Knowing Right From Wrong – Christ the King Sunday

A friend sent me a quote recently from the author Oswald Chambers: (Satan) “does not come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of shifting our point of view…” How true for me! The premise also seems to be true for lots of people. We have become so confused about what’s right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Like scotch tape yanked away from a piece of paper, we have picked up more of the world than the world has picked up us.

This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday and if Christ really is King then we who are the subjects of the realm have usurped the throne! Does it appear that Jesus is in charge of our lives? Doesn’t anyone take responsibility anymore? I’m around clergy and parishioners as a District Superintendent who are often in conflict, and it seems everyone says its somebody else’s fault. I remember the old hymn that says “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord – standing in the need of prayer…”

We need to take responsibility and personally put Christ on the throne of our lives every day! As United Methodists we use the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to do theology and determine if something is kosher, orthodox, or sinful. The Quadrilateral, a matrix used by our founder John Wesley, is a good determinant for right and wrong: Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason. Where I get fouled up is when I put Experience before anything else. The United Methodist, even Christian reality, is that Scripture is primary and is informed by and informs Tradition, Experience, and Reason. We get into trouble when we think of the Quadrilateral as an equilateral, as if all 4 components are of equal value. It would be much better from an orthodox point of view to think of the Quadrilateral as a three-legged stool with Scripture as the seat with Tradition, Experience, and Reason as legs. I would avoid so much sin in my life it I started with Scripture, recalled the teachings (Tradition) that the church has valued over the centuries, checked my actions via the lens of Experience, and finally asked if what I’m doing or about to do is Reasonable; i.e., “Rationally, what are the consequences of my actions?”

I remember hearing about 2 preachers who were talking one day. They usually rode past each other on their bicycles but on this occasion one of the ministers was walking. The other asked, “What happened to your bike?” The other responded, “I think one of my parishioners stole it.” His fellow minister said, “What you ought to do is preach on the Ten Commandments next Sunday and really bear down on the part about ‘Thou shalt not steal’- You’ll get your bike back.” The next week the 2 preachers met up and both were on bikes. The one who had given the advice said, “It looks like you did what I said and preached on not stealing and got your bike back.” His colleague said, “Not exactly. I did preach on the Ten Commandments, but when I got to the part about not committing adultery I remembered where my bicycle was.” Ouch, big ouch!

I think most of us would be hard-pressed to name the Ten Commandments, much less live them. We need to have a firm understanding that Scripture is more important in our ethical decision-making than experience or anything else. There is a cartoon which I’ve seen in several places. It shows a crucifixion scene, and depicts Jesus saying, “If I’m O.K. and you’re OK, then what am I doing up here hanging on this cross?” As much as we seem to hate to admit it, “We’re not O.K.” We need a Savior. We need Jesus and we need to drop our rationalizations and pretense of false innocence.

There was a big burly lineman for a NFL football team who really liked to sneak out of the confines of his motel room on the night before games. Despite the club’s curfew he would try to fool his coach as he made his rounds to do bed-checks. He would pile things under his blanket so that it looked like he was in bed. At one motel, however, he couldn’t find enough things to stuff under the covers so he stuck a floor lamp in the bed and took off. When the suspicious and wise coach peeked in way after curfew and flipped on the switch for the light you can guess what happened – the bed lit up! Our sins have a way of finding us out! We may think they are hidden, but the light of judgment is coming!

Christ the King Sunday reminds me that there is only One to whom I owe allegiance and it’s Jesus, not my own desires and wants. If Jesus is Lord and King, it’s high time we acted like it. Don’t let evil shift your point of view. Some things are wrong.

Advent and a New Grandbaby

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My daughter, Narcie, is GREAT with child. Our granddaughter’s due date is December 9, but we’re all hoping it happens this weekend. The first Sunday of Advent would be wonderfully appropriate. Advent season is one of my favorites, but not because of Christmas. The season is actually less about Jesus’ first coming as it is a preparation for His second advent. Sure, it can be adapted to prepare us for the holidays and the stress of having everything purchased and prepared, but Advent season is really about Judgment Day, not Christmas Day.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie versions of The Chronicles of Narnia. The books by C.S. Lewis were formative in my faith and especially my understanding of God’s nature. Aslan is one, if not the main character in the series. It doesn’t take much imagination to view this lion as Jesus, the Lion of Judah. He is at once ferocious and frightening, but also one who in great strength lays down his very life. Aslan is no ordinary pussycat. Aslan is to be worshipped and feared. Aslan is loyal, kind, and caring. The word that keeps coming to mind is “strength.” He exudes strength.
I like singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” but it’s also good to know that Jesus-Meek-And-Mild is Jesus-the-Christ. He’s more like William Wallace in Braveheart than Fred Rogers in “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I take great comfort in Jesus who pardons and is lenient, but I also serve a Risen Lord whose strength is a bewildering mixture of humility and power.
 
I literally don’t want to throw the Baby (Christ Child) out with the bath water, but it’s Advent season that corrects the soft-serve Jesus that captures the rest of the Christian year’s attention. Jesus-the-Judge is a Lord who inspires me to service, not out of fear, but out of a desire to pay homage to the One who is worthy.
 
Advent makes me think about the end of life and its measure. In The Imitation of Christ, St. Thomas á Kempis wrote: “When we stand before the Judge Eternal, he will not ask what we said but what we did.” Advent-living forces me to think about the eternal consequences of my actions. Christmas-living lets me live in a fantasy world until January when the credit card bills come due.
 
The ultimate Advent message is to get ready for Judgment Day. Watch your actions, cram for your finals, love God and neighbor, serve the poor, give away earthly treasures to gain heavenly ones, be good stewards of planet earth, and love, love, love! There’s more, of course, but that’s enough for today and tomorrow ad infinitum.
 
Someone summed it up well when they asked these questions: “When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told you believed too much or you believed too little? When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told you cared too much or you cared too little? When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told you tried too hard or you didn’t try hard enough? When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told you were too forgiving or you were too judgmental? When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told, “Well done, thou hyper-hopeful and risk-taking servant,” or “Well done, thou sober and play-it-safe servant”? Judgment Day is coming, ready or not.