Nov. 27, 2018 King of Kings and Lord of Lords

In the name of one God whose will it is to restore all things through His well-beloved Son, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen

King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Now this feast day doesn’t get much attention, coming as it does every year, on the heels of Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and the frenzy of annual football rivalry game. I’ve yet to notice shimmering Christ the King cards tucked in some clearance rack near the bulging Christmas card display.

So the truth is- if we weren’t gathered here this lovely fall morning, we might miss it altogether- this Feast of Christ the King.

Partly perhaps as citizens of a country determined at our founding, not to become a monarchy, our images of king shapes both our understanding and our response to kingship. We carry different images of king and kingship. The title king may conjure up for us - Romantic legends of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table or Old King Cole “that merry old soul” with his pipe and his fiddlers three… King Tut, Burger King, King Kong?

Yes, our images influence our response and we are not alone.

For centuries, faithful Jews waited for the Messiah - One who would come with kingly power from the line of King David himself. One of royal lineage whom God would raise up. And although the king God promised would be an ideal one the promise was rooted in the flesh and blood of history.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. But from his birth his identity as “king” was a source of confusion, conflict and violence. The model that most people had for kings included injustice and power that sought to extend itself at the expense of others.

So when King Herod heard from the wise men that they were seeking the child born King of the Jews, Herod’s paranoia ramped up. His attempt to destroy all rivals culminated in an orgy of infanticide.

When Jesus grew up and began his ministry his disciples too misunderstood the nature of his kingship. They looked for a militant king- one who would lead them in battle against their Roman oppressors. It was only after that final procession into Jerusalem did they began to grasp Jesus’ words, “My kingdom Is not of this world”.

Jesus turned their image of kingship upside down. He rode upon a donkey not a war horse – his triumphal entry was among the common people not a battalion of soldiers. His arrest within the week brought him before Pilate, the governor of the empire of Rome. Pilate asks: Are you the king of the Jews?

Pilate sounds incredulous- this man doesn’t look like a king.

Yet… I believe even Pilate recognizes some innate power and authority emanating from the man who stands before him- One who does not shrink back from his interrogation although He’s poor, He’s a prisoner. So Pilate becomes even more agitated asking Jesus, “What have you done to have your own nation and chief priests hand you over to me?” It’s a courtroom drama where the judge is shrieking at the witness who meets him eye to eye and replies:

My kingdom is not of this world.

So you are a king? Pilate persists.

The very question suggests the charge against Jesus is treason but Jesus replies clearly:

My kingdom is not from this world.

As Bishop Curry explains it- this statement of Jesus has often been interpreted, or misinterpreted rather, to suggest an individualized otherworldly piety, divorced from real life—personal, social, political, public.

But that’s not what’s going on here.

The way of Jesus of Nazareth is about how we live our lives individually and collectively, personally and publically. And Jesus continues his response to Pilate’s question:

My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.

In other words, Pilate, you and Rome, you are powers of the world and your way is the way of the world, but my kingdom is a rule, a reign of another way.

Another power.

Another way of living.

The truth is Bishop Curry continues, the truth is on a historical level, Jesus of Nazareth was really killed by an unholy alliance of political, economic and religious self- interests: Political interests of the imperial Empire of Rome, religious interests of the Jerusalem temple priestly aristocracy and business and economic interests represented by the Herodians. All three colluded and conspired to rid themselves of Jesus.

Jesus was killed by a conspiracy of self- interest, self- centeredness, greed, jealousy, intolerance, bigotry, indifference- what our biblical tradition calls sin.

Sin is selfishness. Love is the very opposite of that.

King Jesus spoke of love. He lived a life of self-giving love. He died for the love of the world.

Christ the King reigns from the cross.

Christ rules, as many earthly rulers do because he has waged battle and been victorious. But the enemies of Christ have been defeated by an empty tomb, death birthed into life.

Almighty God is not limited by our images of kingship. Nor is the reign of God’s kingdom diminished by our limited vision. It is God who chooses to come as unlikely as it seems as a baby in a hay-filled stable as a carpenter with calloused hands and dusty feet as a king whose throne is the cross of Christ.

God chooses to come.

No matter what our image of king may be.

No matter what our response has been every day up until this very moment. No matter what - this is the promise of the King of Love to each one of us.

Thanks be to God.

11/25/2018 - The Feast of Christ the King - Year B - The Reverend Anne Bridgers