Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of the Church year. Next Sunday we begin a new church season and a new church year with the beginning of Advent. This is a day we acknowledge and remember that Jesus is the Lord of our lives and ruler over our decisions. He is our first and our last, our beginning and our end, our all in all. And so we crown him with many crowns, our king of kings, our Lord of lords.
Christ the King Sunday often gets lost in the shuffle as it happens right around Thanksgiving and right before Advent. Yet, this is one of the most important days of the church year. Do you know how this festival of the church began? Christ the King Sunday is not an ancient festival like Easter or Christmas. In fact, it is less than a century old. It was established by the Pope in 1925. Europe was in chaos. The seeds of evil that were to produce the terror of the Holocaust and World War II were being planted. Against all this chaos and evil, the Pope established the Festival of Christ the King to declare that Jesus Christ is king. The day began as a reminder that Christ is our ruler and the one whose voice we listen to first and above all others. And we need that reminder still.
So if Christ is our King, if Jesus is our Lord, then what does that mean?
Well, if Christ is our King, then violence and anger are not. Christians treasure peace. Jesus, after all, is known as the Prince of peace. If Christ is our king, then we look for ways to live in harmony, to speak peace-fully, to lift each other up, let go of grudges, and make room for each other. I like how Martin Luther talks about this in his explanation of the eighth commandment. He wrote, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way.”
If Christ is our King, then nation, president, or even family is not. Christ commands us to speak respectfully of leaders and to be true and honest and faithful to our families, but Christ is the one to whom we turn for wisdom and direction. If leaders or family members try to direct us in ways that are opposite of what Jesus teaches, then we do the hard work of respectfully disagreeing and working for change and justice.
If Christ is our King, then our stuff is not. Our Christian faith is intimately connected with how we spend money, whether we like to think it is or not. We can’t separate the two. How we spend, how we give, how we worry about money – all of it says something about what we think of Jesus’ words to us about generosity and simplicity. I don’t say this to conjure feelings of guilt, but to remind all of us, to keep wrestling with this. Keep asking ourselves each day if our spending and our collecting and our giving is in line with our faith in Jesus Christ. I wrestle with this all the time – do I need that new book or can I exercise some patience and get it from the library? Do I need this new style of black pants, even though I already have six other pairs of assorted other styles in my closet? Does my giving back to God of my time and resources reflect the myriad of ways my family has been blessed in the last year with health and a warm home and everything we could possibly need? Jesus is Lord, my stuff is not. Are we living like this is true? Keep asking that question.
If Christ is King, then I am certainly not. This Christian life is one of surrender. To submit our lives to Jesus is not easy – especially when the holy spirit seems to move us in so many different ways. If this were not true, we wouldn’t have so many denominations, so many people so fired up about what God really says about this or that. Some of my dearest friends who are also Christian see certain issues very, very differently than I do. Within our own congregation we surely do as well. And most of us have some friends or family who are not Christian, they may hold to a different belief or may claim to have no belief at all. With everyone, we look for ways to build bridges of understanding and harmony whenever possible. Ask questions, share our faith and listen to others as well. We don’t judge because that was never a job God entrusted to us. In James chapter 4 it reads, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” So we let God do the work of judging and we do the work of caring for God’s people – all of God’s people.
And if Christ is King, and I am not – then it means I am no more deserving of comfort and warmth and love and peace and a home or any of the things I treasure – I am no more deserving of those things than anyone else. It was Jesus Christ, our king, who taught us about humility, about letting others have first place, how to heal with gentle hands and words, to be ridiculously generous with grace and mercy and kindness.
That means that as a follower of Christ, until everyone does have enough, and until everyone is treated justly, there is much work to do. Every day we do bits of that here – every time we collect funds or food for others, every time we visit folks in the nursing home or those who are homebound, every time we work on projects to make our community better, every time we share Jesus’ love and acceptance through a kind word or a helpful gesture – especially to those who live on the margins, those whom society is not treating justly, we are showing Christ is our king.
Now all of this is great and we know it’s true – this is what we have been taught our whole lives as Christians. But we might be thinking, what do we do when we live in a world that seems to teach the exact opposite of all of this all the time. Most of what we see – from media to leaders to people around us living quite differently – treats violence and anger and material possessions and self as gods, not Jesus.
I’ll tell you one thing. It’s a super simple thing – but it’s the thing that helps me when I feel overwhelmed by the hate speech I see on television or frustrated by my own materialism or worried about the future for our children. It’s a two-part prayer, really – First, each day I pray God helps me really see others. To get my focus off of me and onto the people around me, that God will help me this day to see a need, a hurt, an emptiness somewhere around me that I might be able to do something about. Then, the second part of the prayer is that God gives me the wisdom for something I can do to help. It might mean praying for that person or need, it might mean sending an encouraging note or phone call, it might mean stopping to see someone or volunteering my time. All I know is that the more often I practice this, praying God gives me the vision to see others and the needs around me and then the wisdom for some small thing I can do to help, the easier it gets to focus on being the kind of change I want to see in the world rather than just festering over all that is wrong.
Christ is our King. His grace sets us free to be God’s people in this world. I’ll pray for you and you pray for me as we work to live in Jesus’ way each day.