Christ the King (2006) Year B RCL Principal
King of All
Today is the last Sunday of the Church’s year . Officially the Church year begins on Advent Sunday. But on this last Sunday of the year we have a theme to crown the year, indeed something which brings our focus back to the central belief of Christian faith. Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King.
So what is this feast? Why do we celebrate it? What difference does – indeed what difference should – it make?
In a way it is a celebration that echoes Ascension Day, which marks the end of Eastertide. This long period that we mark as the Sundays after Trinity in the Prayer book and in our lectionary – we call ordinary time. It contains significant feast days of the Church such as All Saints, All Souls, SS Peter & Paul and others – but it doesn’t historically have the same ongoing significance of times in the year such as Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost.
On Ascension day we remember Christ ascended and glorified. No longer bound by mortal flesh but resurrected and glorified in his resurrection body. We honour Christ as second part of the Trinity and thereby ruling and reigning with God for all eternity. Robed in splendour and majesty we give worship to God as ruler of all.
And the feast of Christ the King offers another reminder of that. Before we approach the great celebration of the Incarnate God in Christ at Christmas we are reminded of the fact the same God who took flesh, who lived a human life, who was humbled in taking human form, is ruler of earth and heaven. We are reminded that Christ is king of all creation, is the Holy One who we worship and adore.
Today is a chance to reflect on the majesty and splendour of God in Christ, the one who died, rose again and is seated on God’s right hand. It’s a great celebration of just who Christ is, of what he is, of what he has done and of who we are in relation to him, our ruler, our leader, our God. It is also a day to ask the question – what does it mean that we believe that Christ is the King, and what difference does it make to my life and my faith today.
In our Gospel we see an encounter with Jesus where Pilate, starting from a position of doubt, asks ‘are you the king of the Jews’. I wonder what was going through this mind as he asked this, whether he was really searching to find the meaning of what the accusations made against Jesus were all about. Perhaps he also was taunting Jesus, the text itself leaves the question open.
Our Gospel reading also reminds us of Jesus, the human one, or Son of Man (mentioned in the reading from Daniel for this morning) as the older translations say, having a very real sense of where the power and authority he possessed came from. He says ‘My kingdom is not of this world…’ It is this that should inspire us to see our own ministry and mission as the Church of God – we are those who are mandated by heaven, if you like, given a divine commission to live as children of light, as subjects of God’s kingdom.
The kingdom of God is an important ideal that runs throughout the teaching and ministry of Jesus. This kingdom is not a place, or set in time – it is a state of being. A better word than kingdom might be ‘reign’ or ‘rule’ – the kingdom of God is that state which is achieved when women and men submit to God’s gracious reign and live lives worthy of the calling which God has given us.
And it is this which is the lesson of the feast of Christ the King – acknowledging Jesus Christ as our ruler and leader. It is a reminder that we who are by our baptism subjects of a divine kingdom. And what are the consequences of this acknowledgement? If we really believe that Jesus is our king this should have a real effect on our everyday lives – after all the life and liberty we have by being part of the country we are, under the constitutional monarchy of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II means that we enjoy the privileges we do.
Likewise, our status as subjects of our Divine Ruler should have an everyday impact, it should inform our conduct and the actions we undertake. In fact, in a way that a human ruler cannot manage, we should be going further and allowing our rôle as subjects of God’s kingdom inform even our very thought-life. St Paul writes, 2 Corinthians Chapter 10 that “ we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” There is no limit, or perhaps I should say, there should me no limit on that over which Christ is ruler in our lives.
There are three things which we must take seriously if we are to truly serve Christ as our king:
One is to know Christ – in most situations there is no opportunity to get to know the ruler of a nation in a personal and intimate way. With Christ we have the great privilege of reading his word, the Bible, spending time in prayer talking to him and being able to listen and learn from him – in our prayers, our Bible reading, in sharing with other Christians.
Secondly we are called to submit, and to serve, to take seriously the demands that our Christian faith must make on our lives. We must all ask ourselves – is there any way in which I am different to the person I would be if I did not follow Christ? What difference does being a Christian make to my life? What could I do to make my faith more of a reality, what could I do to be a servant of God in such a way that it makes a difference in my life.
Thirdly – we should enjoy our lives as part of God’s reign. The promise of God is not just about rules, regulations, laws, constraints, morals etc etc etc In the end the reign of God results in lives transformed, hearts filled with love, lives bearing the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, self-control, goodness. These are not constraints on our lives, they free us to be the people that God longs for us to be.
To be honest, I would not be a minister of a faith that is inward looking, miserable or negative. My calling is to preach the Gospel – Good News – of a kingdom of life, of living life to the full, of enjoying the fullness of God. That’s not to preach hedonism, but responsibility, work and fulfilment. We are to be people whose love of life and love of God shines. We are to be those whose commitment to the kingdom is visible in such a way that it is attractive. and whose enjoyment of life affects all that we do and say.
Preaching today on Christ the King is exciting, it reminds us that God has good in store for us. But the message of Christ the King is not one of a kingdom ‘one day’, but of a reality now, of the reign of God that encroaches on the lives of those who seek to follow here and now, who enjoy following Christ, no matter what the difficulties, and whose lives reflect the glory of God.
May the love of God dwell in us and shine through us as subjects of our heavenly king, and ambassadors of his divine, joy-filled kingdom. Amen.