CHRIST THE KING, C, 2019
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To speak of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
and why the sea is boiling hot,
and whether pigs have wings.”
(Lewis Carroll, The Walrus and the Carpenter)
The time has come. This Sunday represents the last Sunday of the Church year. It is Christ the King Sunday and the time has come. I don’t have much to say, I’m afraid, about shoes or ships, beyond expressing a sincere desire for them both of them to keep the water out. Of cabbages I know little beyond the obvious, of sealing wax I know even less – and of kings, well, we’ll see.
The concept of kingery bears little significance in our world these days. It loomed large in this country’s beginnings – we had this whole big Revolutionary war and created a constitution to be rid of kings and queens and their ilk. We have not entirely lost our national fascination with royalty – Queen Elizabeth and her offspring, and her offspring’s offspring, and her offspring’s offspring’s offspring control at least their fair share of the newsstand real estate, whatever declarations of Independence we may have made 243 years ago. Their travels, their outfits, their squabbles, their weddings, their foibles, and those hats – we drink it all in.
Our fascination with them comes, I suppose, from just how fairytale they seem – with their own sets of rules and customs, their seemingly endless streams of jewels and clothes and their ability (however illusory the impression) to remain seemingly untouched by the vicissitudes of the world we share. Ah, and the power. Let’s not forget their power. It is seductive to think of someone making all the tough decisions, taking care of things, protecting their people, guiding their subjects regally and wisely to just and good decisions.
The Jews sought such a king; a King impervious to the centuries of exile and servitude and victimization they had suffered. 6 centuries before “God was pleased to dwell” on Earth through Jesus, Jeremiah spent most of his prophetic career warning the powers that be that their misbehavior would destroy their kingdoms, scatter their people. Inconveniently for those same people, Jeremiah proved a better prophet than politician and the Babylonian exile came to fruition. In the face of this tragedy Jeremiah shifted his tone from castigating to comforting, delivering God’s promise to remove the current failed leaders and replace them with better ones, encouraging the devastated people to look forward to the appearance of a new, righteous king.
600 years later, some descendants of those people met Jesus. “Maybe,” they thought, “maybe this time, maybe this man, maybe this king” – and Jesus rode into Jerusalem amidst waving palm branches and Hosannas. And 5 days later – he stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross and died – like no king anybody ever wished for, but somehow, mysteriously, still ushering in the exactly the kingdom for which we yearn so desperately.
In his book, “Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner wrote, ”As far as I know, there is only one good reason for believing that he was who he said he was. One of the crooks he was strung up with put it this way: ‘If you are the Christ, save yourself and us’ (Luke 23:39). Save us from whatever we need most to be saved from. Save us from each other. Save us from ourselves. Save us from death both beyond the grave and before. (my emphasis) If he is, he can. If he isn’t, he can’t. It may be that the only way in the world to find out is to give him the chance, whatever that involves. It may be just as simple and just as complicated as that.”
Give him the chance. Give Christ the chance. Give him a chance to teach us compassion, even if it means sacrifice. Give him a chance to live physically on this earth right now within you, through you. Give him a chance to bring light into the darkness of the world. Give him a chance to reveal the humbling release of forgiveness – forgiveness received and forgiveness bestowed.
Rev. Ginny McDaniel writes “Today’s text about Jesus offering forgiveness as his final act is resonating with me like never before. If the church needs a single message, a sound byte, if you will, for this impatient, multitasking generation, it’s this: It’s ALL about mercy. We don’t need taller statues to proclaim our message. We don’t need bigger buildings and fancier gadgetry. Mercy is what the world needs, now as never before, now as it always has.” Mercy, compassion, loving-kindness.
Apropos of the approach of Advent, in God and Empire, Jon Dominick Crossan wrote, “The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen soon, violently, or literally. The Second Coming of Christ is what will happen when we Christians finally accept the First Coming … and start to cooperate with its divine presence.” The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg expounds, “In other words, on Reign of Christ Sunday, we are invited to remember that the “Kingdom of God” or “Reign of God” — to which Jesus constantly pointed — is as fully available now and always as it was 2,000 years ago. The question that remains each Reign of Christ Sunday is whether we will choose to live as if the one who reigns is not Caesar, but God.
We celebrate Christ the King today.
We celebrate Christ’s humility, not his royalty
We celebrate Christ’s compassion, not his power
We celebrate Christ’s travail, not his triumph
We celebrate Christ’s gift of self, not his accumulation of riches
We celebrate Christ showing us the way of new life, not rescuing us so that we can repeat the old broken ways.
(paraphrased and adapted from Delmer Chilton, Lectionary Lab)
We celebrate Christ the King in our worship today
Do we go out those doors and live His reign?
The time has come. Amen.