The Coming of Prince X

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the Name by which He will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.                                    Jeremiah 23:5-6  [2-6]

The recent revelations of scandals in politics expose an interesting mystery about us.  On one hand, we become excited by the “got-cha’s” whenever we see what appears to be a mistake or even a failing, whether it be in the accuser or the accused.  We want to feel that our opinions are vindicated, we want to feel morally superior to the person who is in charge, where we can flaunt our smug virtue posturing.

Basically we really aren’t settled in what we want in a politician.  On one level we want someone who is human like us, who would understand the situations of our lives and would make our lives easier.  On the other hand, we really expect that a person in a special position should be someone who is different than us.  We want him to be a model whom we can look up to, whom we can look to for direction and an encouragement which is beyond the circumstances of the world around us, who can provide us with an island of sanity within a world that seems to be going crazy.

We don’t want our models and heroes to be just like us, subject to our own frailties – not really, because if they are just like us, then that has a note of despair: if they are merely down at our level, then there is no hope – not for improvement, not for better people, not for better relationships, not for a better world.  Hearing the dirt on high-profile people can actually be dissatisfying – we are left with nothing to achieve, nothing to strive for, nothing to give us a purpose and point to life.

Perhaps that is the sadness when society looks to – for instance, actors and actresses – to define morality.  Yes, on one hand they give us permission to destroy the rules and strengths of family, society and community, yet there is also the sense of emptiness because we know we are not going upward, but downward.

We also want to know that he will press the advantage for us when the opportunity presents itself.  We want to know that he will care that much for our welfare, for our well-being and growth.  We also want him to pay attention to our lives within his kingdom, that he will keep tabs on how things are going down on the individual level, so that the little people get to see the benefits as much as the more visible people in the empire.

We want him to be with us, but still above us.  A story is told of a man touring a factory in England during the Second World War, who noticed that a person working one of the machines bore a striking resemblance to the king.  He was then amazed to find out that the person WAS King George VI of England, who after finishing his royal duties for the day, joined his subjects in the factories to add his effort in the war against Germany and had become the symbol of British determination to stand against tyranny.

So we do want our future king to not be afraid to mix with us, yet still to give us something to aim for – we want him to give us hope, that we see he wants to be with us, so that we would want to be with him, and that we would follow him.

We would want this king to deal wisely, practice justice, be the model of upstanding morality, concerned with the individuals of his kingdom, and be the source of security and relief from any oppression.  Yes, I think that is how we would make a king if we could.  And we would even give him a nickname, like “Eric the Bold” or “Fredrick the Wise.” We would call him, “The LORD our Righteousness,” because for Prince X, the X stands for the first letter in the Greek for “Christ” – Prince Christ Jesus.  And the description of this Prince came right out of the lessons for this morning.

You see, as much as earthly princes and kings and princesses and queens may disappoint us, we still have One Who will not let us down.  Everything that we could imagine and want in a King we already have.  And already He has begun His reign, even though His official coronation is still to come.

It is important to know that His rule has begun for one reason: for our sense of security.  We know that there are all sorts of powerful beings and powerful forces out in the world and universe around us: the reality of Satan, people filled with hatred and evil, wars, persecution, the gravestone of a loved one, the powerful winds of these past months, and even our own disappointing human natures are all things which remind us of how desperately we need the security of knowing that our King is on His throne, able to handle what we cannot.

And how wonderful it is to have the reassurance that our King had no qualms about living in our midst, sharing our bread, walking our paths, sleeping in our houses, experiencing our lives.  Yet what a joy to know that He was more than just like us, that He could be a hero and even more than that, He could be our Savior.  He has given us a hope which is not based on human capabilities, but one based on the involvement of God Himself.
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So we do have a King we would have made if we were to build Him ourselves – of course, He is greater than what we could ever have imagined, but still, He is what we would want if we had the ability to make Him.

However, now comes the problem: now that we have Him, we truly have Him, He truly is on the throne of the universe – what do we do with Him??  He is the ideal King, the King we would have always wanted – but do we really want Him to be OUR King??

When He says, “Follow Me, and forgive your enemies,” or “Follow Me, and reject your pride,” or “Follow Me, and give your life not just for a select few but for everyone’s benefit,” or “Follow Me, and give of your time and resources like I did,” or “Follow Me to a cross to bring life into other people’s lives” – is this the King we really want?

Perhaps what is most awkward in the Old Testament lesson is the nickname, “The LORD our Righteousness” – not “our Victory” or “our Strength” or “our Power”, but “our Righteousness.”  What a wimpy way to refer to King Who rules all things and keeps all power and authority, not just under His thumb, but under His feet! – “The King our Righteousness”??  that accents proper morality, SPIRITUAL morality, not the ultimate control we like to see.

This righteousness bothers our consciences, because that’s where we fall short.  It bothers our priorities, because we want to win, not live properly; we want prestige, not live properly; we want to have fun, not live properly.

But then the Epistle [Colossians 1:13-20] poses the question, do we want the kingdom of darkness or the Kingdom of Prince X?  Do we want death, or life?  Do we want things we value destroyed, or built up?  Do we want despair, or hope?  Do we want fear, or security?  Do we want a barren loneliness, or a solid and real Presence?  Do we want emptiness, or the fullness of the King of the Universe Who came that we might live and live abundantly?

The joy of “The LORD our Righteousness” is what Luther discovered when he realized that this is not the righteousness that we are judged against, but the righteousness that our King gives to us when we come to Him in true repentance, in determination to follow Him.  What a King we have!  Although bringing the gavel down in judgment against us, He lays it upon His own Self on a Cross.  In the absolution, He provides us the hard-won benefits of His great battle against sin, death and the Devil, having experienced the awful separation from the Father which we deserved, of which sometimes it may seem we get the occasional whiff.

But our King doesn’t stop there: He goes on to give us Himself in Word and Sacrament.  This isn’t just merely the benefits of His death and resurrection, He gives us what HE IS.  He is “our Righteousness” because His Righteousness – the King Himself – actually enters and takes hold of your heart and my heart, your mind and my mind, your life and my life.  Now He’s not just the King on the throne of the universe, but He is the King on the throne of our lives and days, our occupations and preoccupations.

This ideal King rules – not from some distant castle, but rules from within the center of our minds and hearts; this ideal King brings all His wisdom, strength, justice, proper living, security and relief from spiritual oppression into the very core of where you and I live.  St Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 [:10] that He has laid out the path for each of our specific lives, yet more so, a path which we share with Him alongside of us.

In Holy Communion we have the guarantee from the King Himself that all this is ours, for the King has come to be with us, but also to be fully the King He is in us.  As we in repentance turn over to Him the various territories of our existence, His rule changes our perspectives, our outlooks, our goals, our expectations, our delights, our yearnings, and we discover a burden lifting our lives from the disappointments of the world around us, the disappointments of our heroes, and even the disappointments of ourselves.

And then to exceed all this which happens in the midst of a faulty and failing world, one day He will return and, as Paul declares in that same Ephesians chapter [:6,7 RSV], the Father will “make us sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  This, and more, lies at the root of what we celebrate on Christ the King Sunday.

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