Christ the King - 2
How is Christ a King?
Sermons year A
Christopher Harrison home page
This is the end of the Church’s year – the solemnity (celebration of great importance) of Christ the King. The Christian year takes us through the life of Jesus ... Advent preparation; Christmas to Easter to Ascension to Pentecost ... ending with the vision of Christ returning at sitting on his throne in heavenly glory, as King and judge. The feast of Christ the King was introduced to the Catholic Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, as a response to the growing godlessness which he saw in the world of that time.
In what way, then, is Christ a king?
- Ephesians 1: Christ is the ‘Eternal King of the heavenly realms – the risen and exalted Christ, sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come ...’ This description has echoes of the beginning of the gospel of St John – Christ as the Word of God – the power, love and creative energy of God, existing from the beginning of time. The cosmic Christ, beyond time and space.
- Connected with this image, also in Ephesians 1: Christ as head of the Church. The Church, then, is his body – we are all members of it, through his Church his love and his will should be shown to the world. Christ, then, is our king now; each day, as we seek to follow the Christian life. Of course today, most kings of nations don’t have the total power which a monarch used to have. So when we think of Christ as King the image is very far from the merely symbolic nature of most kings and queens today, who are little more a figurehead in constitutional terms. Our relationship, as members of the Church, to Christ the King, is that of loyal and faithful subjects; who seek to obey him, to be guided by him, and to follow his laws or commands
- But Christ, our King, is also our judge, as we read in today’s gospel. It is not enough just to say that we are his subjects if what we do doesn’t match up to what we say; if we walk by on the other side from the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the prisoners. For we read, ‘the King – Christ – will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me”.’ And we can’t pretend that there won’t be painful consequences for us if we walk by on the other side; if our self-centredness is stronger than our desire to help others, this means that we have turned away from God and we will suffer the anguish and pain of being apart from him – which is hell.
- But lest the idea of Christ as our judge is too severe, remember that Christ is also the King of Love. ‘The King of Love my Shepherd is ...’ as we sing in the well-known hymn. Hand in hand with the image of Christ as King is that of Christ the Good Shepherd – a theme whose origins are found in the Old Testament, in passages such as the one from Ezekiel which we have read today. The Good Shepherd is one who doesn’t want any of his sheep to be lost, and will go searching for them until he finds them and brings them back. He is a shepherd who cares, who provides food, who protects his sheep.
- A similar image is that of Christ as the Servant King – Jesus as the one who came not to be served but to serve, and in doing so to call us all to serve one another just as we serve God.
- Then finally four images of God’s kingdom – which is the same as Christ’s kingdom – as described to us by Jesus:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ... to find God in your life, you have to know that you need him, and that you depend on him.
- The kingdom of God as being like yeast, a small amount of which is spread through the whole of the dough; our faith, our Christian living, even though our numbers may be small, can have a disproportionate effect on the world around us.
- The kingdom of God as like a mustard seed ... growing into a tree/bush large enough for the birds to shelter in its branches; again, something which begins tiny developing into something much larger – not for our own benefit but for the benefit of those around us.
- The kingdom of God as like the pearl of great price – for which the merchant sold everything so that he could buy it.
- Eternal King; head of the Church; the Judge; the Good Shepherd; the King of Love; the servant King. Christ is all of these, and he calls us to his kingdom. I will leave you with words from the poet R S Thomas on the pearl of great price, the Kingdom of God which Christ invites us all to enter:
I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had the treasure in it. I realise now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you. (The Bright Field by R. S. Thomas)
Sermons year A
Christopher Harrison home page