Fear Not

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Today is what we in the Church
call Christ the King Sunday.
It’s the last Sunday of the Church year,
and everything begins anew next week
with the start of Advent.

But on this day—
the bridge between
what has been and what will be—
we stop to remind one another
that we are servants
of the King of kings
and Lord of lords.

Before we are Tiftonians,
before we are Georgians,
before we are Americans,
before we are Democrats or Republicans,
before we are anything else . . .
we are citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Who is this King of glory,
and how shall we call him?

*    *   *

Well, anyone who has ever walked into this sanctuary
cannot miss the fact that we at St. Anne’s
consider Jesus Christ to be our King,
for there he is, front-and-center:
our Christus Rex,
hand carved by former member Travis Smith,
crowned with glory
and welcoming all with open arms.

When he’s like that—
perfectly lit and robed in splendor—
he ought to remind us of the One
we see promised in the book of Daniel…
the One to whom all dominion, glory, and power are given,
that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.

Or maybe we see the One
described in Revelation,
who comes with the clouds and declares,
“I am the Alpha and the Omega.”

All of that is powerful, and right, and true,
and we Christians look for the Day
when that King will return
in great power and triumph
to judge the living and the dead.

But no matter how we picture him,
this King of ours
is not like any other king,
and his power and triumph
are not like the power or triumph
that others in this world try to wield.

We already know this King,
and he has shown himself
to be like no other.

In exactly one month
on Christmas Eve,
we will remember that
when we first found our newborn King,
he was a poor peasant child,
lying in a manger.

A few months after that,
we will look for him robed in glory,
but instead we will find him naked,
dying on a tree.

No, when God sent his emissary—
when God sent us our King—
some would say we got lessthan we bargained for,
but I would say we got more.

We wanted a Messiah,
a warrior,
a strongman,
a demigod
to wipe out all fear and subdue our enemies …
but what we got was a Messiah
who could barely speak
before the court of Pontius Pilate.

This is our King.

His power is not bluster.
His triumph is not fear.

*    *   *

Given the present unrest in our own country
and the palpable turmoil in other nations across the globe,
what we hear many people saying these days is,
“We just want someone who will keep us safe.
We need someone who will make us secure.
We need someone who will protect us and keep us from fear.”

Of course, this is nothing new.

For thousands and thousands of years,
people have been looking to the horizon,
searching high and low
with their hearts and minds set to the quest
of finding that one king
who would set them free,
keep them safe,
and release them from all fear.

The difference is,
you and I have already found him.

His strength is in weakness;
his power is in love;
his protection is in grace.

Our King is like no other.

*    *   *

Some of you have heard me tell the story before
of a man named James Hampton.

Hampton was a quiet, unassuming night janitor
for a D.C. government building in the 1950’s.
Every morning when he would leave his shift,
he would head to this garage and work inside it for hours
before returning home to sleep and begin the cycle again.
He kept the garage locked at all times
and worked in it for fourteen years.

Then, in 1964, Hampton died of stomach cancer,
and the owner of the garage decided
to break the bolt and open the door.

Perhaps the landlord was hoping to find
that Hampton had been working on a car
or something valuable he could sell
to recoup some of the back rent.

So imagine his surprise when he threw open the door
and found a glittering throne surrounded by
lecterns,
stands,
tables,
crowns,
tablets,
and more . . .
180 pieces in all.

James Hampton
had been building a throne
for the return of Christ,
and he had been doing it out of
aluminum foil,
gold candy wrappers,
cardboard,
old light bulbs,
air conditioning ducts,
thumbtacks,
pins,
tape,
and glue.

Out of the trash of our lives,
James Hampton was making way
for the Coming of our King.

In his 108-page loose-leaf notebook,
he called it The Throne of the Third Heaven
of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly.[1]

To this day, it can be found on display
in the Smithsonian American Art Museum
in Washington, D.C.

Here was a man who was downright “soul-possessed”
by something larger than himself,
grasped by the promise of a King
who would not let him go.

But as fearsome and fantastic
as Hampton’s throne was—and it was
the most telling part
was the inscription
emblazoned at the very top.

For a man so soul-possessed
by the vision of Christ’s triumphant return,
you’d think Hampton would have been filled with dread.

But there, rendered in foil
just above the crest
of the throne of the Almighty,
Hampton had inscribed the two words
that God’s angels and emissaries
have declared to his people
for thousands of years:
“FEAR NOT.”

Who knows what was going on
in James Hampton’s heart and head
all those fourteen years?

But in the end, he was right:
our King is coming.

And when he does,
he will sit on the throne
of the trash of our lives—
for what else do we have actually to offer him?—
to rule in justice, mercy, and love
as no other king ever has.

*    *   *

Brothers and sisters,
on this day and every day,
we are citizens of the Kingdom,
and we belong to the King.

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

In the meantime,
be not afraid.

Amen.

[1]I first learned of this piece through Thorne, Jesse. “Big Boi & Catherine O’Hara.” Podcast. Bullseye with Jesse Thorne. MaximumFun, 19 May 2015. Web.

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