Sunday, 21 November 2010

Notes for 21st November

Christ the King: Colossians 1: 11-20; Luke 23: 33-43

This week we have heard the news of the engagement of Prince William, our future king, and Kate Middleton. I couldn’t help thinking that the plans of a couple who have been together for 8 years to get married next year is hardly ‘news’ – but of course as it’s William then this is a Royal Wedding we’re talking about – and Kate becomes, on marrying him, a prospective queen. I even heard the comment made that their years together so far have helped to give Kate an insight into ‘how the family works’. She needs to know what it will mean for William to be King; to understand the responsibility, the expectations, the role.
I imagine that how you feel about royalty will colour how you feel about the news: is it a great source of national celebration, a wonderful excuse for a party, or a terrible waste of public money and time?
As we stand on the threshold of Advent, the lectionary invites us to think about royalty, too, and to consider ‘Christ the King’.
Our expectations of kingship, what we know of how royalty works, how we feel about the relationship between the king and his subjects – all these things will influence how we respond to Christ, the King.

The gospel reading reminds us that as King, Christ does not always rule as people expect. Just as we are getting ready for Advent and preparation for a celebration of the start of Jesus’ life, we are reminded of the end of it.

One of the thieves crucified with Jesus, hearing that he is referred to as ‘King of the Jews’ wants Jesus to prove his kingly status by rescuing himself. ‘If you are a king, get down from this cross’ and he might have added ‘& while you’re at it, rescue us too’.
But the second thief says only ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom’.
Somehow this wretched, dying thief sees a divine truth – that Jesus is a king – is The King – but not as people expect, his kingdom is not an earthly one.

Jesus has shown in his teaching that he is on earth, among people, in order to bring in the kingdom of God, but that his role is one of servant, not sovereign. Jesus is the promised good shepherd, the one for others, the one who lays down his life for the sheep.
For those who expected an earthly king to overthrow the Roman forces and anyone else who would resist God’s will, Jesus is the wrong sort of king. Christ the King is seen enthroned on a cross – not ruling in pomp, but dying in humble service, to teach us that the way of God is not the human road of power.

We have to be ready for Christ the King to overturn our expectations.

Yet our Bible readings also encourage us to think about what we know of Jesus Christ and what else this means for Christ’s Kingship. In the reading from Colossians we meet the image of the one who reigns supreme, who is like God and is sent by God to reconcile all things to God. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created”.

As the annual drama of Christmas approaches – both the church drama of the telling of the familiar story, and the domestic drama of cards, presents, food, plans and preparations – amid all that drama we do well to pause and let the amazing truth sink in yet again.
This child who is coming, this baby in the manger, this scrap of life and hope, this squalling bundle of humanity.. is the King of creation. If the phrase ‘God made flesh’ has failed to make our eyes pop, our jaws drop, and our hair stand on end with awe and amazement, then we’re not taking it in properly. Christ the King become the baby of Bethlehem – God made flesh to save us. That is what our Advent and Christmas should point us towards and help us to realize.

Our expectations of kingship and our knowledge of Christ the king will colour all the celebration that is to come. That just leaves the question of the relationship between King and subjects – between Jesus Christ and each one of us.

How de we relate to Christ the King – are we prepared to let Christ really rule our lives?
What would this mean for each life here?

If we recognise Christ as King it means allowing our lives to be subject to his rule: putting the kingdom of God first in our decisions. What we do and say and think, the power we wield, the money we spend, the way we treat other people: maybe even our response to Royal news – the whole of our lives are not our own, but are part of the kingdom of God. We need to be living as those who wish to see God’s love, peace and joy for all. If Christ is our King we are part of his rule – seeking his will, doing his work, being his body.

May we be ready this Advent to meet Christ the King in ever new and surprising ways and to live our lives more and more as his subjects and servants in this world.
To the glory of God.

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