing is to be seen, and to control that image, regardless of the reality of the lives of the people.
The picture of the glory of heaven is rather different. Yes, there are the many millions of people in attendance and the million of those directly serving Ancient of Days, but there is no sense of blame – just one of awe-inspiring and undisputed authority.
The white of total purity and the flame of all-consuming judgment provide the background against which the One like a son of man approaches. And to Him are granted authority, power and glory. They are His by grant from the One on the throne, and yes, we are indeed to understand that this is the One, only-begotten of God.
God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God: True and Undisputed God of the same nature and yet in full and unquestioning obedience and commitment to Him.
This is the One who was to come and when He did come was both the image and the reality of God, living in the community and teaching ordinary people of the Things of God.
This was the One who could and did teach as One with authority and whose authority to forgive was demonstrated by His authority over death and sickness, and even the elements of the weather.
When they asked, in the aftermath of the calmed storm on the lake, ‘What kind of man IS THIS?’ they were indeed asking something about the One who came from highest heaven to be among them.
But there is something else. Politicians have to build up their power bases, and then they have to maintain them. When they fall there is a new regime which has to establish its own credentials.
For Jesus, there was no need for the razzmatazz of political display. He already had His authority and He was already in control, even when on trial for His life before Pilate.
He could have talked His way out of it, but no, this was the way He had chosen and in any case this was the cup and the portion allotted to Him by God and which He had already accepted before He was ever conceived in His mother.
Jesus’ kingdom was never imperiled by the person or rule of Pilate. If anything it was in the almost constant temptation to avoid the cross, when by so doing He would have died in a bitter old age, estranged from God in whom His very identity lay.
And so He could say with utter conviction that yes, He was King, but no, the kingdom was quite different from that of conventional emperors and despots, no matter how convincing their public relations or their control of their public image.
Part of the point of Jesus’ humility was that He had no need to present an image of invincibility to the world. He already was invincible by virtue of being in total obedience to His Father.
Going to the cross would be the means and the measure of His authority as He brought creation, and especially humanity, back into fellowship and communion with God.
This would be the gateway through which He would pass to His authority, to being the firstborn from the dead, after His victory over the powers of death and condemnation, and to His everlasting kingdom.
It would the lens through which we see God and the portal through which we would pass to receive life in this world in the power of the Holy Spirit and everlasting life in the presence of God.
Yes, there will be a time when Jesus stand again upon the earth and no worldly power will be able to withstand Him. There will be a time when the world’s armaments will be so much junk, when guns and weapons are melted down to provide syringes and scalpels.
It will be a time when camouflaged uniforms, which are intended to hide and deceive, are recycled to provide warmth and protection against the elements and when the media will be proud to speak of Him who is the Truth.
This is the vision that we have of the coming of the Lord, as we prepare to enter the season of Advent. It is the hope to which we are called and in which we are pleased to rejoice.
It is the proud conviction in which we look to the coming of Him who is indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords.