Reflection: "All Hail the King"
This Sunday marks the end of “Liturgical Year C” in the church’s rolling, three-year calendar.
Next week we’ll commence “Year A” with the season of Advent, the lead up to our celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord, our Saviour and King, at Christmas.
On this Sunday we’re invited to look back and remember all that we’ve learned about Jesus, and our faith, over the past year.
We’re invited to come to him in worship and praise - kneeling before his throne.
We’re challenged once again to claim Jesus as our Saviour and our Lord.
This Sunday is usually called “The Feast of Christ the King”, but just what does that mean?
For instance, what do you think of when you hear the word “King”?
In the British monarchy, the successor to Queen Elizabeth was her eldest son, Charles, who became King Charles III.
Next in line of succession is his eldest son William and then young George, eldest son to William and Kate.
And so the list goes on, but I won’t bore you anymore.
There are lots of Kings in waiting in Great Britain.
But in some countries, like America, their experience doesn’t include kings – at least not of the regal sort.
If you talk of “The King” in America, or to someone living in Parkes, NSW and they’ll probably think of Elvis, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.
Or maybe Michael Jackson, who was crowned the King of Pop.
We also have people like Martin Luther King, or, if you’re a petrol-head, Peter Brock, who was known as the King of the Mountain (that’s Mt Panorama at Bathurst, for those who don’t follow motor racing in Australia).
So, it seems that “King” is no longer the most effective, most evocative, most exclusive of titles, in fact it is now the 510th most popular baby name in America – more popular even than Jonathan – and its use has risen exponentially in the last 10 years.
If we go back to the Old Testament, God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, tells his people that he will gather together the remnant (those who have been defeated in battle and scattered in exile) and from these people he will raise up a King from the lineage of the great King David and he will be called “the Lord Our Salvation.”
And in the New Testament, the Apostle Luke, throughout his first chapter, tells us more about the birth of this King, this man we now know as Jesus, son of Mary & Joseph, who was himself a descendant of David.
Now Jesus wasn’t born a King, in the sense that the Jewish people would have understood.
Instead, the kingdom which Jesus preached about, was the kingdom of his Father in heaven, a kingdom of grace, servanthood and forgiving love, with no royal trappings at all.
A kingdom which had always been there, but which now (through Jesus) the people of the day were beginning to recognize for the first time.
This kingdom that Jesus spoke of, is summarized in the words of the Lord’s Prayer – “forgive us as we forgive others”.
But, you know, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times we say that prayer, the meaning of these words apparently escape us.
Yes, we expect to be forgiven, but we often don’t seem able to forgive others.
In God’s kingdom, we need to pull our socks up and perform to a higher standard.
In his day, Christ might have been hailed as King by people who thought they understood kingship, but Christ’s kingship over them was not of a militaristic nature, but of one based on love and care for others.
When we read the scriptures, especially of the time around Easter, we don’t see an exalted and powerful King, but a Christ who’s been crucified.
Throughout the story there are symbols of royal power, but each of them seems to mock the idea that Jesus has any power at all.
On the cross, above the head of Jesus, Pilate posted a sign, “King of the Jews.”
It wasn’t a title, but a reminder of the charge brought against him by the Jewish religious authorities.
Jesus is lifted up, not on a throne, but on a cross - and the crown he wears is made of thorns.
The places on the right and left of Jesus are not occupied by his royal advisors, but by criminals being executed.
The royal court is made up of those who offer vinegar and wine to Jesus, mocking him, gambling for his royal robe.
What kind of a King is this?
And maybe more to the point: what are we to do with this crucified King?
One who refused to save himself from the cross and one who doesn’t seem to save us from our own crosses?
What kind of King is this, who allows such suffering to exist in our world?
Probably, knowing what we know, we’d probably prefer to be our own rulers, taking charge of our own lives.
It’s easier to read self-help books than to study the Gospels.
But when the self-help books and seminars fall short, and we’re confronted by our need for one who is more powerful than ourselves, we cry out to God:
“Remember us, remake us, reclaim us, Lord.”
At least then we’ll have a little hope that through our own efforts we can come through the pain, knowing the love of God and the strength and comfort it can give during our time of suffering.
Jesus refused to save himself because he came to save us instead.
In the moments when we realize we can’t fix, or repair, or help ourselves, when we find ourselves completely unable to do anything more than cry out, we give thanks for a God who does not abandon us or leave us alone.
“Jesus, remember me,” the criminal at his side begged, “when you come into your kingdom.”
The point of the Feast of Christ the King Sunday (to give this Sunday its full title) is to remind us that surprise, surprise, we are not the centre of the universe – Christ the King is.
He urges us to gird ourselves for whatever will come.
Over our time in his kingdom, we’ll be challenged by many things, be they droughts and flooding rains in NSW, bushfires last summer, wars in Ukraine, other man-made disasters, mental illnesses, breakdowns of relationships, job losses, etc, etc.
But through these trials, we should always stay focussed on the end game and give praise, thanks and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We can talk a lot about Kings and name many things with this title, but in the end, there is only one King who matters for our life together - in this world and the next: and he is Christ the King.
Let us remember this, every day, as we live out our lives in his Kingdom.
Go in the truth that God holds the world in his hand.
Go in the light of God, which illuminates even our bleakest moments.
Go in the faith that we are invited into communion with God and each other.
Go in the knowledge that God is reconciling and recreating the world in every moment.
Go in love, because everything that exists - exists in love.
Go in the name of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.