Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ the King

I wonder what the word king makes you think of? Probably a man with a crown. A regal image. Perhaps you are thinking of a particular king in our country’s recent past. Either way, it’s hard for us to do when a queen has sat on the throne of this nation for such a long time. It’s harder still to engae with the image that this morning’s gospel presents us with,  as 21st century kingship is mostly a nominal power, and couldn’t be further from the reality of authority running through images of kingship from the world and time of Jesus.

Today is the Feast of Christ the King and my mind is whisked back to that wonderful hymn - ‘O worship the king, all glorious above.’ This is the king that we will sing our way through Advent about and whose gaze meets ours in a galaxy of icons and religious images.

Both of those sorts of kings are present in our Gospel reading this morning. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. This is the court of judgement ...the place where we will hear our final destiny...truly a place of awe. But if we wish to live as citizens of his kingdom in the meantime, what does it mean for Christ to be King?
To live in a kingdom is about far more than standing to wonder at the majesty of the king as he makes his grand entrance...and we may be in real danger of missing the heart of it, Jesus reminds us this morning.

It's an easy mistake to make – one that we hear about again and again in the gospels. Think of the Wise Men, eyes fixed on the star, dazzled by its brightness into calling at the obvious place – the royal palace of Herod – while the king they seek, is born in the poverty of a stable. Think of the Palm Sunday crowds who seem to speak prophetic truth as they shout “Hosanna to the Son of David” but whose expectations of uprising and God-led triumph are disappointed by the events of Good Friday. Then think of the ways in which Jesus chooses to explain what the kingdom is like – a mustard seed, a hidden treasure, some leaven mixed with dough - and remember just how close king and kingdom really are... and realising that Christ the King, however glorious, is always to be found in the least likely places - with the naked, the hungry, the prisoner, the stranger, the sick or the thirsty, for it is they, says Jesus, that are blessed by God. Suddenly the question of judgement and choices comes close to we realise that it is our judgements, our choices now, today how we react to others, that will make all the difference. And those judgements, those choices, will be governed by our allegiance – to Christ the king.

To live as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, means you and me, living by the standard set for us by Christ the King - Christ, who chooses to spend his time with the marginalised, the oppressed, the forgotten. Christ who is utterly committed to those whom nobody values, nobody respects. Christ who identifies himself so completely with “the least of these” that when we look at them, we know we are seeing him too.

To love Christ, to dwell as a citizen of His kingdom, is to love what He has made - men, women and children however broken and needy - the sick, the thirsty, the hungry, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned - to love such as these is to live and love like the King; it is to love the one in whose image we are each made.

The German pastor and concentration camp resident Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote ‘How may Christ take form among us today and here?’ It is by modelling the example of Christ our King - by loving and loving again. We may not notice, we may not realise that we are loving and serving Christ, and the parable Jesus tells offers a wonderful surprise for those who in love served the downtrodden in society, also served the king.

To love like this is to love Christ - but we are clearly warned - not to love, to walk by on the other side, to condemn, to exclude, is to deny Christ, to walk past Him, to condemn Him, to exclude Him...

Peter Rollins says it all...

There is just one commandment, the commandment of love, and real love is always manifested in action. And, when it comes down to it, it is living lives of love that will build the kingdom of God here on earth. We aren't asked to decide who might be sheep or goats...that is down to the King to decide. All we are asked to do is to carry on loving – wildly, indiscriminately, just as Christ our King does.

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