Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"The Most Benevolent King"

Revelation 1: 4-8

Jeremiah 23: 3-6

Although this tiny place has been around for a long time – its earliest recorded mention in

the year 1095 in the “Book of Geography” by a certain Abu Abdullah al-Bakari – Dubai has come

to international prominence over the past three decades.  Dubai is one of the kingdoms, or

more accurately sheikhdoms, of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf region of the Middle-East. 

With two and a half million citizens, Dubai is one of the wealthiest places on earth; a place we not long ago called “third world.”

Contrary to popular belief, the sole source of Dubian wealth today is not oil.  In reality, revenues from petroleum and natural

gas presently account for only about 5% of Dubai’s gross domestic product.  Real estate, construction, tourism and retail

comprise over half of the United Arab Emirates GDP of around 140 billion dollars.

      In many ways, the kingdom of Dubai seems too good to be true.  Dubai’s current ruler,

Mohammed bin Rashid of the Al Maktoum Dynasty, is known for his remarkable benevolence.

It is said that his administration levies no taxes on the citizens.  Free public housing is provided

for those who cannot afford it; not high rise tenements, but rather luxury housing with several

bathrooms, air-conditioning, skylights and multiple bedrooms.  There are lush, green golf

courses planted in the middle of the arid desert.  Dubai’s systems of transportation are touted

as second to none.  It’s skyline at night looks like a fantasyland.  It’s also said that in Dubai, no

one suffers from lack of material comfort.  For example, when a groom decides to marry a

woman who is also a citizen of Dubai, he gets a bonus check from the sheikdom which provides

him enough to buy his bride gold jewelry, designer clothing, and to set up their new household. 

It’s not unusual for Dubai’s northern neighbors in Russia to fly in by droves to buy jacuzzi’s,

electronics, sports cars, and other high end consumer products.  The Kingdom of Dubai does

sound like a utopia, doesn’t it?  My guess, though, is there lurks a darker side.  Nevertheless,

many consider its king to be incomparably benevolent and gracious.

      This morning, we celebrate what’s called on our liturgical calendar “Christ the King Sunday.”

Today is actually the last day on our church calendar; next Sunday beginning a brand new

church year with the 1st Sunday of Advent.  This morning, our emphasis is on praising Jesus

Christ as Ruler over all the kings of earth, and as John emphasizes in the opening words of his

Revelation we just read, Christ as cosmic Ruler of the universe.  From the greatest of earthly

nations like our United States, to the smallest of earthly kingdoms like Dubai, we declare as a

church on Christ the King Sunday that all are under Christ’s ultimate reign and domain, even as

we ready ourselves to celebrate His first advent in the weeks ahead.  Today is a day to honor

the King of all creation, and to remind ourselves of just what it means to be subjects of Christ

the King.  If we truly claim Christ as Lord over our lives, we find that even though we serve the

most benevolent King in the universe, we are called to lead a lifestyle a bit different from the

citizens of an idyllic earthly Kingdom, such as a Dubai.  This morning, I’d like us to consider

three implications of living as citizens under the kingship of Jesus Christ. 

      First, Christ our King does not want us to worry and stress about our daily lives, but challenges us to

give up our fixations on wealth and material possessions.  He’s promised to provide for our day-to-day needs,

freeing us for service in His Kingdom.  Several weeks ago, Pastor Tricia Petraven reminded us of this edict Jesus

declared to His disciples: “I tell you not to worry about your life!  Don’t worry about having something to eat or wear. 

Life is more than food or clothing.  Look at the ravens!  They don’t plant or harvest, and they don’t have storehouses or barns.

  But God takes care of them.  And you, you are much more important than any birds. Can worry make you live longer?

  If you don’t have power over small things, why worry about everything else?  Look how the lilies grow! 

They don’t work hard to make their clothes.  But I tell you Solomon with all his wealth wasn’t as well clothed

as one of these flowers.  God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the field, even though it is here today

and thrown into a fire tomorrow.  Won’t he do even more for you!  Don’t keep worrying about having something

to eat or drink.  Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things.  Your Father knows what you need. 

But put God first, and these things will be yours as well.”  There are earthly kings like Mohammed bin Rashid who are called benevolent. 

But as with every earthly king, there are strings attached.  Christ is the premier benevolent King.  And unlike any earthly king,

there are no strings attached to His benevolence and grace.  We can trust that our Lord will provide for our every need, without condition,

when we simply but honestly ask, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

      The second implication of living under Christ’s Kingship is related to the first.  Our King asks

us to essentially travel lighter;”  freed from the need, or even obsession, to build a life upon

stuff; liberated from a purely acquisitive lifestyle, rather motivated by a need to give; 

reoriented to a lifestyle of generosity and liberality.  You remember that rich young ruler who

once came to Jesus asking, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  How do I attain citizenship

in your Kingdom?  After this young man justified himself by his obedience to works of the law,

Jesus said to him, “One thing you lack.”  Take everything you have  -- your money, your possessions, your treasures, everything –

and sell it, and give the proceeds to the poor.  Then, you need only follow.  Citizenship yours!  This was a bit much.  So the young man,

saddened by such a high bar for citizenship in this Kingdom, walked away.  The point of the story is not to say to us to give away all we have,

although for this particular guy, nothing less would do.  Rather the point is to say that if what is most important to us is acquiring,

and accumulating, and holding on to it all tightly with both fists, we’re subjects and servants of a kingdom other than the Kingdom of God,

and of a lordship other than the Lordship of Christ.  The bottom line is that citizen’s of Christ’s Kingdom are not takers and keepers.

  They are receivers and givers. 

      All this goes to suggest what a deep trust we must have in our Lord and King to truly allow

Him to rule in our hearts.  This segues into the third, and most difficult implication of what it

means to be living under the Kingship of Christ.  We do not enter His Kingdom without sacrifice:

letting go of our own agendas while submitting our wills to the will of the One who died, that

we might live forever with our Creator God.

      Understand that Christ’s Kingdom isn’t one of ornate palaces, or magnificent thrones, or

jeweled scepters, or fantasyland skylines, or material comfort.  Instead, as John the Revelator

writes, we have a King who shows devotion and benevolence to us; not by freeing us from

taxes, or putting us up in luxury housing, or giving us signing bonuses for marrying one of our

own.  No.  Our King frees us from the bondage of sin by His own sacrifice; by giving of His own

lifeblood.  I wonder if King bin Rashid is that devoted and benevolent to the subjects of his

kingdom?  I doubt it.  Christ’s Kingdom, and the way of Christ’s Kingdom, grow out of outreaching and self-sacrificing

concern for the poor and the oppressed; for the rejected and unjustly treated; for the least, last and lost. 

His Kingship derives its power and authority from His relationship with the God of the Universe, which Christ

in turn imparts to the citizens of His Kingdom when He says, “Go, and do likewise.”  When it’s all said and done, Jesus Christ the

King gives Himself; His love; His mercy; His compassion; His forgiveness; His victory over death

 and the grave.

      So on this Christ the King Sunday, we end the old church year and embark upon the new by

celebrating the universal reign of the One who loves us enough to provide for our every daily

need; who loves us enough that He challenges us to reorient our lives from the shallowness and

emptiness of acquiring to the richness and fullness of giving; who loves us enough that He

offers Himself as a living sacrifice.  Our spiritual well-being and eternal fulfillment will not be

found in a Kingdom like Dubai, idyllic as it appears.  The King “who is and who was and who is

to come” calls us to turn toward a new way of life under His rule.  Can we be this Kingdom’s

citizens?  Yes we can!  So may we be.  Amen.