Tag Archives: Christ the King Sunday

Inclusivity Devotional 5 (Luke 23:33-43)

This devotional is a part of my effort to create weekly devotional readings based on the Revised Common Lectionary that look at a Biblical passage through the lens of inclusivity. It is my firm belief that the Bible points me toward an inclusive and fully affirming attitude toward LGBTQ people. Some devotions will be more explicitly about LGBTQ inclusion than others.

November 24, 2019 is known in the Christian year as Christ the King Sunday, or Reign of Christ Sunday. This is a relatively new observance in the Christian year. It was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. and has only been observed on the last Sunday before Advent since the 1970s. The purpose of the day is to recognize that Christ is the sovereign over all creation. Some call it a response to the rising secularism and nationalism of the day.

World War I was only a few years in the past. Europe was still cleaning up after the destruction of the war, which was the result of rising nationalism and alliance. At the same time, new nations were starting to rebuild and claim their place in the world stage. 1925 was the year that Mussolini rose to power in Italy. It was also the year the Adolf Hitler restarted the Nazi party. In Europe, there were the first inklings of fascism rising. In the United States, there was an increased sense of isolationism and anti-immigrant legislation.

While Mussolini marched in Rome, the Pope declared that Christ is King. This historical moment seems very important in today’s world political climate. Nationalism is on the rise in Europe. President Donald Trump’s “America First” populism is well documented. The world in 2019 is very different than it was in 1925, but many see similar trends and disturbing parallels.

Enter Christ the King. It is in this climate that we must declare that Christ is the King. The national powers, military might, and economic forces are not what reign on Earth. God created all things, and the universal and eternal Christ reigns. And just what kind of King is Jesus? What does it mean to say “Christ is King”?

The Gospel reading for this Sunday is Luke 23:33-43, which details the story of Jesus on the Cross. This is the image of Kingship for Christians. It is not the triumphant victor, riding in on a conquering war-horse. It is the lamb slain. It is the self-sacrificial love that would forgive even those who held the hammers. It is the peace that comes even to two men also being crucified.

Lest we forget, Jesus was executed by a King for treason. He was killed in the name of the Emperor for claiming to be “King of the Jews.” In his mightiest act on earth, he submitted to the worst punishment that the kings of the earth could hand out. The Kingship we need now is not that of the Emperor. The King that saves is not the one who punishes, executes criminals, and carries out wars. The King that saves is the one who loves, even to the end. The King that saves is the one who rises over violence. The King we need is Christ the King, Christ the Crucified, Christ the giver of grace. Lord in your mercy, hear us.

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Jesus didn’t look like a King

Jesus didn’t look like a King.  He didn’t act like one either.  Kings raise armies and collect taxes.  Kings have subordinates.  They have grand, well-guarded homes.  They have pomp and circumstance. Jesus didn’t.  And yet people were talking about him.

“Pontius Pilate” by Michael Yazijian. The artist has a website at http://www.mikeyaz.com/

He was raising quite a fuss throughout the country.  There were stories of him feeding multitudes, healing the sick, forgiving sins, raising the dead, challenging authority, and disturbing the peace at the Temple.  People were talking, so when he was finally brought before the governor on charges of blasphemy and treason, Pilate already knew something of the man.  Pilate had heard of him, or he would not have asked him this question.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked Jesus.  Pilate knew he didn’t look like a king.  He didn’t act like one either.  Jesus so much as admitted this.  If my Kingdom were of this world, Jesus explained, “my guards would fight so that I wouldn’t have been arrested by the Jewish leaders.  My kingdom isn’t from here.”

As far as Pilate was concerned, there was only one King. It was the man he answered to.  It was the man that gave him the power to rule.  The only King Pilate acknowledge was the Emperor of Rome.  All others were insignificant. Please don’t believe that Pilate was somehow a passive bystander as Jesus was led to the cross of humiliation, shame, and death.  Much evil has been done in this world by those claim that Pilate was an innocent bystander, manipulated by the bloodthirsty Jews.  Pilate was the unquestioned ruler.

Jesus stood before Pilate, accused of blasphemy, of which Pilate cared little, and treason, for which Pilate cared a great deal.  There was after all, only one King.

Jesus’ silence ultimately condemns him.  He never directly answers Pilate’s questions.  He never engages in Pilate’s rhetorical games.  Instead of answering questions, like a good subordinate should do, he responds with questions.  The Judean leaders had already made up their mind.  In the Gospel of John, they had decided long ago that he must die.  Pilate, who had little use for a poor Jew from the countryside, wanted only to maintain order.  So he had him crucified like he had thousands of Jews before.

“So, are you a king?” Pilate asked Jesus.  Left unanswered, the question has lingered through the centuries.  It has become a haunting reminder of Jesus’ life, ministry, and his untimely death.  It is a question that remains only for us to answer.

Jesus certainly didn’t look like a King.  He didn’t act like one either.  In two thousand years, that has not changed.  Jesus still does not look like a king, which continues to be a source of conflict in a world that worships power.

So, is Jesus King?

That question is now yours to answer.

Who is the King? Is it Caesar?  Caesar is the one who enforces order with the threat of terror.  His grip on power is only as strong as his army.  It is only as sharp as his sword.  Caesar is the one that rules by dividing.  He rules by accumulating followers that must serve him and him alone.  Any question or challenge to his authority is met with swift and devastating violence.  He guards the status-quo, protects the protected, and comforts the comfortable.  His peace has no justice.  His peace has no compassion.  His peace is no peace at all.

Who is the King? Is it Jesus? Jesus, whose power comes from being anointed by God.  His power comes from forgiving the sins of others, from welcoming the stranger, the outcast, the poor, the widow, the sick, and the foreigner.  His followers come looking not for favor, but for love, compassion and kindness.  His peace comes in the midst of terror.  He comes offering not vengeance, but the bread of life and the living water.  Jesus’ path to rule leads through humiliation, tragedy, mockery, and crucifixion.  Jesus wept for the death of his friend.  He wept for the people of Jerusalem.  His night in Gethsemane was marked with sweat drops of blood as he searched his own courage and found that God’s will was more important than his own comfort.  Is this the King that reigns?

He was the King that never looked like a King, and he lives and reigns and endures forever.  On this Sunday before Advent we pause for a moment and remember what we are celebrating.  Before the Church swings into high Christmas gear, we remember who reigns over it all.  Even though it might not look like it, we know that Christ is the King.

There are still many Caesars and would-be kings.  They sit on paper thrones and wear gilded crowns.  They are the kings of consumption, selfishness, revenge, bitterness, poverty, and disease.  The wield much power, and they continue to ask us all the same questions.

“So, is Jesus the King?”

Ours is the answer.

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Filed under Christianity, Sermons