My Kingdom for a Horse!

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Second Sunday in Advent

My Kingdom for a Horse!

        Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

“A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

William Shakespeare used this phrase in Act-V, Scene-IV of his play, Richard III, where it is uttered by King Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

        In the midst of battle, the King has lost his horse and desperately seeks it in order to rejoin the fray. He believes that if he doesn’t regain the horse, he may lose the conflict altogether. Such is the way of we humans as we try to control our earthly kingdoms.

        Then, as now, our earthly kingdoms fail because we fail. We do not have complete control over ourselves let alone God’s creation. We cannot govern our personal lives without fail, so how can a person succeed in governance over others? One only has to look at the news to see how even a great super-power such as these United States struggle constantly against the human element and all that comes with it.

        Famine, disease, war – are matters of human welfare that plague us today as much as it did throughout our history of existence. Isaiah paints the picture of the kingdom of Judah some 3,000 years ago. It is depicted as a stump. A once great kingdom, a strong and productive tree that now is only known by its severed trunk and buried roots.

        Poor management and personal avarice is how the actual kingdom of the Davidic line was reduced to this lowly state, just as a tree is cut down when it no longer produces life sustaining fruit and is used for fuel in the fire. Such a kingdom is one that feeds upon its own resources until it collapses. This picture also depicts our earthly existence.

        When we turn away from the governance of God, we become subject to the evil lord of this realm. We feed on each other, constantly chipping away at our very lives until we can no longer sustain ourselves. We become meager stumps that no longer produce fruit. We become worthless to the point of being destroyed by unquenchable fire. As John the Baptist tells us:

“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [Matt 3:10]

        There are many people who would like to believe that if they try really hard, they will be accepted into the kingdom of heaven. They go to church, sometimes more than one. They wear a cross around their neck and say ‘God bless you’ when you sneeze. They may even quote Scripture now and then. But does that make them members of the body of Christ?

       In the world of Botany and Zoology, plants or animals that don’t belong in that particular ecosystem are easily recognized. When the ancient mariners sailed the seven seas, they not only brought new peoples to new lands, but they also brought plants or animals that were never seen in that part of the world.

        Many of these new breeds thrived but did not have any natural predators. Indigenous plants were not able to compete for the space, water and nutrients of an invasive species of plant life. And so, those original inhabitants suffered or became extinct. Even when recognized as being ‘not from around here’, the new did not conform to the existing and thus caused disharmony and death.

        To be sure, many of the new invasive species adapted to the new terrain, but only to become a dominate and/or destructive force. It seems that only humans are able to conform to new environs and cultures thus adding to the community as a whole instead of annihilating what existed before. Yet even this is a rare occasion.

        When the farmer sees weeds in the field, he does his best to eradicate them in order to have a productive crop. If the trees of the orchard become sick by blight or infestation, he is quick to chop them down and burn them in order to save the healthy trees.

        We have been called by our baptism to be members of the body of Christ. As members of this body, we are expected – even commanded – by our Lord and Savior to fulfill His will.

        James, the half brother of Jesus, said, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” [James 2:17b]; just as a tree that does not bear fruit is to be cut down. Is that to say that good works will bring you into the kingdom of God? No. It means to repent of your sin and turn away from your self-indulging life.

        Return to Jesus Christ and receive forgiveness for you sins. For if the way of Christ is your life, you are sanctified, made holy, and are able to produce the good fruit through the works of Christ Jesus.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:8-10]

God is faithful and just. It is He who forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness; it is not by anything we do. We have been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Yet in order to be forgiven, we must first repent.

        Take a good long look at yourselves. Are you a stump? Do you sit in the field that is your life producing nothing? Are you so rooted in your sin that you have become worthless and are destined for the fire? I pray to God that you are not, but if you are, I strongly suggest you ask our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to forgive you. I highly recommend that you repent and return to our true King for redemption.

        It is through Christ, the ‘root of Jesse’ who comes to us, that we have hope. With the breath of His lips, He slays the wicked and brings the dead to life. That stump of Jesse, which was the line of David, was made alive again by the promise of God. Nothing is beyond the power of God our creator.

        Therefore, do not be mistaken that you have been a stump to long or that you are too old to grow. Do not think that years of not producing good fruit means your life is at an end. Through Christ we have a new hope.

        Jesus Christ came into our world to overthrow the evil dictator of our lives.    Our true king came to us to overpower sin, death and the devil. He came to reclaim the throne on earth to rule over us and all creation, just as He rules over all of Heaven. Jesus Christ came to earth to be born as man. Through His life, crucifixion, death and resurrection, He conquered the king of sin & unquenchable fire and freed us from our prison of eternal death.

        All this He did in order to raise us up into life and everlasting peace in His kingdom. Christ Jesus is not a figurehead, powerless in His rule. He is supreme in majesty, perfect in His mercy and without equal in His grace.

        It is because of this that we celebrate the advent of our King. We rejoice in His coming. It is His glorious reign that has begun. We anxiously await its completion when He comes again on the Last Day. Hear what God said through His prophet Isaiah 51:1, 3, 5

“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the Lord:

        For the Lord will comfort Zion,

        He will comfort all her waste places;

        He will make her wilderness like Eden,

        And her desert like the garden of the Lord;

        Joy and gladness will be found in it,

        Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.

        My righteousness is near,

        My salvation has gone forth,

My salvation will be forever,

        And My righteousness will not be abolished.

The time is growing short. Christ will come again in glory and we are to be ready. We are to “prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.”

        We do this by following His commands. We do this when we baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We do this when we love our neighbors as ourselves and help them in times of need. When we partake of His body and blood in Holy Communion, we are saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, come into our lives, our very bodies, hearts & minds and make us one. Rule over us, we pray, on earth as it is in heaven.”

        With Christ as our King, we too become a strong branch that produces fruit. We live in true peace with one another. In the words of the Apostle Paul:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. [Romans 15:5-7]

        Christ’s kingdom is coming. Lift up your heads and welcome our Heavenly King. Rejoice and praise His Holy Name.