Christ the King Sunday Yr B, 23/11/2003
Based on 2 Sam 23:1-7
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, AB
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
For those of you who enjoy your history, here are three skill-testing questions for you: What English king invented the fireplace? Answer: Alfred the grate. Question two: When were King Arthur’s army too tired to fight? Answer: When they had lost of sleepless knights. Question three: Whose son was Edward, the Black Prince? Answer: Old King Coal. J
Out of the golden age of the Vikings, comes this tale of King Canute, who ruled for a time all of England, Denmark and Norway (994-1035).
One day King Canute was walking by the seashore, and as he was walking he was being flattered by some of his followers. He was the king of kings, the mightiest that reigned far and near. Canute listened with half an ear as each of his courtiers tried to outdo the others in praise of the king until someone said that both land and sea were at his command.
Canute sat on his cloak by the waterline; the tide had started to come in. As the king looked out at the ocean, he asked his entourage: “I notice the tide is coming in. Do you think it will stop if I give the command?” “Give the order, O great king, and it will obey,” cried his entourage.
“Sea,” cried Canute, “I command you to come no further! Do not dare touch my feet!” He waited a moment, and a wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet. On and on this went all day long, and to no avail did Canute’s commands succeed in preventing the tide from coming in and touching him.
Finally, Canute turned to his courtiers and declared, “It seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. Perhaps now you will remember there is only one King who is all-powerful, and it is he who rules the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. I suggest you reserve your praises for him.” 1
On this last Sunday of the church year, we turn our focus onto kings and kingship. We have journeyed through the church year at Advent, preparing for the birth of a King. Then we celebrate the actual birth with much joy during the Christmas season. In the aftermath of our King’s birth, we learn of foreign visitors who come to worship and offer their gifts to the King. Next we move into Lent to journey with our King as he travels into Jerusalem to face his trial, sentence, suffering and death. Then the Easter season breaks upon us, when we celebrate the victory of our King over the powers of evil, sin and death through his resurrection—followed by the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is given to the disciples of Jesus and the Church is born. Then we move into a new focus during the Sundays after Pentecost—namely, that of our response to the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus. Finally, we move into Christ the King Sunday, emphasising Christ’s kingly consummation of all history to bring it into a final end and conclusion; in accordance with the eternal plan of God.
In today’s first lesson from 2 Samuel, we are also invited to focus a little on last things. According to verse one, “Now these are the last words of David.” Then we have an introduction to David’s words, which include some of David’s titles as Israel’s king. These titles are: “son of Jesse,” “the man whom God exalted,” “the anointed of the God of Jacob,” “the favourite of the Strong One of Israel.” All of these titles serve to emphasise the legitimacy of David as God’s chosen king over Israel. These titles underscore the authority of his office as the king. It is sort of like in our day and age, people including their degree letters behind their names to emphasis their legitimacy and their credibility for a particular vocation. These titles are included as if David were saying: “Here are my credentials as Israel’s king. Therefore, believe me, accept me, and serve me as your king.”
If we look at these titles as Christians, we might be convinced that such titles not only refer to David, but may also very well serve as a foreshadowing of Christ himself and thus refer to him as our King. Such titles if interpreted as referring to Christ as David’s ancestor, emphasise the authority and legitimacy of Christ as the Messiah-King, the anointed one whom God has chosen to be King of kings and Lord of lords; to rule over all the nations of the world with the power of his all-saving love.
Then, in what follows the titles of David as king, our passage emphasises that David was indeed speaking the word of the LORD with the inspiration of God’s spirit. This may very well be a reference to David as author of many of the Psalms, which indeed were inspired by God; since they are an integral part of both Jewish and Christian Bibles and have been utilised by Jews and Christians in public worship down through the centuries, right up to the present day. Reference to the spirit of the LORD speaking through David is also describing what comes next in verses three to five of our passage. Here David tells us what God has to say about a faithful ruler. A king is to rule with justice, fearing God. Such a king will be to his people what light is to the morning and rain is to the grassy land. Light brings out the beauty and detail of how things really are and also helps everything to live and grow. Rain also provides life and growth for everything. So, a faithful, king who rules with justice, fearing God will be a life-giving king to and for his people. He, like King David at his best provided for the needs of his people and the nation was blessed with peace, security, and prosperity.
It is, however, as David clearly points out, the LORD God who has made an everlasting covenant with his people Israel who is the True Cause of all of David’s popularity and success as a king. Israel’s blessings and David’s personal blessings are the result of God making a covenant with them. David at his most humble moments, like Canute, realises and admits that the LORD is his True King, he alone is worthy of praises.
As Christians, this covenant with David and Israel remind us of our covenant, which Christ as David’s descendent has made with us. Ours too is an everlasting covenant, thanks to Christ our King’s saving work on the cross. So, come and dine with Christ our King now and receive his forgiveness, his healing, his love and unconditional acceptance, and his gift of life eternal. Amen.