Christ the King
Introduction and Call to Worship Jesus our Lord calls us to be a part of his Kingdom, that we may seek first God’s values for our hearts and lives. Let us come before God in worship, praise and thanksgiving, praying for that Kingdom to break here among us. Today’s Readings First Reading Jeremiah 23:1-6 The prophet declares God’s denunciation of the false shepherds of Israel who scatter and destroy the sheep. God will raise up true shepherds for the people and a king who will rule with God’s justice and righteousness. Second Reading Colossians 1:11-20 The author prays that the Colossian Christians may know the strength of God’s power and that they may live their lives in joyful gratitude. He celebrates the Son, “the image of the invisible God”, through whom all creation is reconciled to God. Gospel Luke 23:33-43 Jesus is led out to the place of crucifixion, where he is hung between two thieves. One of them scorns Jesus but the repentant thief is promised a place with Christ in paradise. HOMILY “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) We really couldn’t wish for more heartfelt and inclusive words as we gather together to celebrate the wonderful festival of Christ the King. “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” Over this last month, the High Altar and your team of clergy have been adorned with the vibrant colour of red. Despite the beard, this is not because I am auditioning for a role of Father Christmas but because red symbolises the blood that throughout the ages men and women of faith have, by the strength of the Holy Spirit, felt the courage to shed in following Our Lord and Saviour’s example; surrendering their lives so that others may, as we have just heard in our Gospel reading, truly encounter a two-way relationship with God. Within the grand scheme of things, today’s feast of Christ the King is a relatively new celebration in the Church’s liturgical calendar: it was instituted back in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. However, it had the title ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King’ and was celebrated on the last Sunday of October. Now, if you thought it was only politicians, businessmen and those in the public eye believing it’s necessary to evolve and rebrand themselves, you would be wrong. In 1969, and clearly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Pope Paul VI and his advisors felt a more embracing, welcoming and inclusive title would be ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, king of the Universe’. They also moved the date to the last Sunday in the Church’s liturgical diary, before we step back a gear and enter the reflective season of Advent. Perhaps the whole idea of kingship has lost some of its punch compared to the ancient and medieval worlds our ancestors grew up in. In the 21st century, not everybody is as fortunate as the UK to have a devoted monarch like our dear Queen Elizabeth II who, like each one of us, has had her fair share of family issues to cope with but has remained a dependable moral and spiritual foundation for the entire nation. Yes, possibly as a true mark of humility during her 60-year reign, her political voice has – unfortunately but graciously – taken a step back but her dedication to duty and unfailing service are a treasure to witness and an inspiration to many. I cannot remember the year but in one Christmas Day speech her modesty once again shone through as she became the first monarch to publicly share with the nation that, although she is a queen, Jesus is her King who, she continued, is the Saviour, the Prince of Peace, who had been the source of light and life in good times but perhaps more importantly also in difficult periods of her life. Sadly, sometimes the Bible gets bad press as an outdated rule book, whereas in fact it is extremely radical and countercultural in how it views and approaches the way humans express themselves in life. Take for example the world’s understanding of king or queenship: Ideas of a privileged lifestyle, of ruling over others, of being completely detached from reality even if they do go to Pizza Express in Woking, possibly come to people’s minds. But, time and time again throughout scripture Jesus refreshingly turns this idea on its head. He is neither precious nor dictatorial or aloof. Rather, he is king of the whole of humanity, a “Servant King”; his kingdom is one of love, service and sacrifice, and most wonderfully, through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are all blessed and encouraged to witness these kingly gifts to the entire world. If, in our busy lives, we start to forget our Baptism calling, all we need to do is utter those immortal words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Amen.