Reading: Luke 23:33-43
Today we come to the end of another Church Year.
We mark the occasion with Christ The King Sunday.
When it comes to other high church days, Christ the King is not very old.
It was started in the early 20th Century by Pope Pius XI as a response to growing nationalism and secularism.
One of the names that became associated with this day was Judgment Sunday and there was a lot of emphasis on the part in the Creed where we proclaim, “He (Jesus) will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
But then I read that the Church of Sweden never took the name instituted by the Pope.
Rather than calling it Christ The King Sunday, they went with Domssoendagen
The Sunday of Doom.
Now, let me admit that when I first read what they called it my mind went to Comic Book Land and I thought of the arch-enemy of the Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom.
And I could not help but think how cool it was that a Church named a Sunday after a comic book villain.
Fortunately, my trip to Comic Book Land did not last too long.
And I started thinking how ominous it sounds to have a Sunday celebration with the word “Doom” in it.
The dictionary defines “doom” as “very bad events or situations that cannot be avoided; death, ruin.”
And in our Gospel lesson we read of a very bad event, one that cannot be avoided.
It is the crucifixion.
Crucifixion was an ancient form of death penalty.
And in Ancient Rome, crucifixion was reserved for slaves, pirates, treason, and enemies of the state.
Crucifixion was an ugly and horrible way to day.
It certainly fits the definition of “doom.”
And so it is here, on a giant piece of wood, in a very public place, that we find Jesus.
Not exactly a place one would want to find his or her king.
What does it mean for us to acknowledge and worship a king who was convicted as a criminal?
You have to keep in mind that everything in the life of Jesus has led to this moment.
His words, actions, and mission were all leading to the inevitable: the cross.
Death. Ruin. Bad event.
And yet, while all this bad stuff is going down, Jesus, our King, does two incredible acts that can resonate with us today.
Two acts that we, as his subjects, should take to heart.
The first is
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Throughout the Gospels Jesus does so many things that you would not expect from a Rabbi, a teacher, a Man of God.
He talks to the poor, he eats with sinners, and he heals people on the Sabbath.
And he forgives people even when they are not seeking forgiveness.
In that one statement, Jesus, our God and King, turned certain doom into hope.
Let me tell why this is such an incredible image for me:
When I was in high school, I was hurt by some kids in my church Youth group.
Nothing physical, just mental/emotional.
I held on to that hurt for many years.
I held on to the hate I had for them.
And nowhere, no how did I think about forgiving them.
I wanted to hear them say “We are sorry.”
But years went by, and I moved on.
Made new friends and never saw those people again.
So what was I to do with that hate?
What was I to do with that UN-forgiveness?
It wasn’t until I started seminary and had a chance to study this passage that I came to the realization that Jesus forgave these people even when they didn’t ask for it.
And as I prayed over this passage I could hear God saying, “Forgive them, Jonathan.”
“Forgive and let go.”
And so that night, out loud, I said their names, and then said, “I forgive you.”
And it was like a 800 pound gorilla was lifted off my shoulders.
I let go of the hurt.
I let go of the pain.
I invite you today to let go of the hurt that is holding you back.
If Jesus, our KING, can forgive, why can’t we?
Why can’t we be good subjects of the king and follow his lead?
Holding on to anger, waiting for an apology before you forgive isn’t doing anyone, especially YOURSELF, any good.
You cannot change the past.
But you can change your present and your future.
You can decide “I am not going to let the hurt define me anymore.”
“I am going to follow my king.”
Another way to follow our king, another way he turns doom into hope, is how Jesus talks to the criminal.
The criminal admits to his sins, his wrongs.
He also admits that Jesus is innocent.
He also calls him God.
He comes to Jesus hoping that he is not doomed.
As a man of God, Jesus could have said “You are too late.”
But Jesus does not deny the criminal.
Rather, he says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
At that moment, in this moment of doom, this man is no longer a criminal.
He’s a companion.
And he is a companion of Jesus.
Think about it.
That’s what Jesus has been doing throughout the Gospel of Luke.
“Jesus, remember me”
Jesus has remembered the people that society forgot.
He remembered the poor, the sinners, the sick, and he brought them something they never had before.
As his subjects, we are called to follow our king, and remember the people around us.
Remember the people who think they have no hope.
Who think they have been forgotten.
We are called to proclaim to the hurt and lonely “today and every day YOU have a place with God.”
By inviting and remembering we are carrying on God’s plan of taking the ruins of our lives and RE-building them into something wonderful.
And something that lasts forever.
Just like Jesus’ reign.