November 25, 2012 (Christ the King)
Christ the King, Last Sunday After Pentecost, Year B
The Rev. Elizabeth A. B. Tesi
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93;
Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
So, who can tell me when the New Year begins? For all those of you who are insisting it is Jan. 1, thank you. You are wrong, so wrong. This is my new calendar, and it starts on December 2, a whole month ahead of you slackers. This is, in fact, the last Sunday of our year. Next Sunday, we begin Advent and the First Sunday of the New Year. We end Year B today and enter Year C in our lectionary cycle.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. As the days grow shorter and we head to that season of Christmas lights and all sorts of warm baked things, the insides of our homes get warmer while the world around us grows dark and cold. The final notes of triumph ring out over our church year, a trumpet call proclaiming Christ as King. It is no mistake that, before we begin all over again next week in Advent, we now celebrate Christ the King Triumphant.
Can you tell me a little bit about what you expect of a King? When I asked the kids that question at the 9:30 service, they told me that a king was in charge of a country, and that he wore a crown. He made laws and did stuff. Personally, when I address a king or my ruler, I would expect that King, at the very least, to be able to tell me of which country he is King, and what his plans include. Yet this is not Christ’s course of action. Instead, he insists that his Kingdom is beyond the temporal reality of this world. God’s Kingdom is immense.
In the gospel, we enter the story at a very dramatic moment. Pilate is struggling with this strange man, brought before him, accused of claiming Kingship. This would be a very big problem for the Roman government. The Romans recognize only the Emperor as their political ruler. If the Jews would just accept that, they’d be much more tractable subjects. But they have continued to insist on a belief that a Messiah was coming for them, a King of their own. Pilate matches wits with Jesus, trying to verbally trap him. If he can catch him claiming kingship, he catches a traitor. If he catches him denying kingship, another Messiah is dethroned.
Jesus refuses to get caught in that trap. He turns the answer to a larger purpose: My kingdom is not of this world, he says. He draws a picture of a kingdom larger than this very planet, of a supernatural kingdom, of an eternal reign. He draws the image of a reign of God greater than any individual. Christ is King, but not of any nation or people. Christ is king of our hearts and minds.
We know, at some level, what it is like to be a part of something great than us. This week, I read a book that describes this connection in terms of running away. When we were little kids, didn’t we at some point get mad enough at our families to want to run away? Most people did. Back when I was a little kid, the child psychologists encouraged our parents to reason with us, to have us explain our wishes to run away, and to intellectually engage us. In the Ramona books (a children’s series set in Portland, just a few hours north of us),Ramona wants to run away. Ramona’s mom helps her pack by making the suitcase hopelessly too big and heavy to carry. Today, however, the train of thought is much different. Parents today are encouraged to simply tell their child, “No”. No, you may not run away. End of story. Not having children myself, I can’t tell you how that works in real life. Good luck, parents! But I can see how it could take an angry, hurting little kid and promise her that she is indeed beloved. No, you may not run away, because you are beloved.
Isn’t that what we too long for? For a God who loves us when we thrust him or ourselves away. That is the gift of Christ as a king beyond the kingdoms. On Christ the King Sunday, Jesus gives us this challenging model of thinking of our world, and our relationships, as bigger than each of us, bigger than even him. “My kingdom is not of this world,” he says. God’s kingdom- God’s love- extends beyond all our understanding.
As we reach the end of our year, we celebrate Christ Triumphant as King. We do this by gazing upon him at his weakest, as he calls us to hold in focus that as god’s people, we are part of a great kingdom beyond all things. We are a people of a God who refuses to let us go, whose love extends beyond all borders. “My kingdom is not of this world,” says Christ, insisting that his love is not contained within any boundaries. We aren’t his subjects, after all. We are his beloved people.