A Different Kind of King

What do you do when it’s Christ the King, Consecration Sunday, and a baptism, all in one go? Try to make them all work together of course! I both struggle with, and really love, Christ the King. I don’t always like the language of ~king~. I think it needs to be unpacked, because Jesus isn’t the typical king. In fact, he completely inverts our understanding of what it means to be king. Then, I love Christ the King. What does it mean to claim Christ as our King, when he refuses to act like a king? Let me know what you think!

Here is a link to site with all the readings from Sunday: Reign of Christ Readings.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Well, once again it’s Christ the King Sunday. The last Sunday of our liturgical year, which begins anew next week with the first Sunday of Advent. Did you know that Christ the King is a relatively new festival? At least when you compare it to things like Easter, and Pentecost, and All Saints.  It was only started in 1925, by Pope Pius XI, and took much, much longer to catch on in Lutheran churches.

The festival was inaugurated to combat the rising nationalism and fascism around Europe, especially in Italy where the Vatican sits. It’s a festival that asks us to consider what it means that we proclaim Christ king. What type of king do we have in Jesus? What does it actually mean for our lives, 2,000 years later, to say that Jesus is king?

It’s not a bad idea to begin by asking what we think of when we use words like ‘king’, ‘ruler’, ‘kingdom.’ What is a king? Or a queen? The third season of The Crown recently came out on Netflix, all about the British monarchy in the last century, and Elizabeth II in particular.

The royal family has a very specific understanding of what it means to be a king—or in this case, queen. The crown must be protected at all costs. At one point, Princess Margaret, the queen’s sister, says to her: You can’t blink. If you blink, it will al be over. You cannot show weakness, at any cost. The crown must always appear strong.

If you’re like me, this is probably the type of thing you think of when you think of kings and kingdoms. The king being the most important—the one who is protected, the one who is served by others. Strong, unshakable, invincible. That tends to be the type of characteristics we want in a ruler—king or otherwise.

And so Christ the King can come as a shock to our systems. We don’t get strong, unshakable, or invincible. We don’t read of Jesus being enthroned in glory and power. Instead we read the story of the crucifixion. Jesus on the cross at his lowest moment. Executed as an enemy of the state. Mocked, derided.

And we look at that and we say—this is our king. This is the one we will serve. It is only in this moment, on the cross, that Jesus is ever actually proclaimed king. And so, the question remains, what kind of king do we have?

We do not have a king who seeks to be served by others, we do not have a king who seeks to be above others. Jesus doesn’t do that. He refuses to come in power but instead appears in abject vulnerability. He does not vow retribution on even those who crucify him but instead offers forgiveness.

He does not come down off his cross to prove his kingly status but instead remains on that instrument of torture and humiliation, the representative of all who suffer unjustly. And he does not promise a better tomorrow but instead offers to redeem us today.

He offers to redeem us today. Not in some far off distant future, but this very day. It is the promise made to the thief on the cross, and it is the promise that we too receive. When we proclaim that Christ is King, it means that we proclaim he is king right here and now—not waiting for some future time.

And so we come again to my second question: what does it mean for us, 2,000 years later, to say that Christ is King? It is a statement that requires us to recognize that the kingdom of God is all around us. If Christ is King right now, then we must realize that we live in the kingdom of God. It’s not something that we either attain after our death or will get to in some final cataclysmic event.

The Kingdom of God is here and now, and the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims represents a whole new reality where nothing is the same — not our relationships or rules, not our view of self or others, not our priorities or principles — nothing.

Saying that Jesus is our king, is our lord, is also saying what is not our lord. Charles Greenly is being baptized this morning, and in the baptism service, we all declare that we renounce the Satan, the powers of evil, and everything that draws us from God. We are saying that we do not give these things permission to control us. They do not get to be our lord. Since Jesus is Lord, our overfull calendars are not. Our debt is not. Our anxiety is not. Our addiction is not. Our pain and our grief is not. Our prejudices are not. That’s not to say that these things don’t impact us—of course they do—but they are not our Lord. They do not get to define us. Jesus does—and in baptism he calls us all beloved children and makes us citizens of God’s kingdom.

As citizens of God’s kingdom, we’re called to be stewards of all that has been entrusted to our care. That stewardship involves the wise and prayerful use of all of our resources, and a part of that is what we give away for the benefit of others.

It is consecration Sunday, when we take time to consider our stewardship, and consider how we might support the church in the coming year. When you come forward for communion, you are invited to place your commitment card in the bowl in the aisle. We take time to do this every year because it allows us the opportunity as a church, as individuals, and as families, to thoughtfully consider what it means to be stewards for God. What it means to be part of God’s kingdom.

How are our resources best used? How are the church’s resources best used? Because we are stewards of God’s kingdom, whether we think about it or not. We’re able, as a church, to do so much to show and share the kingdom and love of God in this world—our outreach programs, our educational programs, our worship—it is all possible, and it is only possible, because of stewards like you and me.

What does it mean to proclaim that Christ is king? It means living in the kingdom. It means living as a reflection of our king. A king who welcomes a criminal into his realm and promises relief and release amid obvious agony. A king who refuses to conform to the expectations of this world, a king who will not be governed by its limited vision of worthiness or justice.

A king who is not content to rule from afar, but rather comes to meet us in our weakness and need. A king willing to embrace all, forgive all, redeem all, because that is his deepest and truest nature. It is, finally, our king, come to usher us into his kingdom even as he implores us to recognize and make manifest that kingdom already around us. This is our king. Thanks be to God. Amen.

2 thoughts on “A Different Kind of King

  1. First, I enjoyed the history lesson at the beginning of this excellent sermon. I also enjoyed your description of the kind of king Christ is and the way he inverted social and spiritual norms and expectations. I do think, though, that in some ways he was strong (as in enduring the cross), unshakable (as in never wavering from his message even when the devil tempted him) and invincible (as in overcoming death). He certainly lived a humble, kind and forgiving life, and I appreciated the reminder that we must live as reflections of Christ the king and that we are living in his kingdom that has already come.

    Like

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