|Sermon Preparation -
November 22, 1998
"Christ the King" Sunday
Last Sunday of the Christian Year Cycle
When the soldiers came to the place called "The Skull," they nailed Jesus to a cross. They also nailed the two criminals to crosses, one on each side of Jesus.
Jesus said, "Father, forgive these people! They don't know what they're doing."
While the crowd stood there watching Jesus, the soldiers gambled for his clothes. The leaders insulted him by saying, "He saved others. Now he should save himself, if he really is God's chosen Messiah!"
The soldiers made fun of Jesus and brought him some wine. They said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!"
Above him was a sign that said, "This is the King of the Jews."
One of the criminals hanging there also insulted Jesus by saying, "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and save us!"
But the other criminal told the first one off, "Don't you fear God? Aren't you getting the same punishment as this man? We got what was coming to us, but he didn't do anything wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Remember me when you come into power!"
Jesus replied, "I promise that today you will be with me in paradise." [CEV]
1. What is paradise for you? The word used here can relate to the Garden of Eden and the first creation. It can also refer to the happy and restful waiting for "Final Judgment". Combining these two images from the past and the future might bring us to Paradise being the entry into New Heaven and New Earth imagery. A part of this is the prayer Jesus taught that speaks of GOD's presence (kingdom) coming on earth as it is in heaven. When we participate in moving earth along toward heaven or preparing earth to receive heaven we are in the presence of Paradise. Paradise can be lived even in the midst of torture and death.
2. What is all this business about saving oneself? Is that the highest we look for - immortality - being able to always put off death one more day? We often wrap up religion in the false hope that it will put off death, that it will protect us even after death. That is really GOD's work, not the work of religion. What are you basing your faith on - GOD's goodness and power of Paradise?
3. A key sign that Paradise is present, that our faith is active, is the sign of forgiveness. Jesus offers forgiveness even before the evil acts against him are completed. Forgiveness is built into Jesus' bones. He got it from GOD. He passes it on to those who would follow the way of Paradise.
Are you interested in escaping the wrath to come? Are you interested in entering Paradise today? Ask for forgiveness! Offer forgiveness! Here is Joy and Life!
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