November 25, 2006

Christ the King

Well, we've reached the last week of the year of grace 2006, and here's my homily for this weekend. (P.s. I made this homily before I was aware of the recent difficulties in Tonga. So let's remember to pray for their intentions and their peace.)

A few years ago I took a political science course, and in the class I met a guy from the island of Tonga. Now maybe you’ve never heard of Tonga – I know I hadn’t. Tonga is a little island in the south Pacific, and our political science teacher, interested as he was in different systems of government, was very interested in meeting someone from Tonga. You see, Tonga is one of the last places in the world with a real monarchy. They have a real king who actually rules the country.

Now this is pretty foreign to our experience. We’re not used to being ruled by royalty. For us, we are familiar with more modern forms of earthly government: presidents and prime ministers, parliaments and congresses. For us, kings are a thing of the past.

Does this make it hard for us to get into this feast of Christ the King? I don’t think so. Fact is, the kingship of Jesus Christ and the nature of his kingdom are so different from any earthly idea of power and government that perhaps we who don’t have any experience of earthly kings will understand today’s feast more easily.

Think about it. Take a look at Christ the King there on the Cross. What kind of power is that? Instead of earthly power he is nailed to the Cross and can’t even move his hands and feet. Instead of royal robes he is naked and shamed. For a crown he has only the crown of thorns made by his torturers.

What kind of king is this? Pontius Pilate was pretty curious about it. Seeing the beaten and bound Jesus before him, he wondered what kind of king he could possibly be dealing with. And so Jesus described his kingship to Pilate:

For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice.

The kingdom of Christ is about truth, not earthly power. Reigning from the throne of his Cross, Jesus Christ reveals the truth. And the truth is that real power in this world is humility and the giving of oneself for others. It’s not about having it your way, and not the power to influence and control anybody. Real power is humility and the willingness to give of oneself for others. And this is the kind of king we are dealing with in Jesus Christ.

Reigning from the throne of the Cross, Christ the King reveals to us the truth about our world. The true story of the world is not in the halls of power or in the overwhelming suffering of war. It’s not even in the world’s false hope for an earthly peace which is only about everyone being able to pursue their own desires without interference. The real history of the world is not found in the careers of presidents and prime ministers.

Christ the King reveals to us from the Cross that the true kings and queens of this world are those who quietly struggle to love each other, to bear with each other’s burdens, to give of themselves without counting the cost or expecting anything in return. The true story of this world is the story of those who in so many small and forgotten ways, give of themselves for each other, give of themselves for the life of another. And this is the Kingdom of God. It’s the real history of the world, and you won’t see it on CNN.

Jesus explains to Pontius Pilate that his kingdom “does not belong to this world.” The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world, but it is in this world. And the kingdom of Christ is in the world because of you and me. In the book of Revelation we hear today how Jesus Christ

has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.

It is us who are made into the kingdom of God in this world.

We are fortunate here at this parish in so many ways, not the least of which is that we baptize our children here in the midst of the Sunday assembly. In this we have the tremendous privilege of witnessing the very thing we proclaim today in the book of Revelation. In the baptisms we celebrate we see with our own eyes how Jesus Christ makes “us into a kingdom and priests for his God and Father.”

In baptism we witness the royal anointing with oil we have all received. Just as David was anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the greatest of the kings of Israel, and just as Jesus was anointed on his feet by Mary in preparation for his enthronement and glorification on the Cross, we too are anointed in our baptism to share in the kingship of Christ.

You and me, we are the anointed royalty of the kingdom of God. As baptized Christians we are the kings of the world. But our royalty doesn’t get us anything as this world counts power and value. Our royalty is the kingship of Christ the King who rules from the Cross, naked, unable to move, and crowned with thorns.

Our kingdom is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of those who try to follow and imitate Christ by giving of themselves for each other, who offer their efforts and love and lives for the life of the other, indeed for the very life of the world.

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