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Sermon on John 18 (for Christ The King Sunday) - Perhaps you have heard this story. It's a great story: Many years ago, when Hitler's forces occupied Denmark, the order came that all Jews in Denmark were to identify themselves by wearing armbands with yellow stars of David. The Danes had seen the extermination of Jews in other countries and guessed that this was the first step in that process in their countries. The King did not defy the orders. He had every Jew wear the star and he himself wore the Star of David. He told his people that he expected every loyal Dane to do the same. The King said, "We are all Danes. One Danish person is the same as the next." He wore his yellow star when going into Copenhagen every day in order to encourage his people. The King of Denmark identified with his people, even to the point of putting his own life on the line.
It's a wonderful story with a powerful point. The only problem is it isn't true. It's an urban legend. It's been around for a long time and told thousands of times over. And now with the internet we are getting a lot of these legendary stories retold. Too bad! What an image for a king, identifying with his people.
"Are you the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked. "Is that your idea," Jesus said to him, "or did others talk to you about me?" That's how these legends get started. Other people talking about what other people have said. Jesus was essentially crucified on gossip and rumor. An urban legend had developed around his ministry that he was going to lead a revolt against Rome.
In his conversation with Pilate, Jesus finally does imply that he is a king. "My kingdom," he explains, "is not of this world." Not of this world. That's what it takes. That's what it takes to find a King who identifies with his people. A King of heaven, a King of kings from some place other than this world.
Pilate and Jesus. Kingdoms in conflict. There are great lessons found in the tension between these two. Let's take a look at...
1. The Kingdoms of this World.
2. The Kingdom not of this World.
3. And the Truth we learn from the conflict of the two.
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Sermon for Thanksgiving - Back during the dark days of 1929, a group of ministers in the Northeast, all graduates of the Boston School of Theology, gathered to discuss how they should conduct their Thanksgiving Sunday services. Things were about as bad as they could get, with no sign of relief. The bread lines were depressingly long, the stock market had plummeted, and the term Great Depression seemed an apt description for the mood of the country. The ministers thought they should only lightly touch upon the subject Thanksgiving in deference to the human misery all about them. After all, there was to be thankful for. But it was Dr. William L. Stiger, pastor of a large congregation in the city that rallied the group. This was not the time, he suggested, to give mere passing mention to Thanksgiving, just the opposite. This was the time for the nation to get matters in perspective and thank God for blessings always present, but perhaps suppressed due to intense hardship.
I suggest to you the ministers struck upon something. The most intense moments of thankfulness are not found in times of plenty, but when difficulties abound. Think of the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving. Half their number dead, men without a country, but still there was thanksgiving to God. Their gratitude was not for something but in something. It was that same sense of gratitude that lead Abraham Lincoln to formally establish the first Thanksgiving Day in the midst of national civil war, when the butcher’s list of casualties seemed to have no end and the very nation struggled for survival.
Perhaps in your own life, right now, intense hardship. You are experiencing your own personal Great Depression. Why should you be thankful this day? May I suggest three things?
1. We must learn to be thankful or we become bitter.
2. We must learn to be thankful or we will become discouraged.
3. We must learn to be thankful or we will grow arrogant and self-satisfied.