Sermons from St
Christ the King
This Sunday was not celebrated in the Church of England when I was growing up. Christ the King Sunday is now celebrated on the last Sunday of the church year in order to prepare us for Advent. So we can ask: What sort of King and what sort of Kingdom. Here are three ways in which we can look at it.
1. King of Heaven
In our Gospel reading Pilate asked Jesus the question, “Are you the King of the Jews”
In Jn 18 Jesus' answer is “My kingdom is not of this world”
so the Kingdom of Heaven/the Kingdom of God (phrases used interchangeably by Jesus) is not a place where kingship is not achieved by strife.
Jesus continues, “For this I was born. For this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.” Jesus' Kingdom is the opposite of what we might expect. Here's and example of the worldly notion of Kingdom:
'There is much controversy over Gibraltar and Spain argue that Britain has broken the Treaty and want Gibraltar back fully under Spanish control.' – Not the present Brexit argument – but the dispute which led to so much loss of life 290 years ago. That siege to retake the Rock proved unsuccessful. A new governor took over making Gibraltar's convent his residence and the Franciscan church became his private chapel. From that day it has been called the King's Chapel. That king was George II but even now, this world's kings come to worship.
The difference between the two types of kings and the two types of kingdom cannot be more stark. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the 'Kingdom prayer of Jesus'. It is about God's fatherly love, providence, forgiveness, and our need of God's direction and protection. The values of Jesus' Kingdom are of love not power and humility not wealth.
2. King of Kings
Jesus is specifically called King of Kings in I Tim 6:15 and Rev: 17:14 and 19:16. These titles hark back to the Old Testament.
In Psalm 93, sung to us by the choir, we see the power of the king with the words:
The Lord is King – made the world so it cannot be moved – established a throne from of old – from everlasting.
Psalm 93 is one of the Royal Psalms – which puts the Kingship of God at the pinnacle of all that is, including creation. The sense of this is conveyed by the Psalmist in the imagery of the flood. Anyone who has seen enormous waves at first hand is in awe at the power of nature and that is no less the case now.
For those who bow to the Kingship of God, we cannot help but see that He is Lord of all. The hymn 'Hail to the Lord's Anointed' – has a line from Psalm 72: Kings shall fall down before Him. And the wonderful Psalm 103, which inspired the hymn 'Praise my soul the King of Heaven' – featured in the wedding of our Queen when still Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip.
Those who have had the privilege of leading worship when monarchs and heads of states are present, see the recognition of a higher authority in the world. In a society which is less deferential to all in authority, it may be difficult to grasp how awesome that title, King of Kings is but if those in such positions ignore it, any values they have are temporary.
3. King of Glory
In our reading from Daniel, our attention is drawn to the King's great glory, 'one like a human being coming with the clouds.'
In the reading's imagery, the son of man comes to the ancient one and was presented before him. He is then given dominion, glory and kingship; and all peoples nations and languages should serve him.
Then in the book of Revelation (chapter 1), Jesus is described as the one 'Who is, was and is to come'. This is reminiscent of the ‘I am’ of Exodus – I was, I am, I will be. This points to the timelessness of God and of Christ. Made us to be a kingdom of priests - coming with the clouds – every eye will see Him
In this passage, Jesus is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end.
Beautiful buildings and glorious artefacts honour and glorify not people but our Saviour, Christ Jesus. The Church of England has been slow to recognise this because of past abuses of the human power given to the Church. This building, Saint Faith's, is in the process of recognizing that. The craftsmanship and artistry along with the theology that inspires and informs our worship environment, are only pointers to greater truths.
This is our glimpse into the future glory – it is a recognition of our place in God's economy. Our time in God's timelessness. This isn't about scaring people into the Kingdom, it is rejoicing in our ultimate destiny. A destiny which brings hope.
One thing that remains the same from my childhood is the ancient collect:
Stir up O Lord the wills of your faithful people
that they, plenteously bringing for the fruit of good works
may by You be plenteously rewarded through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The tradition of Stir up Sunday is to rush home after the service and join the rest of the family in stirring up the Christmas pudding. However, as we prepare for Advent, we need to be stirred up to ensure our lives (or good works, as the collect puts it) as well as our words demonstrate that we are subjects of the King of heaven, the King of Kings, the King of glory and that is reflected in our worship – our time in God's timelessness.
If you will forgive another reference to the Royal Navy, the response to a command is not 'Yes, sir/ma'am' but 'Aye, aye that is – ever, ever. When we submit to Christ as our King, our response must always be the same – Ever, Ever. Our time in the King's timelessness. Amen.