An Unexpected King

Sermon for Christ the King Sunday + November 21, 2010

 An Unexpected King

When one is asked about who or what a king is, some of you will think of the icon for your favorite fast-food chain.  Others will go immediately to Graceland where one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century, cultural icon known by the single name Elvis, was and always will be referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll” or simply “the King”  And still others think of the ‘kingdom’ of Neverland and the eternally young “King of Pop” Michael Jackson.

But fear not music fans, there are other kings:

  • The “King of Blues”… is known as John Lee Hooker, or perhaps B.B. King
  • The “King of Country”… is known as Roy Acuff, or George Strait, or George Jones, or now maybe Garth Brooks 
  • The “King of Soul”… is known as Otis Redding, or is it James Brown
  • The “King of Rap”… is Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, or Jay-Z

Ah but at least we can all agree on the “King of Rock and Roll”… or not, as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Alan Freed, Bill Haley, Little Richard, and Elvis all lay claim to that crown.

The Gospel reading assigned for today, Christ the King Sunday seem an unlikely choice. It doesn’t give us any images of Christ that we would traditionally associate with a King… supreme ruler, in control, rich beyond our wildest dreams, or even music icon. 

The text points out to me how much our understanding of what an earthly king is, contrasts with the way in which Christ is our King.  Christ is not a king who conquers by power or might, not a king who controls, manipulates, or oppresses, not a kind of fairy tales who swoops in with a glass slipper, who takes you from your drab existence, who can make lift you into the royal circle, give you VIP passes to the castle.

But we live in a world where kings fascinate us, even in through our North American worldview.  This was most evident this week when royal fever exploded when Britain’s Prince William said he will wed long-time girlfriend Catherine “Kate” Middleton.

William, 28, the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, second in line for the British throne, proposed to Middleton, also 28, who is a commoner.  Royal watchers, and our celebrity obsessed culture is a buzz about the future king and queen.

The world it seems wants to be king, or dreams of knowing or marrying one.  We all want to rule our corner of the world.  We all want to be in control, to be respected, honored, perhaps even feared.  We call our homes our castles and often fill them with pets who lavish unconditional love and attention on us, their masters. 

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Christ’s Kingship has been a focus of Christians since the Romans placed the sign “King of the Jews” over Jesus on the cross.  The Church has only formalized a festival Sunday since 1925, a recent but important development.  It was between the World Wars that the issue of kingship, supreme authority and power were pressing world issues.

Then Pope Pius XI established the liturgical day, quoting church father Cyril of Alexandria, noting that Jesus’ Kingship is not obtained by violence: “Christ, he says, ‘as dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.”  This liturgical festival day was instituted in 1925 to remind us that our allegiance is to our spiritual ruler as opposed to earthly rulers.  At the time earthly kingship and all authority was claimed by Benito Mussolini and within a few years, by Adolf Hitler.

But God has a different understanding of kingship, of rule, of dominion, of reigning and of what a kingdom is all about.  Christ’s Kingship is not based on “human power” but on loving and serving others.  For God, the kingdom is where God’s desires and dreams for creation, and God’s will and intentions rule.  The kingdom of God is the place where how we live, the very shape of our lives mirrors God.  Kings are those who reflect God’s love, grace and mercy for others who long for love, acceptance, healing, wholeness, or peace.

  • God’s kingdom is not a fairytale place, not some distant land called far, far away. 
  • God’s kingdom is real, it is here and it is now.   
  • God’s kingdom comes when we pray thy kingdom come as Jesus taught us. 
  • God’s kingdom is present when and wherever we do God’s work with our hands. 
  • God’s kingdom is present when we splash in the waters of adoption and forgiveness. 
  • God’s kingdom is present when we eat the bread and drink the wine of forgiveness as Jesus told us to do to remember him.  

God’s kingdom is present when we leave this place and…

  • Visit a sick friend or family member, check-in with an elderly neighbor,
  • Forgive the person you are mad at, call that person who isn’t speaking to you, 
  • Cook a meal for someone who doesn’t have a home, or money for food, 
  • See the world, this world, no matter how troubled, no matter how broken, as our King Jesus does, 
  • See the world as a kingdom of love and a place to love our neighbors as Jesus does,

To be kingdom people, literally to be God’s loving, caring, sharing, hands, feet and voice today, in, through and beyond this place.

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There is a chasm, a treacherous moat, a huge wall between the world’s understanding of what a king should be, and the way in which Christ is King.  The world with all of its pain, brokenness, and suffering, longs for a savior, a kingly figure to wave their scepter, or magic wand, to exert all the powers of their roles and fix the world.  We long for hope and change, even if we don’t know what it means.  We abdicate our responsibility waiting for that knight is shining armor, the prince on a white horse, a king to arise, make it all right and then we will gladly worship them.

But our kingly expectations are not unlike those of Jesus’ time…

  • When political systems allow the elite to lord over all they ruled. 
  • When people who are not in the ruling class, or from the right racial, national, or ethnic background are oppressed.  
  • When economic systems allow for the rich, to become richer and the poor, poorer. 
  • When the ever growing empire of greed and consumption gobbles-up land and resources without regard for whose they are, or their ultimate depletion and destruction. 

The people long for a king, but get an unlikely one in Jesus.  The world Christ brings into being does not directly fix earthly systems and injustice as we would perhaps if we were king.  Rather in the person of Jesus the Christ, the kingdom of God comes to us, breaks into this world with hope, healing, and new life.  The experiences of God’s kingdom that we receive in this world give us a foretaste of the fullness of God’s reign which we will one day fully experience and understand.

But the kingdom of God is not just a heavenly reward.  The person of Jesus the Christ, calls us to share in the kingdom of God.  To see that the kingdom of God is here, now, in our homes, in our lives, and God want us to make it be so, to pray for the kingdom to come, to live kingdom lives, to live reflecting the one true king.

We are called to be kingdom people, sharing God’s gracious hope, healing, and new life.   Come thou almighty King, Come incarnate Word, Come Holy Comforter, Come Spirit of Power, and reign over us and to eternity love and adore.

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