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Christ the King Sermon

Jim Campbell

This week we’re seeing the ending of two seasons. The first one is the end of the Montesano High School football season. Unfortunately, last night the Bulldogs lost a hard fought 13-12 game to the Cascade Christian team. The Bulldogs had one of their best seasons ever, but it did not result in a state championship. If we were in western Pennsylvania or Florida or Ohio or Texas, this result might have the same effect as having lost our loved ones and people might even be fired and such over this, but in Montesano I suspect our lives will go one and we will appreciate the kids involved in this successful season and life experience.

The other season I’m talking about is much closer to us in our Christian experience.

You might have noticed on our weekly lectionary sheet for today—it says “Last Pentecost” at the top! It is complete! Today is our last Sunday of the church season of Pentecost (or the “Green Season”, or “Ordinary Time”, as it is also called). We have just completed twenty-five weeks of the celebration of the Holy Spirit coming into the world at Pentecost, and of learning about the journey of Christ’s ministry as told in the book of Mark in our Gospel readings each Sunday. We will remove the Green hangings in our church that have been up since early June this week, and put up simpler hangings with a Saran Blue color for the next season of Advent.

Let’s look at all that we have experienced during this season of Pentecost. We have had our weekly Sunday worship services of Holy Communion, Healing Prayers and a few Morning Prayer services, our regular Bible Study (mostly on the Book of Acts of the Apostles), and our monthly Bishop Committee meetings and potluck meals. This church community also has:

§         Hosted the Willapa Region meeting held here in June
§         Participated in the Annual Ecumenical Montesano Bible Camp in July, especially working with over 20 preschool children
§         Welcomed the Dean of St. Nicholas Seminary in Cape Coast, Ghana, The Very Reverend Victor Atta-Baffoe to our church to talk about the church and his people in central Africa, in late July. 
§         Conducted an Instructed Communion Service in late August
§         Collected several boxes of school supplies for our local Montesano schools in August
§         Had our Diocesan Bishop Greg Rickel visit us on Labor Day Sunday, where he baptized one and confirmed several other of our members, and talked with us at a wonderful lunch event. We also raised $222 for Bishop Greg’s discretionary fund.
§         Held our annual Rummage Sale in mid September; we raised over $730 for local outreach needs, plus provided a major amount of clothing for the Elma Clothing Bank
§         Welcomed the new TCM Missioner, the Rev. Kim Forman, in late September to learn about our church community and worship with us
§         Blessed 14 dogs, a cat and a picture of a horse in our annual Blessing of the Pets service on St. Francis Day. We also raised through the plate and designated offering at that service $225 for PAWS and Pawfect Connection
§         Several of our people participated at our Annual Diocesan Convention held at Vancouver, Washington in mid October
§         Opened our parish hall doors for Halloween—providing treats for the kids, coffee for the parents and having our restrooms available for all
§         Started a Prayer Beads ministry, including providing beads for the Thursday AA people
§         Started a Discernment Class in November for all who want to learn more about themselves and their possible future ministry at St. Mark’s and the larger church community
And last, but not least, we worked with the Rev. Janet Campbell the past 6 months to reconfigure and beautify our worship space to make its more accessible, more intimate, and less formal, while also learning much more about the reasons for the changes made. (These were described by Janet so clearly in her sermon on November 8th.) [I have posted her sermon on our website so you can read it again if you like.]

This all doesn’t sound very “Ordinary” to me! It has been a very busy Pentecost season at St. Mark’s. 

So, why do we do all of these things at our church? What is the purpose behind all of this?

Today we get at the real meaning behind all that we do at St. Mark’s throughout the Pentecost season, and in fact the entire church year. Today is traditionally known as Christ the King Sunday, or its newer name Reign of Christ Sunday, the Sunday that ends the church calendar year.  This is the day we recognize and declare who Jesus Christ really is, why it is we worship him and do all that we do in our daily lives as a Christian community. 

It is interesting to note where this idea of Christ the King Sunday originally came from. Pope Pius XI published in 1925, a statement of faith which said, “Jesus' Kingship is not obtained by violence. "'Christ,' he says, 'has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.” He instituted the feast of Christ the King in 1925 to remind Christians that their allegiance was to their spiritual ruler in heaven as opposed to earthly supremacy, which was being claimed by Mussolini and Hitler at that time.

Today’s Collect reads: “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 youand the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

What do we mean when we call Christ the Son-- “King of kings and Lord of lords”? What is meant by “under his most gracious rule?” 

