THE Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel; the Lord hath put on his apparel, and girded himself with strength.
2 He hath made the round world so sure, * that it cannot be moved.
3 Ever since the world began, hath thy seat been prepared: thou art from everlasting.
4 The floods are risen, O Lord, the floods have lift up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.
5 The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly; but yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier.
6 Thy testimonies, O Lord, are very sure: holiness becometh thine house for ever.
This Sunday is called “Low Sunday.” The name came about, no doubt, because of a convergence of things: low attendance, low temp, and, no doubt, low offerings! I am sure the name was thought up by pastors. Yet, beyond the liturgical reality is a deeper existential issue. It is the sort of thing we encounter after Christmas or other momentous time sin life. What is left after Easter?
I admit that I have felt the blues at such anti-climactic times. I suspect that each of you have too. There is the lull in spirit after getting the job that you dreamed of, or the low feeling that comes after the attainment of a goal. “Now that I got what I wanted for Christmas, now what?” Or, “Now that Easter is over, what will we do?” What kind of hope is there in-between the resurrection and the ascension? What we do between conversion and glorification? How do we stay motivated in our faith now that the glory of conversion seems to lose its luster in living?
John 20:19-23 and Psalm 93
The passage that speaks to us on Low Sunday is the reading of the Gospel for this day in many lectionaries. John 20:19-23 reminds us that there was great fear among the disciples after the resurrection. Indeed, the first Sunday after Resurrection Sunday finds the people of the Way locked down in crisis. Fear had caused them to retreat from the world and to huddle like the frightened flock that they were. Into this scene came Jesus. And the risen Christ confronts their situation in a way that gives courage and hope. There are lessons for us, as well, as we live on this side of resurrection. I believe that Psalm 93, a Psalm for the First Sunday after Easter, is, also, a powerful companion to the Gospel reading.
“Dominus Regnavit:” A Message for Low Sunday
“Dominus Regnavit” is a phrase that is taken from the first two words of the Latin Vulgate version of Psalm 93. It translates the opening Hebrew passage in this Psalm: “The Lord is King.” That is a perfect Scripture for Low Sunday. The Gospel force of both the Old Testament and New Testament is this: Because Jesus is Dominus Regavit our lowe-Sunday living is infused with a highest-hope faith.
How is that so? Psalm 93 brings us from “Low Sunday” to “high hope” as it depicts Jesus Christ, the LORD who is King in three ways.
I. Our Low Sundays are infused with High Hope because of the King’s wardrobe (that is, in his new resurrection body)
“The LORD is King. He has put on splendid apparel and girded himself with strength,” says verse 1. Indeed, the vision of the covenant God of Israel assuming the royal robes of authority are perfectly suited to lift our Low Sunday ho-hum minds to the magnificence of Christ the reigning Sovereign. And do we not have the hermeneutical license to make such a declaration? Yes. For Christ Himself applied the Old Testament passages to Himself, even as St. Stephen did, as Paul did, as Peter did. I have no hesitation in taking this Psalm written hundreds of years before Jesus was born and applying its kingly adornment to Christ. For Jesus told us that the Scriptures all speak of Him (Luke 24:44) and our Lord specifically noted “the Psalms.” He is arrayed in glory. And what does this mean and what does it mean to us?
The opening passages of Psalm 93 speak to the assumption of the certain regal prerogatives. The LORD, i.e., the covenant name of God, has put on splendid apparel. Now, how is that Almighty God has initiated a glorious reordering of His estate? Wasn’t He always God and glorious in His attire? Of course He is that way. Yet, as the Second Person of the Triune God came to Mankind He did left His royal prerogatives beyond. But in His resurrection He put on glory in a new way. Indeed, as Christ came to the locked doors on that first Sunday after Easter the doors were shut and locked. Yet the amazing truth is that Christ walked through the door to stand among the fearful flock. He had put on new clothes: “splendid apparel,” indeed. The perishable, to quote St. Paul, had put on imperishable. The corruptible flesh of Man had been renewed to incorruptible. This is not just Good News. This is the beginning of a cosmic re-constitution of all things.
When Mae and I married I beheld a transformation. My wife was lovely before I married her, but something glorious happened after the wedding itself. And after we were married she seemed to radiate joy and new life! I wanted to announce to the world, “This is my wife!” But I guess the image itself told the story. The sight of her made me a new man, as well, and I tell you the truth: I have never gotten over her.
And Christ, too, as this earthly king of Psalm 93, has put on His splendid apparel, the royal robes of incorruptibility. A man who was dead is now alive! He walks forth through the locked doors of our lives and announces “Peace be with you.” And our response is, also, “I have seen the Lord. And I can never get over Him.”
There is another features of Dominus Regnavit, the Lord is King, that we must embrace and it is this: Christ gives us hope not only in His wear, His new resurrection body, but also:
II. Our Low Sundays are infused with High Hope because of the King’s World (that is, in His Creation)
For we read: “He has made the whole world so sure that is cannot be moved…(verse 2) and “the waters have lifted up, O LORD, the waters lifted up their voice; the waters have lifted up their pounding waves (verse 4). “Mightier than the sound of many waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, mightier is the LORD who dwells on high” (verse 5).
The text, also, says that from the beginning of the world God’s throne has been established (verse 3) and the glory of the Lord reigning through His creation causes the Psalmist to break out into spontaneous doxology, “You are from everlasting.”
