One beautiful morning a few years ago, we looked up, high into the sky at the amazing towers of le Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris. My wife, Candace, and I were visiting my cousin who was staying in Paris at the time. No trip to Paris would be complete without one or two or three visits to Notre Dame. I’m a pastor who loves history, so there’s no greater thrill than visiting a world class ancient cathedral. While the cathedral building was interesting, what was just as interesting was this group of people dressed in large, bright red robes, carrying flags and large icons of Jesus who gathered in the courtyard in front of Notre Dame. I, of course, had to inquire about this group.
It turns out they were Polish Catholics travelling Europe proclaiming “Christ is King.” They were passing out these prayer cards with a painting of Jesus in similar clothes to what they were wearing. In this painting Jesus is wearing a red, gold trimmed robe; a crown; and holding a staff. The prayer at the bottom reads “O Lord, Thou art the King of our Homeland and each of us.” They were proclaiming what we declare again today that Christ is King.
Today marks the end of the church year, making next Sunday not only the first day of Advent, but the beginning of the church liturgical year, the season of hope for Christ’s coming again not just at Christmas, but at the second coming. This day centers on the truth that Jesus, the crucified and risen Christ, is the one whom God chose to rule over all creation. This day might be a challenge for all of us, as we live in such an individualized culture, where our authority is often the individual self. In our culture, we make many other things king; our own politics, security, way of life, those things become our own little kingdoms. In this context then, what does it mean for us to declare that Christ is King?
Proclaiming Christ as King means that we recognize that his rule and kingdom knows no end, nor does it have any boundaries, therefore we pray for God’s rule on earth, and we, as followers of King Jesus, are called to live within that kingdom. As the news has been filled with violence, terrorism and fear in recent days, we might be more inclined to pray more deeply and courageously for Christ to be king over the world and especially over our lives. We are called to pray and proclaim Christ’s Kingdom and to live it as well. Today we’re called to examine our lives and authentically reflect on where Jesus is not yet King and authority over certain parts of our lives.
Proclaiming Christ as king is not about ousting an earthly leader with a heavenly one. We’re not referring to a political coup here. As we heard the reading from Gospel of John again this morning, we might wonder if Pilate thought this, as he appeared to trying to figure out his competition in a more political manner rather than spiritual one. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked Jesus. Is he a king, a ruler who will call for the end of Pilate’s rule? Yet Jesus’ response does not sound like an early king. “My kingdom is not of this world. My kingdom is from another place” Jesus replied.
Jesus was not announcing his candidacy for the next open seat in Roman politics; instead he was announcing the way we connect with God and one another. It’s about the way we live. If we simply proclaimed Jesus as earthly king over all the other kings or leaders, then most of our lives could remain untouched. If we think of our allegiance in the same way we swear an oath to Caesar, the monarch or president, earthly leaders, we could more or less conduct our lives as usual. We could simply say our allegiance is a private affair and proclaim with our lips “Lord, Lord” yet we know that Jesus said not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom. It’s not just about Jesus talk; it’s about living into this Jesus Kingdom.
The kingdom that Jesus brings is a whole new empire, a whole new reality for our lives, where nothing is the same. When we proclaim Christos Kyrios, Greek for “Christ is Lord” everything gets turned upside down, actually its right side up. Relationships rule in this kingdom. Love is the law. Mercy and grace permeate every part of this kingdom. We follow the king who doesn’t rule with an iron fist, but an open hand; a king who forgives, offers grace, shows love and offers us life giving purpose. This is a king I want to follow. Honestly though, I’m not sure how long Jesus’ kingship would last today. Jesus only survived three years of teaching and ministry. I’m not sure what Jesus’ approval rating would be, he might not even make it on any of the major news outlets, but what I do know is that he is a king I want to follow. Actually, he is the king that I must follow.
As Jesus and Pilate speak inside the palace, Jesus tells the Roman ruler, “You say that I am a king. The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify or witness to the truth.” What is truth? This Truth is that the fullness of God came to earth in this person named Jesus, who is God’s Word made flesh. The truth that Jesus’ disciples heard at the Last Supper when he offered them the “new commandment” to “Love one another as I have loved you.” The truth that we hear later in the New Testament from 1 John 4 is the truth of who Jesus is and the kingdom he brought: “Beloved, let us love each other, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love has not known God, for God is love.”
Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, who is the Director of Worship Resources in the UMC wrote: “This is the Truth to which King Jesus came to bear witness. God is Love. And so the kingdom of God, and the kingship of Jesus, is all about letting and making way for God’s love to flow and resound throughout all creation.”
What does it mean to proclaim Jesus as king we ask this day? It means that we witness to the Truth that Jesus brought, that God is love. And we live our lives by living in the new reality of this new kingdom with new values of love, grace and mercy. As we hear of these new values in this new kingdom of Jesus, let us truly reflect on our lives today. Where is Jesus not yet king and authority in our lives? We have been talking about stewardship over the last several weeks. Is Jesus king over my finances? We will gather with family and friends next week for Thanksgiving. Is Jesus authority over our families and relationships? As we enter into the Holiday season, we have to ask, Is Jesus King over my time? As we continue to see images flooding our purview from Paris and Syria of death and destruction, and refugees in need, again we have to ask, Is Jesus King over our personal, national and international response to the issues world faces? Where do our lives need to change to reflect the truth of Jesus’ kingship of love, grace and mercy?
Earlier this fall, my 8 year old nephew, Talan, came to visit from Fort Wayne. We decided to walk through beautiful Holiday Park, which is beautiful this time of year. Talan is really into knights and kings right now, so as we were walking through the park he made the request that I begin calling him King Talan. I would respond “Yes my liege” or “My Sire”. He would also request that I would play a royal fanfare on my phone with the trumpets proclaiming Talan as king. Yes, he’s a smart little kid.
If we truly believe that Christ is king, as we proclaim this day, then we would allow Jesus to have authority over our lives. We wouldn’t simply say “My liege”, we would walk around proclaiming in all we do that we have a glimpse of this new kingdom, this new reality that King Jesus has brought us and will bring the fullness of when he comes again. If we believe with all we are that the Christian faith is not just about an allegiance to a different king, but the entrance of the new kingdom, then we know that our faith can’t be a private affair. Instead, our willingness to be loyal to King Jesus means that our faith is not individualistic, but our faith is to be lived out.
As I met that group of Christians outside of Notre Dame in Paris that day, they gave me a prayer card. At the top it stats: “The Act of Enthronement” with a prayer. May we enthrone Christ as King over our lives, every aspect of our lives; our politics, our security and our way of life, that we may become an offering to the King of kings and live out the values of his kingdom of love, grace and mercy. “All Hail, King Jesus!”
Let us pray: Almighty God, you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the King of your Kingdom. Make us loyal followers of Jesus in all we do. Give us strength and courage to live into the new reality of Jesus’ new kingdom where peace, love and mercy reign. We crown you King, O Jesus, with our lives. Amen.
This message was offered on Christ the King Sunday at Meridian Street United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 22nd, 2015.
You can listen to the message here: http://meridianstreet.org/sermons/