We have well-known various and different examples all through human history of those who have been kings or rulers of their areas of influence or domination: 
§         the pharaohs of Egypt
§         kings David and Solomon of the unified twelve tribes of Israel
§         Alexander the Great in the Mediterranean about 150BC.
§         the emperors of the Roman Empire, including Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, Nero, and others
§         the kings and queens of the British Empire and later Commonwealth, including the present Queen Elizabeth II
§         the many rulers of China and Japan for thousands of years
§         the royal families of Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the Middle East
These “kings” have led their “empires”, some benevolently, and some very ruthlessly, with their authority to rule being either through a family lineage, selected by their own people, or many times taking over by force. Many have proclaimed that they rule by the power or authority of God, while others have even claimed to almost be God. Most of these kings possessed or now possess great earthly wealth and possessions. The present royal family of England is estimated to have accumulated a long standing fortune of lands and investments to make them one of the wealthiest families in the world. So it is also with the King of Saudi Arabia, and with several other royal families in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

All of these earthly kings and their wealth are not what we should have in mind when we talk about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the “Kings of Kings”. We are not talking about worldly power, leadership, authority, and wealth. Over the centuries there have been many hymns and praise songs that try to describe God and his Kingdom in earthly terms (“Crown Him with Many Crowns”, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, “Lift High the Cross”, and the more recent “The King of Glory Comes” and “Our God Reigns”), but as well known and great as these may be to us, they do not properly describe what this Heavenly Kingdom is and who Jesus Christ is. 

Even in the Gospels Jesus is given earthly royal context:
§         The Magi ask, “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?”
§         Matthew established that Jesus was of the royal Davidic lineage.
§         After the feeding of the five thousand, the crowd follows Jesus to try by force to make him king.
§         When Jesus enters Jerusalem, the crowd shouts, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”
§         And, he is referred to as “the King of the Jews” several times during the Passion Gospel up to his crucifixion.
All of these references are for kingdoms and kings that are concrete, finite, and time-bound, limiting the scope and realm of God to that which we can describe and see.

The vision of the exalted Christ in the Book of Revelation reading today provides a vision of who Christ really is. John’s address to the seven churches located in what is now Turkey, brings a message of peace, the focus being on the coming of Jesus Christ. He declares Christ in several ways: “the faithful witness” (vs. 5);“the firstborn of the dead” (5); “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (5); the one “who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood” (5);  the one who “made us to be a kingdom (of) priests serving his God and Father” (6); the one who “is coming with the clouds” (7); the one “who every eye will see – even those who pierced him” (7);  “the Alpha and the Omega” (8); the one “who is and who was and who is to come” (8); and“the Almighty” (8) – a term normally reserved for God alone! [The Alpha and Omega are on this wall cross in front of us every week when we worship—Everything, the Beginning and the End—that’s what those symbols say.]

This is quite a formidable list.  Jesus, in John’s view, is no mere mortal.  He is not even an extraordinary mortal, a good man, a prophet, a priest, even a Messiah.  What is presented here is the highest Christology.  This is a Christ who rules over every principality and power, over all political, economic and religious systems and their leaders, and rules even over all and each of us. 

Today we have in many countries and even in our local governments those who preside over their people with many different types of governing models. No matter what the model, the issue of governing power comes up—what is the basis for their power to govern, and how should this be dealt with?

This issue of power showed up in Jesus’ encounter with Pilate in our Gospel reading for today. Jesus asserted that “his realm is not of this world.”  Jesus response to Pilate, basically is: “My kingdom is not made up of the values, structures and people of Rome’s political, economic and religious systems which are designed to oppress, exploit and dominate society for its own wealth-- and power.  If my kingdom were this kind of society, committed to dominate and control the people, then my followers would rise up in revolt and seek to overthrow you by force.  But my kingdom is not that kind of kingdom.  It is a kingdom totally outside your capacity to understand, Pilate, because you understand power only as being unilateral and dominating, and you do not understand the power of relational love in community.  So you and I, Pilate, come from two entirely different kingdoms, two entirely different perspectives of what society and life is to be about, and thus two entirely different “worlds”.

Jesus contrasts the difference between liberating power and coercive power. Jesus’ power is grounded in divine values of grace, transformation, and relationship, not destruction and domination. Healing power enhances unity, interdependence, creativity, and freedom, whether this power reflects divine or human initiative.

Our readings today invite us to look at whether or not our visions of power, truth, and revelation condition each other to how we live. They invite us to explore everywhere in our lives types of power that heal rather than destroy, include rather than exclude, and inspire rather than dominate.

I will close by reminding you what we have been saying in our Post Communion Prayer each week during Pentecost:

Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit,
That we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world
and continue forever in the risen life of Christ our Savior. Amen.