A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE                                              “Canon in D Major”                                          Johann Pachelbel

CONFESSION & FORGIVENESS 

GATHERING SONG                            “Crown Him with Many Crowns”                       red book # 855

GREETING              

CANTICLE OF PRAISE                                                                          red book page 169 (set 6)

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

EZEKIEL 34:11–16, 20–24                               

PSALM 95:1-7a

EPHESIANS 1:15–23                                       

MATTHEW 25:31-46

SERMON                                                                                                        Pastor Chris Halverson

The King of the Underside

I would like to begin today’s sermon in Philadelphia about four years ago.

I had agreed to participate in the homeless ministry my seminary was involved in. I got in my friend Samantha’s ’97 Chevy Caviler along with two other seminarians and a bunch of bags filled with toiletries and lunch. We drove to Philadelphia’s City Hall, located in the center of the city.

The iconic Love Park is nearby, as is Philadelphia’s slightly less famous landmark, the giant clothespin found in Center Square Plaza.

City Hall is a large, beautiful building, Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, stands atop in statue form.

The mayor has an office there;

the city council meets there.

The movers and shakers, the power peddlers and dealmakers—

the political elite, meet there.

But there is another side to City Hall that I saw that day. An underside to Philadelphia’s City Hall.

Beneath that brilliant building, there runs a series of underground walkways that eventually lead to the SEPTA public transit system.

And off to one side, there in the underside of City Hall, past an elevator, sits a large vacant section—it looked like it might have been a parking garage in its better days.

There, on hard concrete floors,

propped against unyielding concrete pillars.

There, using collapsed cardboard boxes as both their pillows and bed,

the far corner as their bathroom.

There, you find people living.

There underneath that throne of power are people just surviving:

racked by mental illness, possessed by addiction, thrown out by their families,

thrown out by their countries of origin/

or maybe just there because they’ve been down on their luck one too many times.

There, on the underside of the halls of power, were people just making it, just getting by. Underneath the throne of the powerful were the least of these.

And what does this have to do with Christ the King Sunday? This Sunday in which we express the way in which Jesus rules as King.

Well, there are many stories about Kings. One of them that crosses cultures—it is a universal myth—is the story of the Sleeping King.

From Romania’s Vladimir the 3rd to England’s King Arthur,

from the Shi’ite Islamic ruler Muhammed ibn-al-Hassan to the Byzantine Empire’s Constantine the 10th

there have always been stories about kings who fell asleep and will wake again. Kings who descended under mountains to sleep and wait—like Rip-Van-Winkle—for their nation to be in great need, and at that time of greatest distress they will wake up again and save their people.

But I want to tell a slightly different story about a king—not a story about a king sleeping underneath a mountain—but our story about our King, about Jesus.          The story is not about a king underneath a mountain, but a king on the underside of City Hall. The story about the King of the Underside.

Let us Pray

The story of the King of the Underside.

Why do I want to tell this story? Because I don’t think Jesus was joking when he said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

On one hand, he is expressing that the poor, weak, and lowly, are his kin. And just as relatives of royalty are treated like royalty, so to we ought to treat those Jesus calls kin as royalty.

On the other hand, there is something more going on than that. It isn’t just that the King has brothers and sisters who hunger and thirst—the King himself knew hunger and knew thirst, knew what it meant to be a stranger, sick, naked, and imprisoned.

Let me very briefly tell you his story. The story of the King of the Underside:

The king was born in a manger, because the rulers of his age required a census to keep track of their citizens.

The king was a refuge in Egypt, because the government back home was committing crimes against its own people.

The king’s cousin, John, was a strange man who looked kind of mentally ill—eating locusts and wearing camel hair.  He was shunned by wider society and he went to prison and was killed by capital punishment, by the powers that be.

The king knew hunger for forty days in the desert.

The king’s royal proclamation—the Beatitudes—declared blessings upon the poor and the hungry.

The king reigned among the diseased and the possessed.

The king was disowned by members of his own family.

The king told a rich man inheriting the kingdom requires giving away everything to the poor.

It was said of the king that birds have nests and foxes have holes, but he had nowhere to lay his head.

When the king sent his vast army of followers out, he told them not to take material comforts like clothing and bags, but to rely on the kindness of strangers.

When the king went to war, marching upon Jerusalem, he did so upon the back of a lowly donkey, not a warhorse.

When the king threw a party, he gave the only thing he had, his body and his blood.

When the king was enthroned, he was enthroned on the cross of crucifixion, and for his crown, was a crown of thorns.

When his victory over all kings, all rulers, all princes and principalities, was first proclaimed it was by scared women and a few men hiding in an upper room.

The story of the King of the Underside reminds us, on this Christ the King Sunday, what kind of King we serve, what kind of King Jesus is.

Jesus is not some mythical man sleeping under a hill waiting to be found. No! We know where to find him!

Jesus is a King found on the underside.

A king who is among his sisters and brothers on the underside of City Hall.

A king sleeping on cardboard.

A king in that abandoned parking garage underneath the throne of power.

Jesus is the King of the Underside.

And, at this time of economic uncertainty—this time when homelessness and hunger have reached epidemic proportions—when ¼ of people living in Philadelphia aren’t getting enough to eat.

When food pantries here in New Jersey are giving away 45% more food, and it still isn’t enough.

When middle class white kids, Iraq war veterans, and little old ladies, are moved to disrupt the day to day lives of New Yorkers, in order point out that those on the underside aren’t getting a fair shake.

At this strange time in our national life—

a time that journalists are calling The Great Recession—

the longest and deepest economic downturn since The Great Depression.

At this time—it is important to remember, and proclaim, Jesus is the King of the Underside.

It is important to remember, and proclaim, that as we do to the least of these we do to him.

Amen and Alleluia.

HYMN of the DAY                          “O Christ, What Can It Mean for Us”                    red book # 431

APOSTLES CREED    

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE                                         

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY ANTHEM                                 “Behold The King”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

LORD’S PRAYER  

COMMUNION SONGS “Lamb of God” red pg. 154, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”,

also blue #778, red #826

Sending

BLESSING

SENDING SONG                                 “Rejoice, for Christ Is King!”                         red book # 430

ANNOUNCEMENTS

DISMISSAL    

POSTLUDE

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