Christ the King
As this Sunday was previously known and loved as the Sunday next before Advent, often know as Stir up Sunday, I have included the words of the collect for today and the post communion prayer – which was formerly the collect here. These well-known and well-loved words have always been for me a beginning of the anticipation of Christmas.
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth
the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Collect and post communion for Christ the King
Reflection for Christ the King
Ephesians 1: 15-end, Matthew 25: 31-end
For someone like me who preaches occasionally it is surprising how often certain occasions come more than once. One example in my case is the feast of St Michael and all Angels and the other is Christ the King – in four years of preaching, they have both occurred 3 times. It would be reasonable to assume that I have managed to acquire an understanding of them by now, but unfortunately, I am as much as sea as I ever was.
Regarding the Kingdom Season – from All Saints Day to Advent, the Church of England says this about today: ‘The annual cycle of the Church’s year now ends with the Feast of Christ the King. The year that begins with the hope of the coming Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal sovereignty. The ascension of Christ has revealed him to be Lord of earth and heaven, and final judgement is one of his proper kingly purposes. The Feast of Christ the King returns us to the Advent theme of judgement, with which the cycle once more begins.’ I should therefore take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new year, as our new church year begins next Sunday.
I often feel that to celebrate the kingship of Christ should be to point out something that we were aware of all along. The book of Revelation makes it plain that however many battles there may have been or may be to come, and however often we feel that the forces of evil are getting the upper hand, the final victory has already been won and Jesus is most definitely reigning triumphant. The original film of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has a repeated line in it which I like – ‘it will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end’.
If we are to celebrate Christ the King, then what should His kingdom look like? Jesus often spoke in parables, and while it could be said that all his parables relate to the Kingdom, there is a large group of them in which he specifically refers to the Kingdom of God. In Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels, Jesus frequently gives an illustration beginning with the words ‘the kingdom of God is like…’. We need to be careful about how we read these, as Jesus is not saying that the kingdom is like a mustard seed, yeast or a valuable pearl – more that the whole story illustrates something about the kingdom although I was interested to read only this morning that mustard grows almost as a weed in the Mediterranean world. Rather as I suspect we think of horseradish or wild garlic, once you had mustard growing, although it was useful and good for the health, it was almost impossible to eradicate. Perhaps the kingdom is like mustard seed after all – it seems to flourish most when under persecution and has not stopped spreading for 2000 years.
If the kingdom parables illustrate different aspects of the kingdom, our gospel readings since All Saints Day give us an idea of how inhabitants of the kingdom are expected to behave. Over the past few weeks, we have read from the beatitudes and the parables of the wise and foolish bridesmaids and last week of the talents. One thing that is plain in all of them, is that God’s kingdom is not something that is to come, His kingdom is now.
The season concludes today with the King sitting in judgement at the end of time. The story is well known to us all, and never fails to make me feel uncomfortable – I don’t know what its affect is on you. In biblical times, the handing out of justice was a task of leadership – the early leaders of God’s people were called Judges and you can read about some of them in the bible book of that name. The degree of justice depended very much on the calibre of the individual ruler. We now have Magna Carta to thank for the beginning of the separation of government and the judiciary and the ruling that everybody, even the monarch is subject to the rule of law. At the time I am writing this, the governments both in this country and the USA are in some disarray with what would appear to be power struggles, both in 10 Downing Street and in the White House. This is despite the fact that numbers infected with and dying from Covid 19 are going up at an alarming rate, and the negotiations on Brexit seemingly nowhere near completion with less than 50 days to go before it happens. It is at times like this that I am profoundly grateful that Christ is King, and the things of this world will pass away.
We have a hope – we are a people of hope, and our hope is wonderfully described in our reading from Ephesians. I always enjoy reading Paul’s writing when he gets carried away with the glories that are to come, and seems to run out of superlatives to describe the wonders that God has in store for us. Let’s hear it again:
‘with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all’. I do hope that for the rest of the day, the hymn ‘At the name of Jesus’ will be in your head after reading that – I wish we could sing it now!
Head over all things for the church which is his body – the church which is made up of the saints on this earth. The church which is us. We have a hope, and we have a king. May it be our constant joy to live as people of his kingdom.