November 24, 2019–In the Line of Duty

Posted on November 19, 2019 by faithlens

Scott Moore, Erfurt, Germany

Warm-up Question

When have you ever risked your own safety to help someone else? 

In the Line of Duty

“Died in the line of duty.”  How often have we heard these sad but somehow inspiring words? This time they were said two weeks ago about firefighter Lieutenant Jason Menard, thirty-nine year-old husband and father of three, on his last day of duty before going with them on vacation to Disney World. Doing what he was trained to do, put out fires and rescue people, he was trapped with other firefighters in a burning home in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. Responding to a distress call and hearing that others might be still in the burning house, Menard and two others went looking to make sure everyone was safe.  It was reported that as things got difficult, Menard helped his two comrades get to safety. He could have rushed out on his own. He chose, instead, to risk his own life so that their lives could be saved. He made the ultimate sacrifice.

Discussion Questions

  • When have you ever benefited by someone else’s sacrifice of any kind?
  • How should we as a society honor those who make sacrifices like Lt. Menard?
  • When do you think firefighters should “draw the line” and not risk themselves?
  • What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of paid vs. volunteer firefighters?

Christ the King Sunday

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 23:33-43

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

What are we doing on this festival of Christ the King, with Jesus on the cross? Isn’t that somehow totally opposite to the message of the day? It is the end of the church year, next week we are back to the beginning, with the first Sunday in Advent. We want to end things with a bang like New Year’s Eve: celebrate Jesus as king and lift him up high with a glorious crown on his head. He is the Messiah after all, which means anointed one, and the kings of Israel were all anointed when God chose them for their duty as royal leaders. The anointing with oil was a holy act that set apart these normal human beings as sons of God, (there were just kings back then, they were all men).  Those chosen to lead God’s people were anointed and claimed as royal children. They, too, were messiahs (“anointed ones”), so to speak. 

Early on in Luke’s Gospel (chapter 3), God tells Jesus, when he comes up out of the waters of the Jordan, “you are my beloved son.” Here, towards the end of the Gospel, Jesus’ sign on his cross says, “This is the King of the Jews”, and the religious leaders standing there mock him “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” Even one of the criminals challenges Jesus to save them and himself if he is this one anointed by God. We know how the rest of the story goes: Jesus chooses to follow the path all the way to the cross, to be humiliated like a common criminal, to suffer, and to die. Just one chapter earlier, Jesus asks his Father if he might be able to avoid having to die in the line of divine duty, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 

Whatever his abilities might have been as healer and miracle worker, Jesus chooses to follow God’s will and experience the fullness of humanity, even to the point death. The chosen messiah, who was baptized in the Jordon, becomes the true royal Son of God lifted up high on a cross with a crown of thorns. Jesus’ line of duty leads him to the cross, the grave, and to new life. This same king who died is raised again to new life. Death and resurrection. What seems like a dead end becomes a living beginning. 

In our baptism, we are also made children of God. In our service of holy baptism, we can hear the words: 

“In baptism our gracious heavenly Father frees us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are born children of a fallen humanity; by water and the Holy Spirit we are reborn children of God and made members of the church, the body of Christ. Living with Christ and in the communion of saints, we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God.”   (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, “Service of Holy Baptism”)

Through water and God’s word, through the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, we join Jesus in his royal mission as a child of God. We die and are raised again. We are made little anointed ones, little messiahs, little Christs. We are invited and encouraged to follow Jesus on God’s path of healing and justice, hope and reconciliation. We walk hand and hand with the one who is willing to give himself for the whole world, Jesus Christ the King. 

Discussion Questions

  • When was the last time you felt you did something really special?
  • When do you ever feel like you want to give of yourself for others?
  • What do you think about when you see someone else get baptized?
  • What is your favorite part of the baptismal service?
  • Jesus tells one of the thieves on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” What do you think paradise is like?

Activity Suggestions

  • Discuss the image of “king” (or “queen”).  In the Bible, we find many images for Jesus and God (shepherd, mother hen, father, suckling mother, to name a few).  What is suggested by calling Christ the king; what are we trying to say about Jesus by using royal imagery?
  • How has the meaning of the kingly image changed over the centuries; do you think it is still a good metaphor for God and Christ?  Why?
  • Out of all the biblical possibilities, the gospel text for this week in the lectionary is from the crucifixion; why do you think that is?  How does that change how we understand what a king is?

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, creator of the universe, you have made kings and queens out of average people. In holy baptism, you wash us with water and you anoint us with your Holy Spirit. Lift our chins when we are down, so we may look into your eyes and see in them how much you love us. Strengthen our love of you, our love of ourselves, and our love of the world. Lead us as your royal children on the path you have set before us, so that the world around us may touched by the grace and love we know from you. We ask this in the name of the one lifted on the cross for us, Jesus Christ the King. Amen.

 

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