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Alpha and the Omega
Revelation 1: 4-8, John 18:33-37
SueIn Cuba, KS

2 Samuel 23:1-6; Revelation 1: 4-8 & John 18:33-40 "The time has come the walrus said to speak of many things, shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings."(Lewis Carol) Kings, we haven't much experience with kings. Readers of children's stories know about kings from fairy tales. Kings are usually fathers with daughters to marry off. History is full of stories of kings. It's hard for Americans to understand about relating to kings, we threw off their rule so long ago. Listen to the Dedication to the King James Version of the Bible which reads: To the most high and mighty prince, James, by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. Great and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty's Royal Person to rule and reign over us. . . .

Upon the setting of that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth, of most happy memory, some thick and palpable clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this land, that men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk, and that it should hardly be known who was to direct the unsettled State; the appearance of Your Majesty, as of the Sun in his strength, instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists, and gave unto all that were well affected exceeding cause of comfort; . . ."

The translators have two pages of praise slathered on James' ego. When the approval of a single individual was so important, the art of flattery was elevated to great heights. Kings often don't come off well in scripture. In Matthew we read that wise men came to King Herod to learn about a new king. Matthew 2:3 "When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him." Herod had ruled a long time, the only ruler of Palestine who ever succeeded in keeping the peace and bringing order to the region for any length of time. He built the Temple in Jerusalem. He was both absolute tyrant and unusually generous. He paid the Roman taxes for his people in times of difficulty and even melted down his own gold plate to buy grain to feed the starving people in the famine 25 years before Christ. Herod was also insanely suspicious of anyone who might be a threat to his reign. He murdered his wife and her mother and assassinated three of his sons. Even paranoids have enemies, Herod was furious at hearing about a new born king. Wily, diplomatic, Herod tells his rich, wise guests, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage."

The wise men find the child, offer rich gifts which would be most useful when the family has to flee to Egypt. The wise men show their wisdom when they heed the warning in a dream not to return to Herod, they go home by another road. When they do not return Herod sends troops to kill the baby boys in Bethlehem to stop a potential rival for his throne. Herod's turmoil worries the people of Jerusalem. They know his potential for violence and how it might affect them. Clearly word of a new king had spread through the city and this would mean dramatic change--people fear change. The people on the top of the social scale fear change the most because the social, political and economic order favors them. Under Herod there was at least a certain predictability to daily life. The arrival of a new king would turn life upside down as the new king's favorite people muscled aside the old king's court. (Adapted from Vernon Broyles III, The Threat of a New Ruler, Presbyterians Today, p. 42, Dec. 1997) In Russian History there is an interesting and almost childlike faith that the peasants had in their Tsar. When unwise or tyrannical measures were imposed upon the people they responded, "If the Tsar only knew. . ."

Peasants genuinely believed that evil advisors kept the Tsar from caring for the well being of his people. Peasants thought of the Tsar as their Little Father who would set to right the wrongs done if he only knew about them. In this childlike faith the people gathered in a peaceful march on the Winter Palace in 1903 to bring their plight to the Tsar. Their faith was shattered when Palace Guards fired upon them. The Tsar wasn't even there that day. Human kings believed that God ordained their rule. Human kings worked with the religious establishment to secure their thrones in the eyes of the people. King David understood that a king must rule over people justly, ruling in the fear of God. Such a king "is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land." A very good thing in a semiarid land that needed all the rain they could get.

Even so, after all the chaos and turmoil in David's latter years, I wonder how he could say, "Is not my house like this with God? For God has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. Will God not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?" David believed that God would provide the people of Israel with good kings descended from David. We can read the history of kings in our Bibles and know that most of the kings were failures. What kind of king is God? How would Jesus rule? What would Jesus do? The Gospel lesson tells us that Jesus is King, but a very different kind of king from most human kings. The kingdom that Jesus proclaims stresses relationships between individuals--Jesus does not call us servants, no, Jesus calls us friends. This friend invites us to learn the truth from him, practice the truth from his example. This friend loves us so much that He was willing to die to set right our relationship with God. Jesus leads by example and calls us live in faith, setting sin and fear aside.

When Pilate tried to rule Jerusalem, he sought to please the high priests, the Sanhedrin, King Herod Aggripa. Pilate knew that even with Roman troops, he needed the good will of those he ruled. Pilate may have had great power at his disposal but he was also a fearful man. Even when he knows that what has been demanded of him is wrong, he is not willing to go against the public's will. Had Pilate faith and confidence in his own judgment, he would have been able to do what was right and holy. Paul tells us that God's wisdom is quite different than ours in 1 Corinthians. God upturns, upsets, confounds human understandings and human wisdom. What humans call weak or with out value God protects and defends.

Kings have time for the high and the mighty. Kings or presidents have no time for the ordinary folk. If you have a $100,000, you might have coffee at the White House. Jesus reached out to the marginalized people, the ill, the injured, the tax collectors, the sinful, the poor, or the weak. Jesus came for those who had needs. Children were not considered important in this society. Jesus reached out and blessed the children over the objections of his own disciples. Kings and others in positions of power seek out those who can help advance their cause. Instead Jesus tells us that we must receive Him as a child would.

Children have natural, trusting, spontaneous, hopefilled response to life even when life presents a horrible and hateful face to them. Like the child Robert Coles tells us about. Ruby was a six year old off to school in New Orleans. Everyday a heckling white mob shouted insults and abuse at her because her skin color was darker than theirs. Ruby walked to school with her head held high, even smiled at those who spat upon her and threatened her. A psychiatrist asked her how she could be so strong in the face of so much hate. Ruby replied, "I'm sure God knows what is happening. He's got a lot to worry about; but there is bad trouble here, he can't help but notice. He may not rush to do anything, not right away. But there will come a day, like you hear in church. . . If I forgive the people and smile at them and pray for them, God will keep a good eye on everything and He'll be our protection." Someone has taught this child well. Ruby expects God's kingdom because, "God is watching and he won't forget because he never does."

Scripture offers hope in impossible situations. Scripture shows us that there is more to life than the surface of things. Through faith we can take stands for what is right, do what is necessary knowing that the One who watches us knows what we face and will give us the courage and strength to persevere. The Kingdom of God is as close as there are those who believe and accept the faith offered by Jesus Christ. The writer of Revelations, John lived during a time of upheaval and persecution. John reminded his listeners that the Roman Emperor did not have the last say.

Revelation 1:4-8 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. 8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.