Jesus Remember Me
21st November 2010
This Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year is called “Christ the King” Sunday.
And I don’t really get so excited about kings.
The romance has gone.
Last weekend we were staying away in Kelso in an old farm house, which was decorated with all sorts of old memorabilia of the family that had lived there.
Next to the stairs there is a box of old stuffed birds, collected by a member of the family in the late 1800s, in the farmland around us, thrushes, blue tits, great tits, and then a poignant note that says the boy who did this was killed during the first world war, as the birds died, so did he.
And then up in the room that we were in, was a picture of an old sailor on a warship, probably taken about 80 years ago, and the man is very smart, his face familiar, he looks solemn, and dapper, like his is on the ship, but that he is made for better things,
And underneath the picture it says “Edward, Prince of Wales”
It was Edward the Prince, who became a king, and then abdicated, because of his love for Mrs Simpson, and there was a sense that this man was found out, he was not found to be anything special, and history has been unkind to him, he was possibly a closet Nazi, he was somehow implicated in a notorious murder when he was governor of the Bahamas, and at his funeral the Queen Mother attended with a bitterness there, called a king, but no real magic there.
And then with William and Kate, this week, there were comparisons with Charles and Diana, the ring, David Cameron saying he that remembered (and then you could see him pausing as he tried to work out how to phrase this correctly) camping out on the Mall when “William’s mother” was married,
I remember that day seeing a poster that said “Love is…” Charles and Di
I remember being bought a ladybird book that told me all about the wedding
Some of you will own Charles and Di memorabilia.
But this time we are wiser, we know not expect the very definition of love in William and Kate,
People will not be waving signs saying “Love is William and Kate”
Ladybird books will not be read
Sales of commemorative mugs will probably still happen but probably be down.
And newspaper articles ask the question “Will they last?” should she sign a “Pre-nuptial agreement”
There is a magic in kings which has gone,
And somehow to call Christ King is to demean him
Is to lump him in with the man that abdicates and turns out to be closet Nazi
Or the one who conducts and affair for many years
Or the one who has just got married and is at pains to point out that he is just like one of us.
Jesus shepherd … yes
Jesus light of the world … yes
Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world… yes
Prince of Peace… yes
King… not so sure.
We Always Have A King
One of the things in Christ the king Sunday is to be reminded about a curious thing in our human nature.
For all that days have changed
For all that the Romance has gone
For the declining numbers that watch the Queen’s speech
We still like to have kings.
These days we don’t want anyone deciding our king for us,
We want to choose one for ourselves – be that Eric Cantona, your particular favourite member of the Rangers or Celtic Nine-in-a-row team, Elvis, Simon Cowell or Rupert Murdoch.
We always want to give someone charge,
And odd thing
There is part of us that wants us in charge, but we like to give the respect to someone else,
And Christ the King, the whole name Jesus Christ, Jesus King
Means a realignment,
That bit that you want to give to Elvis, to the guy at work who you idolise, to Simon Cowell,
You give that to him.
To this guy.
No matter how staunch a Republican you might be,
There is a part of you that has to have a king.
And the question is, “Who’s it going to be?”
That’s what these icons are about,
They are for people to reflect on, to think about who the king is in their life
Who has their chief allegiance.
There is a telling scene in the film Chariot’s of Fire.
Chariot’s of Fire is about one of Scotland’s Greatest Sons – who is also recorded sometimes as the first Chinese person to win Olympic Gold
Eric Liddell was the son of the a Scottish Missionary.
He was an extraordinarily gifted sportsman, a runner and a rugby player for Scotland,
In the 1924 Olympics, where Eric along with the runner Harold Abrahams was one of the key members of the British team, was expected to run in his favourite event the 100m. However, he discovered that one of his heats for the 100m was to be run on a Sunday, so he withdrew from the 100m, to run the 400m, not his preferred event.
There is a scene in the film when an Aristocratic member of the Olympic committee, Lord Birkenhead, challenges Liddell to change his mind,
He attempts to intimidate Liddell in this vast drawing room, scoffs at his faith as something naïve, as something immature, as something that real men don’t indulge in.
Birkenhead says “For King and God” and in that order.
The King is to be obeyed, but Liddell faced with his King,
Faced with the forces in his life who would intimidate him
Faced with the threat that the newspapers will be unforgiving
Faced with the threat that the sports authorities are accusing him of unpatriotism
Faced with the thread that all that he has worked for three years of his life might be lost.
He still chooses his king.
He chooses the king, the one who understands life,
The one who is to be obeyed even when we don’t understand,
Because he rules to bring the best of life to us all,
And never to deprive us.
That king is to be obeyed
And I challenge you in the moments in which you live
With your family
In what you do with your time
In what you do with your money
In what you eat
In what you think about
There are pressures to obey other kings
Other authorities nudge us and cajole us
They sometimes go under names like
“Everyone does it this way”
“I am telling you to do this”
“If I don’t do this, I will not look good”
“I have to do this because I deserve it”
“I don’t want to do this, but its more than my life’s worth not to”
When we choose the easy option over the right option.
And the reminder here, is that he is the king.
He is the one who reigns and in that reign is life.
