St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 26 2012 Sermon
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Rev. Joyce Avery

(This is from a sermon written by Edward F. Markquart, Sermons from Seattle)

In today's gospel, Jesus was brought before Pilate.  We know about Pilate from the secular historian Josephus, who tells us what a two-bit lesser ruler Pilate was.  We hear from Philo, a Jewish historian and philosopher, about Pilate, who he described as a thug and a murderer.  Pilate was nervous about this Jesus and asked him, "Are you King of the Jews?"  Jesus answered, "You have said so.  My kingdom is not of this world.  Whoever hears my voice and listens to me, knows the truth about me and the truth about my kingdom."  Christ the king, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Christ the king, who rules people's hearts and lives.
 
There is a great hymn that reveals just what people think of Jesus.  It goes like this-
You are the Lord of Creation. 
You are the Lord of My Life, the Lord of land and the sea.
You were the Lord of heavens before time began.
Lord of all Lords You Will Be.
I bow down and worship you Lord.
I bow down and worship you Lord
I bow down and worship you Lord­
Lord of all Lords You Will Be.
 
Today I have three stories, biographies, sagas that reveal how Christ has ruled over three different lives:
 
The first story was a man named Sam Ratigliano, and a crowd was going to hear him give a speech to a crowd of Lutherans at a banquet.  Sam was a football coach in the National Football League, a Lutheran layman, and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  I (not me but the writer of the story,) assumed I was going to hear one of those "Jock for Jesus" banquet speeches in which I would be told how Jesus helped him win so many victories, how Christ provided the inspiration for the big moments in the big game, how Christ provided the spiritual path to a successful football career.  I had this cynical attitude and I was humming my favorite football hymn in my mind, just before he spoke.  "Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life, and end over end, neither left or the right, straight through the heart of those glorious uprights, drop-kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life. "
 
So I was surprised when I found myself engaged by the man.  Maybe it was the New York accent.  Maybe it was his Bronx twang.  Maybe it was his no-nonsense way of speaking. But he was captivating as he spoke. And he told this story.
 
He and his wife were driving one evening with their two year old daughter in the back seat.  Suddenly a car was upon them, there was an accident, their car rolled over, the child was thrown out; and when everything had stopped moving, their little girl was pinned underneath the car.  And .... and ... I thought, here, here we go again, with one of those "Jock for Jesus ... "  He would tell us, "I found enormous strength in myself, picked up the back bumper of the car one inch, just enough for my wife to get her safely out."  Or he would tell us, "Suddenly, miraculously, a tow truck came driving by at that very instant; latched onto our car, lifted it up and we pulled her safely out."  Or he would tell us, "The ambulance arrived, so did a tow truck.  She was taken to the hospital, we prayed for months, and she finally was healed."  But instead, he simply said, "She was dead."  He then went on to tell that the two of them grieved so deeply for so long, it was an awful time for them, one of the most difficult moments in their marriage.  Time went on, and they got pregnant again, finally, an answer to prayer, and when that baby was about to be delivered ... stillborn.  It was too much for them to take, too much to handle, too much to grieve.  As time went by, Sam started to negotiate with God, "God, if you bless us with another pregnancy we will give our lives to you and dedicate the child to you, if you give us a healthy child we will be yours and do what you want us to do with our lives, if you ... If you."  And a quiet voice spoke back to Sam's inner spirit--"no deals, Sam.  No deals.  No manipulations.  I rule over you in all times of your life."
 
So here we were at this banquet, and Sam went on to say: "God has called me to be his servant in my turf, the National Football League.  He rules over all aspects of my life, when winning or losing, in triumphs and tragedies.  How about you?  Where is your turf? Does God rule you there in your turf, in your situation?  Not just when you are winning, but when you are losing.  Not just during the triumphs but during the tragedies of your life?  Does God rule you then?" ... There was silence, a profound silence, echoing the silence from the book of Job.  No, this was no "Jock for Jesus" speech ... Does God rule in our losing?  In our tragedies?
Lord of all Lords you will be; and I bow down ....
 
My second story is of a German teacher right after the World War II. It was when Berlin was divided by the Wall that separated East from West.  Dietrich Offeldt was a teacher in East Berlin and also was a Christian.  His friends kept after him to go to West Berlin as it would be safer for him and his family there, as the communists in East Berlin were not Christians.  He refused to leave and decided that he would fly his Christian flag to let all in his town that he and his family were Christians.  When the school principal confronted him, “Mr. Offeldt, communism teaches that "there is no God, that God is a figment of our imagination and yours."  To which Dietrich replied, "God is not the figment of my imagination.  God created my imagination and yours."  Dietrich knew he couldn't teach his beliefs in God at School, but he wanted his principal to know where he stood. How about you?  Do you let people around you at work or in your neighborhood or family clearly know that Christ is the ruler of your life, that you are more than just a mere church member and worship attender?  Or do you just not talk about it?
Lord of all Lords you will be and I bow down.
 
My third story is of a young boy in Scotland, named Eric Liddell.  He said about himself that God made him to be a Christian and a fast runner.  He was the fastest runner during his school years.  He grew up in the early 1900's and experienced a Wesley revival meeting that was sweeping thru Scotland, and Eric gave himself to Christ.  The revival crew would come into town and set up a larger tent, and Eric would challenge all the young men to a race and then beat them at it and then invite them all to a rally that night.  He would tell them about Christians running the race and winning the crown of salvation.  His favorite theme was "Honor God with your life, so God will honor you."  He always ended his revival sermons with that theme.
In 1921, his friends said: "Eric, we believe you are the fastest man in all of Scotland. You should try for the Olympics."  So Eric trained for three years while working for the revival.  Sure enough, he won the victory and was to represent Scotland in the 1924 Olympics.  Well he traveled to Paris, France, with his eyes shining with awe at the most beautiful city he had ever seen.  Well, the day of the time trials were to be on Sunday morning.
 
Oh, no!  He couldn't run on Sunday morning.  That violated his religious principles. That's the way it was in those days, no friends played rugby or there were no stores open on Sunday.  What was he to do?  He decided not to run and pressures came against him from every direction.  Even the Prince of Wales put pressure on him, telling him he needed to honor his country.  He replied to the Prince of Wales: "God my King is greater than the king of England, Wales and Scotland.  To honor God is more important
than to honor the King of England."
 
It was now Sunday morning of the time trials and Eric was not at the trials but inside the great cathedral of Notre Dame with its splendor of spiritual heights and spiritual spaces.
He was at Sunday morning worship.  The images of the race kept flashing through his mind during the worship service.  As he left the cathedral, a friend asked the poignant question.  "Any regrets, Eric?"  "Yes, regrets.  But not doubts!"  He did what his heart told him to do ..... And you?  Are you willing to pay the price?  Are your God-given principles more important than your pleasures?  Are you willing to stand up for what your heart knows is right?
 
These are crucial questions for those people whose lives are ruled by Christ.
Lord of all Lords you will be, I bow down ....
 
Today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday.  On this special day, we remember that Christ is Lord over the whole creation, the entire universe and all the galaxies.  Christ is Lord over this little earth, this lovely planet on which there is life.  We remember that Christ rules over our lives--during triumphs and tragedies, in all circumstances, all times, all places, and during the complex moral decisions that we face day by day.
 
Yes, Christ is ...
"The Lord of creation and Lord of my life, Lord of the land and the sea"
Amen
 


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