The meaning of this Scripture is fully realized in Christ our Lord. Jesus’ ministry began with His creation in awe of Him, as a star obediently guided Gentiles to His manger-throne-room. And in His earthly ministry the wind and the waves obeyed Him. At His crucifixion, Christ’s creation reacted to the Creator being crucified by the Created and turned dark at noon-day and trembled from within the bowels of the earth. At His glorious resurrection Creation received a sign of hope: Since Christ is raised from the dead, then, the world, long held under the dominion of sin and its wretched consequences, is now liberated and moving with undeterred certainty to its own resurrection.
I used to know an old man who told the weather by the activity of his blue-tick hound dog. He would say that when the old dog stirred from his perennial place on the floor and looked out the window you could mark it down and get your umbrella: it was going to rain!
Now we may have our doubts about global warming, but I have no doubt about blue tick hounds predicting the weather! And the message is this:
Jesus Christ is glorious as Dominus Regnavit in His world. For the world, that is His creation, is pointing, just like that old blue tick hound, that there is a new world on its way. And what effect does this truth have on us on Low Sunday (or any day of our lives)? Only that this is not all there is. And, as Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) remarked, “A true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death.” Christ the resurrected King of the universe has now given us hope that the world, including our world, our dreams, our lives, our intuitive longing for eternity, is headed for total redemption. A new world is now on its way. And the trees of the fields clap their hands and the sound of the great waters breaking against the lee shore raise their voices, “The Lord is king. A new heaven and a new earth has been inaugurated with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
And everything has changed.”
Finally, there is a feature of Dominus Regnavit that is remarkable in Psalm 93:6: “Your testimonies are sure, and holiness adorns Your house, O LORD, forever and ever more.”
III. Our Low Sundays are infused with High Hope because of the King’s Word (that is, in His Scripture)
The Psalmist grounds all that he has said in the very Word of the Lord. He is King in His radiant wear, His resurrection, as well as in His world, creation, because of His Word.
God spoke the creation into being with His Word. God announced redemption would come and proclaimed resurrection by His Word. Christ was raised from the dead by the Word of the Lord. And His Word is our ultimate proof of it all.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, that monumental first among greats in historic confessions of the Christian faith, is brilliant not only in its content, so richly Biblical, but in its arrangement of the truths, so faithfully Scriptural. For it begins, unlike other good confessions, not with God and His existence, but with Scripture and its foundation. Upon the testimony of God is erected a knowledge of God. It is through His revelation that we can come to believe. This Word, according to John, was from the very beginning. And the Word was, the Word is, Christ. The effect? Holiness—radiant glory and celestial beauty—adorns the Church, the very house of God.
We do not often think of the importance of a word. Yet by a word a man and woman become husband wife. A family is born on the earth by the confession of a word, “I do.” Baptismal waters flow over the little head of a child and humble, awe-struck parents’ vow, “We will.” And the Lord said, “This is my Son in whom I am well-pleased.” He spoke in His Word,
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:10-11 ESV).
And by that fixed Word of the Almighty our Lord Jesus Christ was bound to be raised from the dead. And this same Word spoke to us to say, “For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21). We, therefore, appeal to you to believe in this Christ according to this Word, the Holy Bible. Our apologetic is grounded in the inerrant and infallible Word of the Living God and we appeal not to your reason or to logic, for the syllogisms of man have been obliterated by the wisdom of God.
Thus we have hope.
We have high hope on Low Sunday because Jesus is King. He is the Dominus Regnavit of Psalm 93. Christ gives us hope because He has a new Wardrobe, His radiant resurrection body; He has inaugurated a new World, the long-awaited new heavens and the new earth; and He rules by His irrefutable Word, which seals our hope with eternal certainty.
The Gospel of John records that Christ transformed the lives of His disciples as they were behind the locked doors of fear. These feckless followers because indomitable disciples. The Sacred Text says that He walked through that locked door, spoke peace to them, and showed them His wounded hands and side. And the Bible says that “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
The most influential man in my life is the Reverend Robert E. Baxter. Pastor Bob, as he is affectionately known by his blessed parishioners, is a spiritual-giant of a man deposited in the diminutive frame of an eighty-something-year-old scholarly gentleman from Iowa. Yet those who know him cannot help but exclaim, “He is the most upbeat, lively, engaging, and positive fellow I have ever known!” Now why is this so? Are such buoyant people just born with an infectious personality? Is their sanguine spirit merely the outworking of some remarkable DNA? Maybe. But there are other factors to consider. Indeed, there are many features in Pastor Bob’s life that would cause one to expect him to be dour, reserved, withdrawn, and even melancholy. My home-church pastor has suffered with asthma through his life. He has had the common challenges that we all face, but faced with this life-long affliction. The difference in his life is Dominus Regnavit. Jesus walked into Pastor Bob’s life and spoke peace to Him. Everything since then is an overflow of the love and grace of that encounter with the King. Christ breathed new life into the asthmatic young man from Iowa and he has been exhaling inspiration ever since.
Where are you living today, oh disciple of Christ? What is your locked door? By the power of His Word and His Spirit receive the risen Lord Jesus into your life now.
By faith in Jesus you will be born again; delivered from the anxieties of this world. See His hands and side. Listen to His Word to you, personally and to us as His community gathered together in this unique time:
“Peace be with you.”
The doors of this age are not impenetrable. The crisis of your life is not forgotten. He comes to you—where you are.
Dominus Regnavit. And this changes everything.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version: The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008.
The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments, and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church: According to the Use of the Protestant Episcopal Church … Together with the Psalter, or Psalms of David. Philadelphia: Samuel F. Bradford, 1928.
Day, A. Colin. Collins Thesaurus of the Bible. London: HarperCollins, 2002.
Milosz, Czeslaw. “Discreet Charm of Nihilism.” Review. New York Review of Books, November 19, 1998. Accessed April 10, 2015. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1998/nov/19/discreet-charm-of-nihilism/.