Sermon for Christ the King (Year B), 21 November 2021
First Reading: Daniel 7.9-10, 13, 14
Gospel: John 18.33-37
Well, here we are at the end of the Church year. Next Sunday we will celebrate our liturgical new year with Advent Sunday, and once again begin the cycle of discovering Christ in the world.
And as with any New Year’s Eve, we mark the transition with a party: the celebration of the Kingship of Christ.
Our mood today is triumphant: we celebrate the resolution of Salvation, the defeat of death and darkness, and the anticipation of the coming Kingdom. This is our ultimate confidence – that our God reigns.
But what exactly do we mean when we talk about Christ as King?
I’ve been doing a bit of thinking this week, and I think I’ve come up with a sentence that at least partially grasp an aspect of how I understand what today’s readings have to say about this:
Firstly, the kingship of Christ is an everlasting dominion.
Both our readings today make it clear that Christ is King beyond our usual expectations — unlike our earthly leaders who come and go, and the dynasties that rise and fall, Jesus reigns through eternity. He has dominion not just over a portion of creation, a single nation or state, but over all things – and he is incorruptible, and nothing can destroy his reign – not time, or decay, or the poison of power. Christ is eternal.
And as citizens of this everlasting kingdom, we therefore look beyond our current situation in confidence and trust. As the disciples did not need to fear that Jesus’ arrest and execution would end his dominion, we can be confident that there is nothing stronger or more steadfast than the light of Christ’s reign. It also means that we are called to a way of life that considers our actions in the context of eternity – following the teachings of Christ, we must act as witnesses to the eternal kingdom in the world – challenging the corrupt, affirming and celebrating the good, and constantly reflecting, questioning, and learning in response to Christ’s commandments.
Secondly, the kingship of Christ is of justice and truth.
The prophecy of Daniel (which is revisited in Revelation) describes the Heavenly Courts as sat in judgment, and at the end of all things we look to Christ returning in judgement. But the judgement of God is nothing to fear, because God’s judgement is more just than we can comprehend. It is based on truth and love, and is grounded in the incomprehensible, inexhaustible capacity forgiveness of God. This justice is fairer than we could ever imagine, and is something to anticipate with joy. All wrongs will be righted, all resentment and anger and guilt and fear will be dissipated. All that will be left is living peace.
We can trust in this because Christ is truth. When we listen to his voice, we not only listen to the truth but we belong to the truth. Unlike our earthly politicians, Christ never lies, he doesn’t place his own interests above our welfare, and we know that he means it when he says “you are loved, you are forgiven, you significant to me”. This also means that we should take his instruction seriously, because this also is the truth. Love one another. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Feed the hungry, care for the sick…
As citizens of this kingdom of justice and truth, we are called to be justice and truth in the world. Not to be judgmental (for judgement belongs to Christ), but – as it says in Micah 6.8 – to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. This is what the Lord requires of us, to hear the voice of truth and be truth in our communities.
And finally, the kingship of Christ is in kinship with God.
Although perhaps less overt in today’s readings, Christ’s Kingdom is belonging. Belonging to truth. Belonging to the dominion. Belonging to God.
This is belonging not as ownership, but as of having a place, a people, a home – it is relationship. By belonging to the kingdom, we become part of it – not just as citizens but at collaborators, as co-heirs, as members of one family, one body working together to reveal the kingdom in the world.
Our king is not a distant ruler sat on their lonely throne, but a co-worker who lives and works among us – who gets stuck in and journeys alongside us through the highs and lows. He knows each of us by name, and loves each of us as we have been created. We each have a role and a place alongside him, in intimate relationship.
As citizens of this kingdom in kinship with God, we are called to nurture our personal relationship with him and to bear his likeness in the world in order to invite others into that same kinship – inviting others to the kingship of Christ which is an everlasting dominion of justice and truth in kinship with God.
How will being citizens of Christ’s everlasting dominion influence us? Will it change our decisions, our actions, how we relate to the people and places around us?
What will it mean this week for us to be citizens of Christ’s justice and truth? What can we do to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God?
How will belonging in kinship with Christ influence us this week? What can we do to grow closer to him and bear his likeness to those around us?
I’d like to finish by leading us in an affirmation of faith from the Iona Community:
We believe that God is present in the darkness before dawn,
in the waiting and uncertainty where fear and courage join hands,
conflict and caring link arms,
and the sun rises over barbed wire.
We believe in a with-us God
who sits down in our midst to share our humanity.
We affirm a faith that takes us beyond the safe place into action, into vulnerability,
and into the streets.
We commit ourselves to work for change,
and put ourselves on the line,
to bear responsibility, take risks,
live powerfully and face humiliation;
to stand with those on the edge, to choose lifeIona Abbey Worship Book (2017)
and be used by the Spirit
for God’s new community of hope. Amen.