The Kingdom of Our Lord – November 22, 2020, Christ the King Sunday
Daniel 7:13-14, Revelation 11:15-19
November 22, 2020
We’ve reached the last day of the Liturgical year! So at least that part of 2020 is over! Right? This is Christ the King Sunday. And Christ the King is the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar. The first Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent, which is next week!
So, this is the last Sunday. But it’s not just an end! It’s more than that! It is the culmination of the entire Church year. It is what all the other events in the liturgical year have lead up to. Jesus’ birth, his ministry, his passion, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension, have all pointed to this eventuality, this conclusion – that Jesus Christ is King! That’s the end of the story! As John wrote in the Revelation, and as Handel so magnificently set to music, “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. And he shall reign for ever and ever, Amen.”
As you may know, there has always been a bit of a debate over when to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Is it a Christmas thing? Or is it an Easter thing? I’ve long thought it to be an Easter thing, because it reflects Jesus’ triumph over the grave that took place, and that we celebrate, on Easter Sunday.
But in recent years, it has occurred to me that this is the Sunday we should sing it – Christ the King Sunday! And that’s what we’ve been doing. (Either because it makes sense, or because you’re all just humoring me…) But this is the Sunday we should sing it, because Christ the King is what that song is all about. Think about that when you hear those words again this morning.
Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.
And he shall reign forever and ever, King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Hallelujah!
That’s it! Just three lines! And yet it has been set to some of the most majestic music ever written. Tradition has it that we stand when that chorus is sung. And that’s because King George II stood as he heard it for the first time in 1743. And, of course, when the king stood, everybody stood. That’s what you did.
Some say he stood because he was so inspired when he heard it. But I was reading this week that some believe the king may have simply needed to stretch his legs. The Messiah is a really long Oratorio, it takes over two and a half hours to do the whole thing! And the king may simply have felt the need to get some circulation going. It was sort of like their version of the “Seventh Inning Stretch.”
I prefer to think of the inspirational side of that story. And after all, over the years, some inspirational things have come from some less inspirational reasons. So, whatever the case, I am glad to stand for this majestic and inspiring piece of music. Won’t you join me? For in those three lines is embodied the message of Christ the King Sunday! “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ!”
That reminds me of what Paul wrote in the opening chapter of the book of Colossians. Listen to these magnificent words!
“He (Jesus) is the visible image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For 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 fulness 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)
Paul was really on a roll there! And I’m glad he was! That’s the kind of thing we need to hear about Jesus! Because far too many people in this world think of God in terms that are very small, and of a Jesus who is very “manageable.” Both are neither of those things! And Christ the King Sunday is a great day to remember that!
In my statement of faith, (which you can read on our website!) I said that I believe in God who was so wonderfully depicted by C. S. Lewis in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” In that profound “children’s story,” Jesus is portrayed as the great lion Aslan. And he is described as being an “un-tame lion.” And when the question was asked, “But is he safe?” the answer was, “of course he’s not safe. But he is good.”
Do you get that? God is not “safe” in terms of being finite, of being manageable, of being “tame.” And we cannot make him so, just by saying that’s what we believe about him, or by the way we treat him. As I’ve said many times, God is who God is – despite what we might say we believe about him. There are too many people in this world who are far more interested in what they think something is, (or should be) than they are about finding out what that thing really is! And it’s the same with God. Too much theology is done in terms of deciding what we believe about God, rather than seeking to find out what and who God really is!
It’s the same with Jesus. There is a movement in this world to “humanize” Jesus. That is, there’s an attempt to “bring out his humanity.” All kinds of TV shows and movies and books have tried to portray him as being very “human.” And that’s fine, because Jesus was “fully human.” But I think that too often that’s an attempt to take away his deity and strip him of his power. Because there are some who are uncomfortable with what has been said about Jesus – for two thousand years now – that he is also “fully divine.” They would rather say that Christ is not King!
We cannot take away God’s power or Jesus’ authority. I don’t believe that’s possible, except in a person’s mind. I believe we need to be careful about what we think about something in comparison to what that thing might really be! That’s especially true about what we believe about God. Belief should always be based on what is revealed to us and how it is revealed to us. Belief should not be based on what we think or feel about it!
I am very adamant about that! And I hope you understand why. Because Christ is King! We can know that for sure! And on this Sunday, we celebrate that Christ is the king now, and he is king in the world to come. He is “the once and future king!” (That book title describes him well!) And the question is – and this is the question we should ask every year at this time – is he your king?
Christ can be, and is, the sovereign over all things. But do we recognize his sovereignty over us? All of those things we have celebrated throughout the year, his birth, his ministry, his death, his resurrection, all point to his “Preeminence,” as Paul stated it to the Colossians. But does he have preeminence to us?
That’s always the question. And I ask you to ask yourself that question, once again, this Christ the King Sunday. And I call on you today to confirm, or re-confirm, your allegiance to him.
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. And he shall reign forever and ever, King of kings and Lord of lords. Hallelujah! Amen.
Eternal, we acknowledge this day Jesus Christ as king. We are glad that you have put all things under his dominion. Help us to trust him as our Rock and our Fortress. Help us to know he walks beside us each day. For these things we pray in his name, Amen.