CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: The Feast of Christ the King
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Kings and queens have not been part of our experience for the 245 years of this republic. We don’t have much to do with them, aside from the national fascination with the English royal family, perhaps. They certainly have nothing to do with us. How may we then connect with the imagery of Jesus the Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
Note this feast occurs on the last Sunday of the liturgical year. It is the last Sunday after the Sundays that follow the Day of Pentecost. After this Sunday, the 21st of November, we will turn a new page in our prayer books and begin a new liturgical year with the season of Advent—Holy Waiting—because the Feast of Christ the King proclaims that in the course of human history the day will come when all will know and experience the most gracious rule of Christ.
This is at the core of our baptismal faith and our living hope. Whether or not we get to see it in our own lifetime, we long, pray and work for that time when, from all over the world, all people are freed from sin’s division and oppression and are gathered as one community around the Christ whose loving arms have embraced the whole world.
In a sense, the reign of Christ is already within and among us because we are created in God’s Image. The Imago Dei in us makes us inherently worthy. The inalienable dignity of every human being is rooted in God. The reign of Christ is also already within and among us because the Son has come among us in the flesh to reconcile the whole world to Godself. The dignity of human nature has been even more wonderfully restored in the incarnation, as the collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day tells us (BCP p. 214 / LOC p. 128). And it is already within and among us because the Holy Spirit, who breathes life into all creation and sustains all things in the communion of the Holy Trinity, dwells within us as individuals and as a community to guide us to all truth, to perfect in us the love and service of God and our neighbor.
However: the fullness of the reign of Christ will be ultimately realized by God, not us; in God’s time, not ours; by God’s grace, not as our achievement. Only the power of love can mend the world and make all creation new.
What the Feast of Christ the King does for us, then, is to relativize all the kingdoms, all the powers and principalities of this world, as the language of Scripture calls them. Without exception. No nation, no system of government, however good, let alone any power that imposes its will on others—not a one of them—will bring about the full restoration of all things. None will free us from the estrangement and division we experience, none can bring an end to the estrangement, alienation and oppression of sin. Only Christ can do that.
Yes, we each in our own way will work at making the world better. Every day. This is our work as stewards of creation, as disciples of Jesus. No, we will not be idle. But let us remember that only God can bring true peace and justice, true repentance, reconciliation and unity.
The Feast of Christ the King on this the Last Sunday after Pentecost calls us to greater humility. It calls us to deeper prayer and longing for the return of Christ. Maranatha! “Come, Lord Jesus!” That was the cry of John on the island of Patmos and the prayer of the early church. Not a prayer for escape but for the fulfillment of God’s promises. Not a surrender of our responsibility but rather a recognition that only in God and by God will the breach in the world be healed.
Therefore, Christ the King Sunday is a reaffirmation of hope and a recommitment to live in the here and now as models and heralds of God’s reign. “For this I was born,” Jesus said, “and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
Perhaps you see the point but still find all the kingship language outdated or less than meaningful? If so, I wonder what it would be like if we looked at this, the Last Sunday after Pentecost, as a perfect occasion to reaffirm and remember that Beloved Community is not our pipedream but a reality that already rises in the mind of God. Beloved Community is a true dream because it is God’s dream, not ours. As the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, bishop of California, has said, “The Beloved Community is the world of all life united by love.” [As written on a Facebook post of Nov. 17, 2021]. Beloved Community is the destiny of all creation.
“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” We strive to become Beloved Community because we believe in Jesus. We work for justice and peace because this is what God desires for all people. We tell the truth about racism and white supremacy and we listen to this truth because only then is repentance, amendment of life, forgiveness and reconciliation made possible. We care for the wellbeing of creation because it belongs to God.
I love that the feast of Christ the King sets the stage for Advent. Once we are clear that the reign of Christ is ultimate, that Beloved Community is real, we can set about the task of preparing ourselves for the coming of Jesus, not only in his great humility as a child in his first advent but also in his final advent, in which all things, all people will be united around Jesus, the Beloved, who will gather us as Beloved Community in the joyful mega-feast that will have no end.
The Rev. Daniel Robayo is the missioner for Latino/Hispanic ministries in the Diocese of North Carolina.
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