November 22, 2015
This is Christ the King Sunday. If you don’t know it already, Christ the King is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The liturgical year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, which believe it or not is next week!
As I’ve said before, the liturgical year is the series of celebrations of the various parts of the life and ministry of Jesus, spread out over the entire year. In the early days of the Church there was only one such celebration. It was the celebration of (what?) the Resurrection of Jesus. That event was celebrated every week. And it was celebrated on the first day of the week. That’s why our Christian Sabbath is Sunday, not Saturday, like the Jewish Sabbath.
Well, later on, the “Church Fathers” decided to celebrate Easter once a year – on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. (Yeah Thanks!) And they laid out the story of Jesus in that series of celebrations all year long. And this is the end of that church year. It is also the culmination of the story of Jesus. Everything that he did, everything that he was and is, leads up to the place where he is, and he will be, King!
With that in mind, it has become our tradition here at Eddington to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” on this day. And I think it’s a good tradition. For years the question has been asked, whether that song should be sung at Christmas or Easter. And I’ve heard it done both ways. And I think you’ll agree that both of those events – Jesus’ birth and resurrection – certainly warrant a grand and glorious musical tribute, like the one Handel wrote.
Well, I’m not sure I even remember correctly in which part of Handel’s oratorio that chorus is found. (I’m sure somebody will tell me!) But the more I’ve thought about it over the years, the more appropriate it seems to me that we sing it here on Christ the King Sunday. Because the culmination of the life and ministry of Jesus is that “…he shall reign for ever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah!”
So, on Christ the King Sunday, I find myself drawn to this passage from Colossians one. This is a wonderful passage which is entitled, in the RSV, “The Supremacy of Christ.” This is a wonderful description of who Jesus was and is. Hear these words again, keeping in mind “Christ the King.”
“He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
Isn’t that a great passage for Christ the King Sunday? And as we read that, I think we are able to hear the two ways we think of Christ as being “King.” He is King now because of who he is. He is head of the “spiritual kingdom,” which he said is “in our midst.” And he will be King of the future kingdom talked about in the end of time – the “Eschatological Kingdom.”
That was the image and the understanding of Jesus that Paul was trying to give the people. And it’s the image I hope we have today, if not just a little.
People in our world and sometimes people in our churches are not all that sure about Jesus. They don’t talk about him all that much because they’re worrying about offending people. They’re worrying about the many other religions in the world and how they all fit together. And I don’t want to belittle the difficult nature of that ongoing dialogue with other religions. But, for our part, as Christians – as “Jesus followers,” like we talked about way back in the beginning of the year, we need to know the nature of this Jesus we follow. And the nature of Jesus is that he is one with God the “King of the Universe,” as our Jewish friends say at the beginning of so many of their prayers. “Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe…” I’m sure Paul, a Pharisee, a “good Jewish boy,” would have had that in mind as he wrote these words.
Christ the King Sunday is a good day to remember all that. It’s a good day because no, Christ the King Sunday doesn’t get the same “media attention,” the same “hype,” as Christmas or Easter! And so I think the question needs to be, do we give it our attention?
In thinking about that, I’d give you the same challenge I gave last year. The important thing to consider is not whether or not Christ is King. The important thing to think about is the question, “Is Christ our king?” If not, this is just another “liturgical day.”
As we prepare for this sacrament, I invite you to think about that question in a time of silent prayer.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, for you have indeed come to be among us in your son Jesus. Help us to know he is King, and help us to follow in his kingdom, rejoicing in his love and Grace. For we pray in his name, Amen.