The sermon text is below the link for the sermon audio.
Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport ; Sunday November 26 2017
The Reverend Alan Neale. ; “Authentic Monarchy”
When applying for a job involving teamwork, the question is often asked, “How would you describe your leadership style?”. Many sources provide many answers to this question including the more traditional six-fold Authoritarian, Paternalistic, Democratic, Laissez-faire, Transactional and Transformational. Absent in this list, and in all the lists I reviewed, is one particular leadership style… monarchical! Would you believe it? (A common outburst by Victor Meldrew in ‘One Foot in the Grave’).
In the minds of many, reinforced by history, is the thought that monarchy is none too far from tyranny (sadly not uncommon today). And yet on this Sunday, the last Sunday of the church’s year, Christ the King Sunday… this band of happy rebels revel in talk and hymondy of crowns and coronations, of kings and monarchies.
It is a sweet irony!
The stunningly popular “Game of Thrones” describes kings and kingdoms hell-bent on divide et tempera (divide and conquer) but not King Jesus, no-one works like him.
History has shown the transformation of erstwhile kindly rulers into despotic tyrants but not King Jesus, no-one works like him.
Ezekiel tells the story of a nation, a people, a religious community divided and enslaved, alienated and bound by the effects of sin personally, nationally and internationally; they are literally in exile and yearn and ache for return to home and family. The new shepherd, crowned by the Lord God, this new shepherd will liberate and coalesce these factions.
Listen, the King will this make people whole, He will re-unite them with land and family.
Ezekiel 34:12-13 “As shepherds go after their flocks when they get scattered, I’m going after my sheep. I’ll rescue them from all the places they’ve been scattered to in the storms. I’ll bring them back from foreign peoples, gather them from foreign countries, and bring them back to their home country.”
Listen, the King will set this people free, will liberate them, untie them from the bondage of hunger, aimlessness, anomie, pain and exploitation.
Ezekiel 34: 13-14 “I’ll feed them on the mountains of Israel, along the streams, among their own people. I’ll lead them into lush pasture so they can roam the mountain pastures of Israel, graze at leisure, feed in the rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I’ll go after the lost, I’ll collect the strays, I’ll doctor the injured, I’ll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they’re not exploited.”
In Matthew 25 (the famous parable of sheep and goats, of “inasmuch as ye did it to me”) another King strides onto the cosmic (but all so personal) stage. Now, I’ll be honest with you, I’m troubled by this Gospel. Not because of the command to care but because of what seems eternal fragmentation. All I know about our divine Monarch is that it is her/his intrinsic, quintessential nature to unite, to make whole and so I read the final verses as a rhetorical and eloquent way to grab our attention and say, “Look, this is really important.”
It is important that the King establishes the principle that we are connected, united with all people (even the least, the invisible, the unattractive, the discomforting, the dispossessed and the hopeless).
It is important that the King chooses to establish the principle that we are liberated, released, unshackled from bonds of selfishness, myopic indifference and erratic acts of generosity.
This King Jesus, no-one works like him.
Listen again to these words from today’s Collect, the Prayer for Christ the King Sunday “King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under (your) most gracious rule.”
It is as if we are presented with two kingdoms, two monarchies one ruled by King Jesus, the other King Sin.
The former is marked by the process of unification, wholeness, freedom and liberation.
The latter marked by the process of divisiveness, fraction, bondage and enslavement.
Any so-called political theory of chaos is anathema to King Jesus.
Any leader in family, church, nation or world who espouses and promotes divisiveness is antithetical to the divine will as are any who support, condone or excuse such a leader.
When President Coolidge sat at Sunday lunch after church, he was asked, “And what was the topic of the sermon?”. Reflectively the President answered, “Oh… it was about sin?”. His auditors now agog continued, “And what did the preacher say about sin?”. And, again, reflectively the President responded, “He was… agin it”.
This preacher is against sin because he is absolutely convinced that there is a generally covert and wretched principle at work within and around us that seeks to separate us from life, from others, even (in some strange but authentic way) even from ourselves.
This preacher is against sin because he is absolutely convinced that there is in nearly all, if not all, an addictive virus at work seeking to dominate and enslave us, to snatch from us our freedom and our independence.
Please forget that the church in the past, and sadly even now, shows signs of being a despotic, tyrannical institution enslaving rather than liberating, alienating rather than unifying, disempowering rather than affirming.
Please forget this, or put this in perspective… King Jesus, no-one works like him, even today wants to begin in me and you a new process of defragmentation and liberation.
Some years ago, at a stone Chapel not too far from here, I celebrated Communion. After church a young boy, who had attended the service, said at the dinner table, “Father Neale is a magican.” The boy’s puzzled parents asked for an explanation “Well, explained the boy, “he takes the wafer, breaks it up and when I receive a wafer it’s all made one again.”
We come to the table often with broken lives, fractured relationships, splintered hopes and then, by holy magic, Jesus makes them whole again or, at least, sets our feet again on the journey to wholeness.
Jesus does this by service not by edict, Jesus does this by sacrifice not by command. He himself becomes broken, fragmented that we may become whole.
Praise to Jesus our King. Alleluia, Amen.