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The Wealth Of Christ The King

Sermon
Years ago, a Norfolk teenager won nearly ten million pounds on the National Lottery. He turned up to collect his winnings wearing an electronic tag, for he had been in a Young Offenders' Institution for two months and the tag was part of his sentence for drunken and unruly behaviour. And he admitted to other rather more crominal activities in the past. He claimed to have won this money with his first ever lottery ticket.

For many youngsters who work hard for a living, who have never been in trouble with the police and who struggle to survive on the minimum wage, it was something of a bitter blow. And the neighbours were apparently outraged, since they described themselves as having been terrorised by this lad for years. It seemed grossly unfair that so much money should go to such an apparently undeserving person.

That young man was suddenly so overwhelmed with wealth that he probably wouldn't have the first idea what to do with it. How do you spend nine million pounds? How do you live when your bank account has nine million pounds in it? All the young man said was that he would buy a house with a swimming pool, and a car and would never work.

He might be the envy of millions of people who would all like to buy a house and a car and never work, and it's come at a good time for him since his girlfriend is expecting their first baby on Christmas Day. But I couldn't help wondering how happy he will be and how long his happiness will last.

It reminded me of that other rich young man, the one that came to Jesus because despite all his wealth and his fabulous life-style, there was still a big something missing from his life. He still wasn't happy. He wanted what he saw Jesus had, the secret of such inner happiness that nothing else is important.

"You can have that sort of happiness," Jesus told the rich young man. "And you can start right away. Go and sell everything you have, and give all the money you make to the poor." But the young man couldn't do it. He couldn't believe that it was possible to be happy without money and comforts and luxury, and so he settled for a kind of second-rate happiness, the short-term happiness which is found in wealth.

Almost all of us in the Western world are similarly seduced by wealth, simply because we live in the West and are steeped in a very materialistic lifestyle. There's nothing we can do about it. It's how our society lives, and we're part of that life. And we're so surrounded by adverts inducing us, compelling us, persuading us, cajoling us to buy or to win or to get some special bargain, that on a conscious level we probably hardly notice them. But unconsciously, they're now so deeply ingrained within us that we tend to live our lives as though material things are the only things that matter, and as though there's no other way to live.

It has to be acknowledged that material things do actually satisfy, at least in the short term. Retail therapy is now well known to give people a lift and make them feel better. Most of us feel better when we buy something new, and that feeling of happiness usually lasts at least for a day or two. It's difficult for human beings to think in the long term, especially when they're feeling miserable. Misery is felt here and now, so solutions which work here and now tend to be eagerly sought. Taken to its logical conclusion, this desperate need for immediate relief leads to addiction. Fortunately most of us are able to withstand that degree of urgency so we don't become addicted, but nonetheless, many of us still have a problem.

What we're all yearning for, whether we recognise it or not, is a real, living, loving relationship with God, a relationship in which we hear him, feel him and are touched by him. A relationship like that stimulates and excites, and satisfies all needs. The more that sort of relationship develops, the richer we feel and the less important material wealth becomes. In today's reading, St Paul prays for the Ephesians to experience such a relationship with God: "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." And he adds, "That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given."

Christ is our King, not only in being above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, but also in incomparable wealth and riches; the wealth and riches which come from a complete unity with God. Christ our King doesn't have an earthly kingship which uses the earthly power of material wealth and status, but has a kingship in which he has been refined like gold in the fire. Christ has reached his authority through sticking to God no matter what, through trusting God and believing in God and accepting suffering in order to remain at one with God. And through that terrible suffering, although Jesus died - he lost his life on this earth - he became more gloriously alive that we could ever have imagined. He was exalted, he was raised, he was seated at the right hand of God in God's kingdom where he is to this day, working ceaselessly on our behalf, praying for us, helping us, guiding us.

Once you've experienced kingship like that, material wealth slots into its right place in the order of things. It ceases to be the ultimate for which human beings yearn, and becomes a pleasant gift from God to be enjoyed and to be used responsibly. Wealth is given to us for enjoyment and pleasure as well as to enable us to help other people. But it won't ultimately satisfy us, for only God can satisfy us. We need to develop something of the kingship of Jesus. We can all experience something of the kingship of Jesus, merely by opening our hearts and lives to him, welcoming his guidance and listening for his promptings and following them. When we really begin to do that, not only material wealth but also suffering in this life has much less hold over us. Although suffering is awful and agonising, it can be endured and we can even grow through it, if we allow God to help us.

Jesus relied utterly on God and became a king, with a wealth of riches which have to be experienced to be believed. By dying on the cross, he opened the door for all of us to experience something of that kingship too. To share in his wealth, let us open our hearts to Christ our King.
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