In it
to win it.

The rulers sneered at Jesus. Even the soldiers jeered at him. One of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus.

In two of the three yearly cycles of readings, the Gospel for Christ the King comes from Jesus’ Passion and from His suffering on the Holy Cross, as in today’s Gospel. In the other year, it is the Gospel of Jesus separating the sheep from the goats at the final judgment. That separation is based upon what we have done. None of these Gospels outrightly gives us a sense of the glories of Jesus’ Kingship or the magnificence of the Heavenly Kingdom.

These Gospels, and the readings around them may cause us to wonder what it means to be subjects of the King, our Lord and Savior, the very Kingship we celebrate today.

Much of our world is focused on victory, isn’t it? The old saying, ‘You have to be in it to win it,’ doesn’t focus on being part of a community or a team. Rather, it focuses us on winning above all.

Winning, whether on the sports field, at work, in social circles, while cooking, or online is what we understand we must do. Especially in the Western world and in our country in particular, winning is prized, everything else classifies us as losers. Even our choices have to be winning choices. Is our chosen team the big winner, the champion? Is our favorite on the Great British Bake-Off going to make it?  Did we overcome in the Facebook political argument? Is our political party on top?

As our Gospels for this day show, winning, being champions, overcoming in God’s Kingdom and for our King is very different than anything the world expects. Being under the Lordship and Sovereignty of Jesus is not about winning at all – the winning was taken care of once and for all on the cross of Jesus. Our call in Jesus’ Kingdom is simply to be in it. Winning, as St. Paul would put it, is about being nailed to the Cross of Christ so to share in His victory.

Being under the King means we have to be seen as losers by the world’s standards. It means we never fail to go out of our way to help, to give, to sacrifice our agenda for another. It means life in the brotherhood and sisterhood of community. It means fasting so another may eat. It means speaking God’s truth to power. Yes, we who are in Christ have won. The glories will come if for now we are real with zeal for the Kingdom.

We can’t
lose.

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Isn’t losing, missing the mark, coming up short, or being a moment too late frustrating?

If we have ever experienced anything like that we know just a bit of what Jairus, the synagogue official, must have felt as he rushed through the crowds with Jesus on the way home. His daughter lay dying. They were trying to run, but the crowds prevented them. The woman stopped Jesus, and they were distracted for those precious few moments. Jairus certainly was worried: I’m going to be too late, I can’t save her, and I’m going to lose.

With all this on his heart and mind, suddenly Jairus’ servants confronted them. They were blunt: “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” He should quit.

That is the essence of the Christian life, isn’t it? We are running toward our heavenly goal. We do all the things necessary to get there. We go to Jesus. We attend church, receive the sacraments, pray, and read scripture, but still feel from time-to-time like we are not going to make it. We often feel pressed upon, like how Jesus, His disciples, and Jairus felt as the crowds surrounded and pressed in on them. The world and its allures distract us and pull us away from our mission. They delay us, and ultimately try to make us feel like we are going to lose. We should just quit now.

What pulls us away – the typical excuses – I’m tired, I can’t make it, I don’t have time or energy, I’d rather do this, that, or the other thing. Jesus has me covered – I don’t need to do too much.

For people called to win, to be victors in Christ, we cannot take for granted or blow-off the effort we need to put out. We should be listening very carefully to the rest of today’s lesson. Wisdom tells us: But by the envy of the devil, death (losing) entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience losing.

We don’t belong to losing we belong to Jesus. Jesus told Jairus and those with Him to keep moving forward to win. “Do not be afraid; just have faith” Push back, stay on course, press on with Jesus and we can’t lose.

What is wrong
with them?

Jesus came home with his disciples. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Today we re-enter the post-Pentecost season of Ordinary Time. As with nature around us, green has returned and we are called to growth.

In this season, we re-encounter the teachings of Jesus, His call to us to be different, to be changed, to be rich and abundant in our growth in holiness.

Jesus’ family and the people of His hometown could not believe Him. Who is this man? Where does He get all this from? He must be crazy! Truth be told, if we were to really and honestly live as Jesus demands, our families and friends would say the same of us.

This is not a sermon about what we should do, for I well know that many here live as Jesus demands. Many here follow His call in ways that would make their families and friends say, if they knew the extent of their life in Jesus, ‘They are out of their minds.’

The world really does think that of Christians – that we are mad. The world of sin, greed, conflict, anger, and deceit would like to see us all go away. It is not just the fact that the world is in sin, but because our life in Jesus nags them. It speaks to them of the fearful truth that the world’s sinful ways are weak, temporary, and oh so fleeting. It is tough to look at people and know they will win while you are on the losing side.

Jesus came to tie up the ‘strong man’ of sin. He came to bind that strong man so that we who live in Christ prevail – come out as the winners we are destined to be in the end. When the sinful hear that, they tremble. They call us crazy, misdirect, and use every ruse to try to incapacitate the true victor – Jesus Christ and His followers. Thanks be, they will not win.

As we come out of the joy filled season of Easter, as we recounted the great gift of the Holy Spirit, and reflected on the identity of God and His great gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist, let us once again take up the mantle of life in Christ. Let us be Jesus crazy before the world. Let the world be astonished and nagged because we live the beatitudes, turn the other cheek, give it all away, and offer up our very selves for our brothers and sisters. Let us pray that our life in Jesus is that evident. Let us hope the world says of us: ‘What’s wrong with them?’ so we may show Jesus all the more.