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Walker, MN

November 24, 2019 The King Has Another Move                        

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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

So,  we’ve come to the end of another year.   Not by the secular calendar  =we still have the busy month of December to endure=  but the Church has its own calendar;  sometimes called the Church Year, /the Christian Year, /or the Liturgical Calendar.  Today is the last Sunday of the Church’s Year,  and we end it on a high note,  focusing on the center of the Christian calendar,  Jesus Christ,  and seeing Him as our King.

The good purpose of the Church Year calendar  is to keep us revolving around only Christ & all His major actions & teachings of His salvation work for us.  Otherwise, preachers&churches will end up focusing on only their favorite things about Jesus,  their own pet issues;  or they get too rapped up in social-justice, culture & political issues-of-the-day,  (you know some of these cong’s)  & then they neglect the big & eternal issues of God,  and of every human soul.

The Church Year begins next Sunday with Advent,  the time of preparation to recount & celebrate Jesus’ 1st coming & Nativity (or Christmas).  And then it develops around His ministry, / His life, / His death, / His resurrection & His ascension, / including the arrival of His Spirit to ‘new-birth’ us to be His people,  and to help us live as true & loyal subjects in His Kingdom.

The readings for today have ‘king’ language for Christ.   +In Malachi,  He is called ‘the Lord of hosts;’   He’s the Commander of the heavenly armies of angels  who do His bidding = who serve,  guard & protect the King‘s Kingdom & its people.   +The Gospel lesson depicts the humble King,  crowned with thorns, suffering for His people,  bringing His chief mission to its finish on the cross.   +In the Epistle,  Paul speaks of our King as our living & victorious leader = ‘the firstborn from the dead,’   /the fullness of the eternal God Himself in the flesh,  /the head of the body,  which is the Church,   /& ‘the reconciler’ who transfers us from the kingdom of darkness  to His own kingdom of light.

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I wonder if you’ve heard this story before = an illustration for us.  As a tour guide took a group thru an art gallery in London,  he stopped in front of a painting entitled  ‘checkmate.’

The guide talked about the painting,  the style & texture, & then they all moved on.   But one person of the group stayed behind,  staring at the pieces on the chessboard in the painting.

It was the final scene of a chess game between Satan and a Dr. Faust,  who had lost his soul to the devil by losing the game.  Faust has only 3 pieces left on the board = the king, the queen, & one pawn.  The devil has more pieces than that,  & a smirk on his face;  as if waiting for the final verdict:  checkmate!      The young man who stayed to study the painting  was a chess champion from Russia.   When the tour group was nearly two rooms away,  they suddenly heard their stray member  running down the marble hallway to catch up,  shouting,  “It’s not true,

he didn’t lose!  The king has another move;  come & see,  the king has another move!”

That’s a simple theme-idea for our Readings today.  Our King,  Christ Jesus,  is King of all kings & Lord over all lords;  God cannot be outplayed.  The King has another move.  In fact,  He has  -& can do-  3 kinds of moves:  past, present, & future.

The Epistle (Col.1) opens with a war scene;   a battle between the  ‘lord of darkness’ = the devil,  and the King of Light = Jesus Christ.   War was why the Son of God came to the earth,  to do close-quarters-battle with the lord of darkness,  to destroy his power over us,  & to set prisoners free.  He does this battle in-the-flesh & in worldly time  so that it will be seen,  so that we will put our trust in Him.   In the Gospel,  we see that battle coming to a conclusion & finale.

It looks as though the devil has had all ‘the good moves’,  & has won,  defeating Jesus.

In Luke 23,  it’s ‘crucifixion-Friday’,  so the devil is smirking,  waiting to say:  ‘checkmate’!

           Members of the kingdom of darkness  mock the King of Light;  even we have heard people who belong to that dark kingdom mock Jesus & His ideas of ‘what is sin’ & ‘how does God work’.    Look at the language Luke uses. ‘…the people stood by, watching,  but the rulers scoffed at him,  saying,  “he saved others;  let him save himself,   IF he is the ‘kingly’ Christ of God,  the chosen One.”   Matthew & Mark record that people passed by,  ridiculing Him & shaking their heads.  The soldiers mocked Him, saying,  “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”  One of the criminals joined the other rebels of darkness,  railing in anger at Him,  and saying,   “Are you not the Christ Save yourself  and us!”

Above His head,  they posted Pilates’ sarcastic jab at those pushy Jewish leaders.

He wrote: “This is the King of the Jews.”   Ironically,  He really WAS {and is} the King.

Paul calls Him the  ‘image of the invisible God,’   the Creator of all things,  who holds the world & all things together.

*So,  why didn’t He save himself?   *Why didn’t He show the people of the ‘domain of darkness’  that He really was the Royal Ruler of earth & of all the heavenly realms?

Mockers pose that question still today:  If He was the invincible Commander of the angel-armies,   numbering 10-thousand times 10-thousands,  then *why didn’t He -either- avoid the cross,  or climb down?    *Why?  Because that wasn’t the right move  at the time.

Years ago  (1988)  there was a movie titled:  The Last Temptation of Christ,   and it suggested that Jesus’ last thoughts on the cross  were of sexual fantasy between himself & his lover,  Mary Magdalene.  That’s what is rightly called ‘blasphemy’ =  taking God, or God’s holy things,  and degrading them,  mocking & making fun of them,  in a debasing & unholy way.   That’s what the devil & those of the domain of darkness do.

*But what were Jesus’ last thoughts before He died?  They were not thoughts about Himself,  or remembering the good times in life,  or even begging for relief from His pain.  They were thoughts of others = those around the cross,  His mother, & His followers,  & even those who crucified Him.   He even thought about all of US,  down thru the generations,

who could look to Him for mercy, & forgiveness for our sins  == that’s what kept Him there on that cross.  He was thinking about YOU,  & about His next wise & winning moves …for you.