Liddell At the Olympics
As you know, the story is that Liddell switched events and ran the 400m,
An event he had run in the past but which was not his favourite,
He qualified for the final, and was up against the favourite, the American, Schultz,
Just before the race one of the Americans, in actual history I think it was the trainer of one of the Americans, and they gave him a quotation,
It’s a quotation from the book of Samuel, 1 Samuel 2:30, in the middle of a tragedy when a family of priests exist not on truth but on bribes and corruption.
** Watch clip**
The Shock Of Kingship
The shock of kingship is not just at that their might be a life giving authority in our life
An unseen, ever present, utterly wise king whose precepts, whose rules are to be trusted.
But the shock of the story today is where that kingship is discovered,
It is discovered in a brutal place of human violence.
I don’t know what the worst of human violence is that you have ever seen,
In India once I saw a few guys getting beaten up
And it was a sight that made me sick
Made me feel utterly dehumanised just watching,
Recently I read a book about a woman from Belfast who had lived through the concentration camp at Auschwitz/Ravensbruck and who witnessed the beatings of other prisoners, and said the other inmates had to watch, and this too, this act of being witness to violence was utterly degrading
It is a scene like this that the gospels take us to,
And in this bout of violence
There is a debate about who is a king.
Five times the word for King is mentioned,
There are two versions, there are the times that Jesus is called King
And the times that he is called Messiah.
So the rulers stand and mock
He saved others, let him save himself, if he is the Messiah, the chosen one (v35)
And the soldiers join in
“Save yourself if you are the king of the Jews”
And above his head, an inscription
“This is the king of the Jews”
And the criminal saying
“Aren’t you the Messiah , Save yourself and us”
And in all this is the contrast between the king,
And the one who cannot save himself.
In the spitting, and the mocking, there is the claim
“There is no king here”
And that is the way we too often life
There is no king here,
There is no king,
Who cannot save himself
Who cannot save others.
Who cannot save me
And since there is no king
We will mock and we will destroy and we will protect ourselves
And we will protect our positions
And we will shore up our reputations but rejoicing in the downfall of others
And there is no king here
No one in charge
No one that understands what life is like in its true brutality
In the weak that get broken and the strong that triumph
That is the only law at work here
There is no other king here.
And then a thief, the kingship of Jesus is always spotted by the most unlikely
A thief says to Jesus,
“Remember me when you come into your kingdom”
And Jesus says “Today you will be with me in paradise”
There is some mighty faith, some might courage to sense that there is still a king here,
In the worst of circumstances.
Shortly after he stood on that Olympic podium and took the applause of the Parish Crowd
Liddell obeyed his king
And went back out to China to proclaim the good news of the King who had stayed him
He wrote a book for his Christian Churches. It said each morning we should ask ourselves 6 questions
1. Have I surrendered this new day to God, and will I seek and obey the guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout its hours?
2. What have I specially to thank God for this morning?
3. Is there any sin in my life for which I should seek Christ’s forgiveness and cleansing? Is there any apology or restitution to make?
4. For whom does God want me to pray this morning?
5. What bearing does this morning’s Bible passage have on my life, and what does He want me to do about it?
6. What does God want me to do today and how does He want me to do it? (Coughery p. 174).
And China was not a safe place to be in the first part of the 20th Century.
Liddell was captured by the Japanese and placed in a prisoner of war camp.
Liddell arranged for his wife and children to go to safety in Canada
With the words
“Those who love God never meet for the last time.”
Eventually Eric and his fellow Missionaries, in the end over 2,000 of them were put into a tiny internment camp
The camp was a dreadful place,
But Eric’s nobility shone.
There are accounts of that period from people who were not Missionaries
Sally Magnusson’s biography searched for flaws in the Scotsman’s seemingly irreproachable character.
“I happened on a disillusioning eye-witness account of the behaviour of some missionaries in the Japanese internment camp where Liddell spent the last months of his life – tempers lost, and heavy moralising, exclusiveness and selfishness,” she recalled, adding: “The author scarcely had a good word to say for anyone, least of all the Protestant Christians [and] then I turned the page and found this:
“`It is rare indeed when anyone has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he comes as close as anyone I have ever known.’
“Of course, he was talking about Eric Liddell.”
But Eric was different
The children loved him
He built them toys
Even though he was exhausted himself, in dreadful pain because of a brain tumour.
And in that brutal place he died
On the 21st February 1945
At the start of that day he was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp
And later that day he was in paradise,
Of Eric, it was said at his funeral
His was a God-controlled life and he followed his Master and Lord with devotion that never flagged and with an intensity of purpose that made men see both the reality and power of true religion…Our friend, whose happy, radiant face…will surely live on in the hearts and lives of all who knew him (Coughery p. 200).
Sixty years later, in August of 2005, Chinese officials, old friends and fellow inmates laid a wreath at a memorial marking Eric’s grave during a ceremony remembering the anniversary of the liberation of the internment camp. During the occasion, Stephen Metcalf, 78, gave testimony to Eric in these words: “He gave me two things. One was his worn-out running shoes.” (It was winter, and like many boys Metcalf had nothing to wear on his feet.) “But the best thing he gave me was his baton of forgiveness. He taught me to love my enemies, the Japanese, and to pray for them” (Spencer).
The king can be trusted
He obeyed him in front of the crowds
He obeyed him under pressure from earthly kings
He obeyed him when other missionaries around him failed to obey
He obeyed him when
And later that day he was in paradise.