Christ the King 2015 Daniel 7: 9-14, Revelation 1: 4-8, John 18: 33-37
The idea of the kingship of Christ in all the world has been controversial in recent times. It doesn’t go down well in interfaith discussions where memories of crusades and the like remain vivid. Secular thought can’t understand it, and within the Church many have objected to it on the grounds that it seems to undergird and perpetuate patriarchal forms of leadership. While the kingship of Christ may be controversial, it cannot be avoided because it is about power and authority.
The quality of Christ’s kingship might be summed up in Jesus comment to the disciples as they vied for position, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so amongst you; but whoever wishes to be great amongst you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 25-28
Genesis tells us in the creation stories that humans were to be the kings of creation. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1: 28-29
This makes the point that the power comes from above, from God. The fall comes about through the misuse of this power. Instead of being the benefactor of creation and its steward, humanity wants to benefit from it, control and possess it and the whole sorry story goes on from there. In Christ the full dignity of kingship is restored because he always looked to his Father from whence came his power. When we are baptised we receive the anointing which restores the dignity God intended for us in creation. “Christ has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.” Revelation 1: 6 KJV
The implication of this is that we need to take on a positive spirituality as regards creation. This means that we recognise and celebrate the fundamental goodness of creation, which lies beneath the sin and evil that we so readily perceive when we look around. Salvation is never found in a withdrawal, an escape or destruction such as we are seeing in the Middle East now. Salvation is a restoration, but more than that, a new creation, the like of which we see in the risen Christ. That is true as it relates to us personally. It is true as it relates to the whole of creation. This is why, for example, participating in the People’s Climate Parade next Saturday is so important. Too often the Church has been absent from such occasions, giving the impression that God is absent and doesn’t care about the travails of creation. The incarnation is indeed the presence of God among all the mess of the world in the flesh.
Yet activism is not the whole compass of the kingship of Christ. In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “My kingdom is not from this world.” I John expands this, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches – comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” 1 John 2: 15-17
It is easy for activists to become disheartened, tired, cynical and judgmental. Christian activism must be rooted in prayer which helps us to look upon the world as the Father does. Such prayer leads us inevitably to the mystery of the cross which sits at the heart of our liturgical cycle as it does our faith.
On Good Friday the cross reveals this world’s rejection of God through the crucifixion of his Son. Holy Saturday reveals the end of this world of sin and death as Jesus lies in the tomb. On the third day, by raising his Son to life God reveals the kingdom which is’ not of this world’ within this world of ours. This is the joy of the resurrection.
It is in the cross that the content of the kingship of Christ and its true power are revealed. Our response is well described by St Paul in his letter to the Galatians, “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6: 14
When we say that the world is crucified to me it means that the cross becomes the only criterion for discernment about life and action. The cross makes it possible for us to reject all in the world that leads to pride and corruption, to enslavement and death. The cross also makes it possible for us to accept the world as God’s beloved creation because God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that all who believe in him should not perish but may have eternal life.
Yet this remains but an idea or a doctrine unless we ourselves are crucified to the world. It is only in me, in my faith, in my life, in my actions, in my suffering, that this power can become seen in the world. This is the calling that we each have through our baptism. We are recalled to it every time we celebrate the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we find the strength and grace to take up our cross and follow Jesus. We work with him to build his kingdom of truth and light, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.