His concern was to finish His unique mission,  and to win the whole spiritual war that ruined even the whole universe.   He came to destroy the power of the devil,  & the deadly results of our sin,  so that God & man could be reconciled.   That is the simple & amazing Gospel message.   As Paul says in the closing verse of our Epistle lesson,  there was only one way that we could be saved,  or  ‘reconciled’ back to God:  By Jesus making peace thru His blood,  shed on the cross.

It certainly looked bad on crucifixion-Friday = like a losing move;  it looked like ‘checkmate’  to eyes that watched this scene  without the aid of knowing the Scripture of the Prophets;  and it looked like  ‘game over’  to those who didn’t know that gracious covenant-promise of God  to a sinful, dying, & condemned world.   Checkmate!   But the King had another move.   He moved on the 3rd day  =Easter morning=  rising from the dead  as the Victor in the struggle with sin, death, & hell.   Baptized into Him,  you & I are assured of forgiveness & peace;  He is giving   to us  new life & eternal salvation.

In about a month,  at the end of December,  we’ll participate in the routine of looking back over the year of 2019,  remembering the different fun events  and the troubles we had.   We’ll ‘close the book’ on the calendar year,  not just with our tax information,  but with our lives.  We’ll recall our blessings;  we’ll regret our mistakes;  we’ll even kind-of  re-live some of our sorrows.  Tradition will invite us to look ahead to make ‘resolutions,’   or to build some goals & dreams for 2020.   I think this reminiscing is good;  thru remembering,  God can teach us valuable lessons.  We can do the same thing -now- at the end of the Church Year.

We can look at our spiritual life.   *How is our relationship to our King?   *Did we pay Him good attention this last church year?  *Did we show due honor by listening to His voice each Lord’s Day? = that’s what He expects of us.   *Has He not called us His ‘people’,  his servants? == So, *did the people around us see & know that we are a ‘servant’ by the things we said, & by how we treated them?    As we handled the problems & challenges of life,  *was our faith & trust in the King  plain for others to see?   When we look ahead to begin another Church Year next Sunday,  *are we resolving  to not make the same sinful mistakes as last year?

Our King certainly wants us to grow up in Him,  and become more mature & faithful to Him.

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We can also ponder on the life of our congregation which is our family-of-faith.  *What is our relationship to the other members here,  with whom we share the absolute truths of life,   and the highest morality & values of earthly living?   *Are we using our God-given abilities to help fulfill our mission together?   As the King’s stewards,  *are we returning a proper portion of our wealth as thank-offerings to our King = because that does show our faith & trust in Him.

As we look at our own lives,  AND at our congregation-family,  we may see some things that are discouraging & frustrating,  because we can see our weaknesses & sins.  We may be tempted to throw in the towel; to think the devil’s right when he says ‘checkmate’ to us.But he lies!

Let’s remember King Jesus’ history;  He always has another move;  let’s remember that He is OUR Risen & eternal King,  and we belong to Him,  we‘re on His winning side.

As we move this week into the unknown new Church Year,  our King says,  ‘whatever your circumstance,   whatever you face,  I have moves that may surprise you.  Trust me.’

King Jesus is trust-worthy,  and He always moves in our favor.    That’s a message played out throughout the Bible.  Time after time,  when man is in trouble, when woman or child has no hope,  our King has demonstrated His Divine ability to make another move for our good.

This Triune God has moved in the past to deliver to the world  The Savior.   He moved in the world’s history  to give us forgiveness & peace by His cross.    He moves with us now into each new Church Year with His blessings,   and one day He returns to finally complete His mission.  After all,  this is the whole goal & purpose of having a Savior;  and when that Savior is the King of heaven,  we truly have nothing to fear.

Some of the readings assigned to the last Sundays of the Church Year  focus on the return of the King at the end of the world = Christ’s 2nd Advent.   Last Sunday we heard Jesus teach that,  as the universe winds-down,  there are signs to remind us of His return:  wars & earthquakes & famines & persecutions.   The more one studies these signs,  the more one becomes convinced that the end surely must be close.  Dr. Martin Luther, of the Reformation,  felt that way.   He said once:  ‘It is my firm belief that the angels are getting ready,  putting on their armor,  and girding their swords about them,  for the Last Day is already breaking.’    Another time he said:   ‘as things are beginning to go,  the last day is at the door,  and I believe the world will not endure a hundred years.’

Since he said that,  its been another 500 years.  The signs are there;  but no one knows the year/day/& hour that the world will end.   Jesus said only the Father knows.  So the truth of the Scripture is:   that we need to be ready for His coming each day.   We should live as if Christ,  our King,  is returning today.   And we also need to plan ahead  to live faithfully by His Word,   if He should delay many years.  In that case,  our death is our end;  but it has the same good promise from our King.

That death-day came for the other criminal  hanging beside Jesus.  At this point,  he did not join the mocking,  but rightly rebuked his angry buddy hanging on the other side of Jesus.   And in faith he said,  ‘Jesus,  remember me  when you come into your kingdom’.

The King graciously responded,  ‘I tell you the truth,  today you will be with me in paradise.’    Paradise is a beautiful word  Scripture uses 3-times to depict heaven.   It’s a word that has a Persian origin,  used to describe the private & protected lavish garden where the Persian king would stroll in complete comfort & contentment  with his closest friends.  It recalls the perfect Garden of Eden.

The final move our King will make  will be to bring us to a blessed end,   and to take us into His paradise,  where we will be with Him  to live in His kingdom forever.      Amen