Christ the King
The Rev. Bob Pierson
Today’s feast of Christ the King is relatively new on the Christian calendar. It was instituted in the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a response to the growth of secularism at the time, and it is seen today by Roman Catholics as an opportunity to lift up the cause of religious liberty.
I don’t want to get caught up in the religious culture wars of our day, so I would rather look at another reason to celebrate this feast, and that leads me to the question, “What does it mean for us to say Jesus Christ is King?” First of all, we need to recognize that we are speaking the language of metaphor. Jesus Christ is not king in the same way that King Charles III is king. Christ’s kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, and his reign is an eternal reign, not bound by time or place.
Another issue is the question of power in Christ’s reign. As today’s gospel reminds us, we have a crucified king who chose to let go of his power on earth for a different kind of reign, grounded in the power of love and forgiveness. As one of my favorite hymns puts it: “The King of Love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never. I nothing lack if I am his, and he is mine forever.”
And because Christ’s reign is not bound by time or place, we each can participate in God’s reign not as subjects but as members of the royal family. As we read in Ephesians 2:19: “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”
I spend a good deal of time each week working on my family tree on the website Ancestry.com. I have been surprised by the fact that some of my ancestors were lords and ladies in England before their descendants moved to America. I also have German ancestors from some of the royal families of Germany. But ALL of my more immediate ancestors, those who came to America and settled finally in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest, were farmers–ordinary people with very little money or prestige. While it might be fun to know I have some royal connections in the distant past, it doesn’t make much difference today. What does make a difference is my membership in God’s royal family. We are all “citizens with the saints” because of our baptism, adopted members of Christ’s royal family.
I recently finished watching season 5 of “The Crown” on Netflix. I enjoy the scenes of the royal family gathered around the table at their family meals, enjoying conversation with each other. It occurs to me now that we are doing something similar here today as we gather around the table of this altar to commune with our sovereign brother, Christ the King. What a privilege it is for us to be here, enjoying this life-giving food and drink together. It really is the best Thanksgiving meal ever.
In closing, I remind us of the words we heard today from the letter to the Colossians, Chapter 1, verses 11-14:
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.