Hail to the King of Kings!
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
“God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God!” – Luke 19:38
This Sunday brings us to the end of the Liturgical year – this is the last Sunday in the Season of Pentecost. In most churches in the western tradition it is called Christ the King Sunday, while the Protestant calls it the Reign of Christ Sunday. Though worded or expressed differently – it means the same thing. It tells us about the primacy of our Lord Jesus in this world and the next. It recognizes and proclaims that Christ is the King of kings.
The past weeks and days have brought us face to face with several bad, frightful and ugly things around us. There is still the COVID virus ever mutating in different variants. Natural and man-made calamities assail us incessantly. And our lessons last week tell us of similar things, of calamities and wars and fearful events and signs in the heavens. These are bad and frightful things. Then we are confronted with daily dosages of news of corruption and other ugly things happening in our society; accusation of bribery, of graft, of too much politicking to the detriment of delivery of social services particularly to the least of our bretheren. Bad, ugly, and frightful things.
Amidst all these frightful, bad and ugly things that surround and engulf us, comes a fitting message this morning: Jesus Christ is King and he reigns in this world and in the next. The bad, the ugly, and frightful things are the antagonists that challenges and prevents the full reign of Christ today.
On this Christ the King Sunday and the last of the church year we hear of ultimate truth. The source of this truth may be otherworldly, but it is all about this world. It is this world that God loves. Christianity claims that God became flesh in Christ for the sake of the world. We proclaim a God who suffers with us, whose care and love are known in our daily lives. Christ reigns among all those who are weak, poor, or in need, and we discover this truth anew as we work for an end to injustice, poverty, hatred, and violence.
What kind of king is Jesus? He holds no scepter for recognition but a towel of service. Rather than demanding that people bow before him, Jesus stoops before people in order to wash their feet, cool their fevered brows, touch their sores, and ease their pains. Instead of commanding a well-armed militia to advance his message by might, Jesus commissions a straggly group of common people intoxicated by his love to spread the gospel of peace respecting people’s freedom. Jesus prefers giving away everything that he has to the poor rather than collecting taxes. And the only throne from which he reigns is a cross.
For those of us who have lost sight of the truth that heaven is our final destination, the feast of Christ the King invites us to start living our lives as Jesus taught us to live them. In all we do we seek to grow more like Christ, for he becomes our king only when we give him our allegiance. In practice we often withhold that loyalty. How many of us can truthfully say of family life that Christ is the head of our house, the unseen guest at every meal and the silent listener to every conversation. To recognize Christ as the king of our lives may mean a change of heart, like the good thief in the cross, and a more honest approach in our way of living. Decisions may have to be made on our part about abandoning the short cuts we have been taking in our daily dealings with others. Selfishness, hatred and injustice must give way to Christlike attitudes if we are to follow his message.
The rule of Jesus occurs within the hearts and minds of all who follow Jesus. The kingdom is within. Repeatedly Jesus described a realm of rule dramatically different from a realm controlled by powers of the world. He spoke of people’s inability to define the location of the realm of his rule, explaining that the realm of God’s rule is within a person. ‘Identification of Jesus with a singular political party, candidate, or system constitutes an invitation of misunderstanding, confusion, and ultimately a portrayal of Christianity that does no resonate with what it means to be a Christian. Power takes the place of service. Public relations campaigns attempt to build the kind of loyalty that is possible only as a result of suffering love. People are left to believe that they can vote on a sovereignty or advance a loyalty that resides totally within the providence of God. When Christ rules in people’s lives, these people cannot rest until the compassion of Christ finds social expression. People who live in the realm of Christ’s rule practice Christ’s way of life – feeding the hungry, freeing captives, educating closed minds, forgiving sins, lifting the fallen, and speaking the good news.’ (C. Welton Gaddy)
The kingship of Christ is made real by allowing God to do his work in us and through us. It is a life-long process involving a daily invitation to conversion. He calls us, who are his subjects, to take his side in the struggle of furthering the growth of his kingdom. On this last Sunday of the Christian year, let us happily affirm the reign of Christ. As we renew our commitment to the reign of Christ in our lives, let us plead for submission to the rule of Christ within the lives of others – affirming the altered values, changed thinking, new visions, and priorities of redemption that prevail where Jesus rules. Then, together, we can declare with impassioned conviction, “Hail to the King of kings!”
Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Proper 29 Collect, ECP-BCP)