Sunday, 23 November 2008

Christ the King, Year A, Shaftesbury

Today is the feast of Christ the King. There aren’t many kings around today. A hundred years ago there were many kings.
When some of our congregation were born Germany had a kaiser, but there is a kaiser no more. Austria-Hungary had an emperor, but that emperor is no more and he went the same way as his empire. Italy had a king. Spain had a king, then didn’t, then did.
Earthly kingdoms come and kingdoms go, and this world's kings come and go with them.

It was in midst of this Twentieth Century falling of kings that the Church instituted today’s feast of “Christ the King”. And the Church did so for a very definite reason: to say that though earthly kings come and go, Christ is King FOREVER, His Kingdom will not fail, and that we are FOREVER called to pay homage to Him.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory” (Mt25:31).
‘escorted by all the angels’ –now that is a key indicator about kind of king he is.
Queen Elizabeth, for all of England’s grandeur, pomp, and circumstance, Queen Elizabeth is not escorted by angels. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is not king become the opinion polls show 77% support a continued monarchy.
He will be ‘escorted by angels’ because He made the angels, He made the cosmos, He made our planet, and He made us. He has a claim to the throne that exceeds anything else imaginable. He made the throne, He established the Kingdom, and though He has seen fit to leave us free to abuse His domain, ONE day, He tells us, He will return as Lord and Judge and His Kingdom will be evident for all to see.

His Kingdom is His and will be His because He has the power.
But, as today’s readings remind us, His kingdom is not about power, at least not about power as we usually think of it.
St Paul tells us about Christ’s rank over “every sovereignty, authority and power”(1Cor15). BUT the basis of the claim that St Paul indicates is that Christ died and rose for us –which is not a normal basis of a claim to the throne. It is His love and active CARE for His dominion, for us, that is the deepest claim he makes to demand our allegiance.
He will judge us not merely because He is our creator and sustainer;
He will judge us because He loves us and died for us, and will ask us how we have loved others in return. As today’s gospel indicates (Mt25), He will ask if we did the things He did: did we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, and welcome the stranger.

And His requirement that we care for others is not just indicated in the historical fact that He cared for others when He walked in Palestine 2000 years ago,
Or just indicated in the present fact that one of the ways He cares today is through the good members of His Church,
But it’s also indicated in His promise that He WILL care in a definitive way for the needy of those judged worthy to be with Him at the end of time, as we heard in our first reading from Ezekiel, “I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest –it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong... I shall be a true shepherd to them”(Ezek 34:15).

We have gathered here today, as the Lord calls us to gather and worship Him every Sunday,
And we may not have come here thinking of Him as “king”,
But He IS king, He WILL be king, and His kingdom will not fail.
And we’d do well to remember that fact.

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