November 20, 2014
Is Christ King?
In recent years, The Episcopal Church has gone back to a Medieval custom of celebrating the Feast of Christ the King on the Last Sunday after Pentecost (this Sunday). It seems a fitting cap to a season in which we celebrate growth in the Spirit of God and the expanding ministry of Jesus Christ in our world. In the Middle Ages, people understood more the powers enjoyed by kings. Their word was law; they were the final appeal. Subjects owed them unquestioning loyalty. They were divinely anointed and completely autocratic. The powers of kings today are pale shadows of the kind of authority they enjoyed in earlier centuries. Most are figure-heads; they may have influence if they work hard at it, but they are largely symbolic. It fascinates me that so many Americans seem to get caught up in the aura and drama surrounding Britain’s royal family. We threw off the yoke of that monarchy over two centuries ago, so why this interest (even preoccupation)? Why has the Church gone back to celebrating Christ the King when the whole ethos of kingship would seem alien territory? Why is the otherwise modern cathedral down the street named, Mary Our Queen?
The title, “King of the Jews,” was tacked on Jesus’ cross as an expression of derision and a clear indication that the Romans believed him to be a revolutionary. In the presence of Pilate, Jesus states: “My kingdom is not from this world.” John 18:36 I don’t for a moment think Jesus was implying his kingdom was other-worldly; nor does he seem to deny he is a king of sorts. What kind of king, then? Jesus was and is a revolutionary! It would be too easy to relegate Jesus to purple robes and shiny crowns, empty symbols of empty power. Jesus wants real power over our lives, over you and me! He is not a figure-head nor a despot but the living Son of God. What he wants from us is freely and lovingly given obedience—complete surrender! We are to love others as he has loved us, self-sacrificially. We are to give generously of our talents, our time, and our resources for the extension of his kingdom. If he really is king, he must rule our ambitions, our thoughts, our actions, our expenditures, and all our interrelationships with others.
So, when we sing joyfully, “Crown him with many crowns,” let’s be clear, we’re crowning him King of our livers and hearts. This revolutionary King makes real and costly demands on our lives! As we will see in Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 25), he demands we treat all our sisters and brothers with the reverence we freely and lovingly give to him—the poor, down-trodden, hungry, oppressed—they (with all their demands and needs) are to become kings to us as well. This is revolutionary AND frightening! Still want to make Christ King? I sincerely hope so! The suffering everywhere hope so! The weary world waits for Christ to really become King and to see him in you and me!