As one who loves liturgy, I am excited that tomorrow is Christ the King Sunday. It is a time to celebrate God’s reign, the incarnation and lordship of Jesus. It is so holy, I can’t help but to sing: “All hail the power of Jesus’ name…bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him Lord of all!”
One of the texts for Christ the King Sunday is Revelation 1:4-8, in which John, the exiled author, envisioned “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” This expresses the simple, eternal truth that God is God and humanity is not. There is only one ruler of all the earth; humans are mere characters in the larger drama of God’s unfolding history. The irony is that in this history the powerful are made weak and the weak are made strong.
Consider the Exodus story. Murderous and cowardly Moses told the mighty Pharaoh to let God’s people—those powerless slave people—go. Predictably, Pharaoh asked which god Moses represented, for Pharaoh’s universe was one in which many gods existed. Even Pharaoh was a god! Moses simply spoke the truth: Pharaoh was not in charge; he was a no-god.
In the gospels, a peasant from Nazareth confronted the most powerful empire in his day. By parable and miracle, Jesus humbled both the Jewish and Roman aristocracy by reminding them that, in spite of all of their authority, God was still in charge. Jesus’ treasonous kingdom message was what ultimately got him killed, but Jesus’ resurrection only proved that God was God and Rome was not.
Our nation has a predisposition towards liberty. When King George III fastened his grip on thirteen colonies so long ago, a band of brave patriots cried, “Give me liberty or give me death.” We are still skeptical of kings and kingdoms, and we do not like lords telling us what to do.
We have been without a king for so long, we forget what it’s like to have one. A lord is antithetical to liberty, so trying to celebrate Christ the King Sunday is like trying to speak a foreign language—we call Christ lord but we can’t remember precisely what that means.
We fail to understand that when we call Christ King, it means that he is lord over every aspect of who we are and what we do. In Christ Jesus we gain true liberty because he frees us from our lust for power and our endless selfish wants.
Calling Christ Lord also gives us a divine responsibility. In Revelation John wrote that Jesus “made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father.” We are royal priests who have a unique role and who are attentive to the will of the King. Priests also remind those who try to usurp the King that they are not in charge. It takes courage to speak truth to power, even if it rubs against popular politics.
We are also heralds who declare that Jesus will reclaim all of creation for himself one day. This season two movies, “2012” and “The Road,” will address end-of-the-world themes. Myth and popcorn can make people have the false sense that an apocalypse is something of mere fiction; Revelation shocks us with the reality that there will be an end and that Christ will usher in a new heaven and earth.
Christ the King Sunday is an important day, a time to stop trying to do things our way instead of God’s way. “Come, Thou Almighty King, help us Thy name to sing, help us to praise: Father, all glorious, o’er all victorious, come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!”