Gospel: John 18:33-37
Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Another Church year comes to an end today. Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of the calendar of the church, which leads us from anticipating the Christ in Advent to encountering the Christ born in to our world, from the crucifixion to marveling at the Christ’s new life, and finally to following the Christ into the future and trusting his holy spirit to empower us.
This Sunday is also called the Reign of Christ. Because not only is it about Christ as King and lord of creation – but it’s about his kingdom and reign, how it works, what it looks like. Unlike much of our church calendar, this is not an ancient festival. It’s not a thousand year old tradition built upon the generations of Christians before us. This celebration was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in the wake of WW1, to combat and counter fascism and nationalism, secularism and communism – the harbingers of Nazi Party soon to sweep through Germany, etc.
In lifting up the Rule of Christ – the church stands opposed to totalitarian claims of these ideologies, fascism and any attempt to trust authoritarian governments and the powers of this world above trusting God. Pope Pius XI wrote regarding the feast: If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. (Quas Primas, 33)
So while its not an ancient feast, it is a both a relevant and timeless one. We never get tired of fighting each and giving voice to other over ideologies and positions which do not give dignity to all of human life and place power in the hands of the violent, wealthy, and popular. We never seem to get tired of turning inward instead looking around us. When will we stop idolizing that which can never bring us peace and security, and turn to God. We recently ended a study on the book of Revelation and talked about the truth that every generation faces evil and temptation, and powers that oppose the Lamb.
One of the foremost Lutheran scholars on the book of Revelation reminds us that the purpose of Revelation’s apocalyptic story is to empower an alternative community as followers of the Lamb Jesus, and to strengthen people’s witness to God’s reign of love and hope in the face of evil. https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/christ-the-king-2/commentary-on-revelation-14b-8-5
And when we say thy kingdom come, when we say the kingdom is at hand, when we say that the reign of God is breaking into our world, that means we can live in that kingdom.
We can align our values and our actions with that administrations policies and practices. These policies and practices center in love of neighbor and love of enemies. Caring for the most vulnerable, and giving away your own stuff in the process. Trusting God above all else, and looking for our security there, not in weapons or wealth, power or privilege. Seeking to serve rather than be served, and testifying to the truth of God’s love incarnate in Jesus Christ. “who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, Made us to be a kingdom” This is the kingdom we are made to be, and the kingdom that is coming.
Vivian and I watched Raya and the Last Dragon on Friday night. If you don’t have a small child – Raya is the latest Disney princess, a girl warrior trusted by her widower father to guard the last dragon gem. A piece of magic imbued with great power from the last dragon. In a once harmonious land, conflict and distrust has led to civil war, poverty, illness, and death. Her father had a dream that the land could be reunited – but once the gem was broken that seemed like an impossible task.
Gathering pieces of this gem from far flung areas of the kingdom, Raya eventually must confront her nemesis, another girl warrior who has already betrayed her once, who holds the very last piece of the gem, and its not about to hand it over, even for the sake of the world. So Raya gives her gem over, and sacrifices her own life in the process. In a broken kingdom, marked by distrust, displays of power through violence, and seeking your own security by putting down others, Raya says she’ll take the first step. She shows trust to her nemesis that she will use the pieces to save the kingdom and bring them back together.
As I wrote that mini-synopsis, I realized the part I left out was that after the gem was broken, after the kingdom was broken, Raya spent a long time not trusting anyone. Living alone, as a nomad, realizing that any relationship could be betrayed, suspicious of all, and fiercely guarding what she believes is her only hope to just get her father back. Because the restoration of the kingdom is a pipe dream that she’ll never be able to accomplish because of all these other distrusting and selfish people. But she was empowered to take a first step.
We know that there’s no way we do any of this on our own, and in fact we believe that the Holy Spirit gives faith as a gift. In the midst of broken kingdoms, we have faith that God is still at work. We just reviewed the creed with our confirmation students last week and remembered the third article of the Apostles Creed. That is it the Holy Spirit that calls gathers, enlightens and sanctifies us – and the whole church. We will be learning the Lord’s Prayer with Luther’s small catechism this year – and rediscovering that when we pray, thy kingdom come, we know that The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also. May we be empowered to take that first step, that God would show the kingdom through us. Amen.