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Sermon Date: November 21, 2021 
By Pastor Elaine Boone

Christ the King Sunday


We are now about to enter our 5th Advent together and by now you probably have a fairly good idea of what I think and what I believe.  You know that I believe that we are all beloved children of God that are made beautifully.  You know that I believe we should love  God with all of our hearts and minds and strength and that we should love our neighbour as ourselves.  You know these things because I preach on them - among other things!  You probably have a strong sense of my theology.


But today I will reveal something more - I am not really a fan of Christ the King Sunday - this will not come as a shock or surprise to Trevor although it might be a disappointment!


This feast day - this celebration feels a bit “made up” and I chafe at it a little.


The celebration goes by several names - Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe or Feast of Christ the King or Christ the King Sunday or Reign of Christ Sunday.  And there is an element of Judgement and end times in the celebration leading us into Advent - a time when we anticipate Christ’s second coming.


In Lutheran Churches in Sweden and Finland this day is referred to as Judgement Sunday.  


Frank Senn says that :

Pope Pius XI established Christ the King Sunday in 1925 to counter what he regarded as the destructive forces of the modern world: secularism in the west and the rise of communism in Russia and fascism in Italy and Spain, harbingers of the Nazism soon to seize Germany. Pope Pius intended to oppose the rule of Christ to the totalitarian claims of these ideologies.


And he goes on to say:


When the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship adopted an amended version of the three-year Roman lectionary in the late 1970s, the Sunday of Christ the King came with it. Hitherto the festival had never been observed by Lutherans; no surprise, given its origin. The new Christ the King was certainly biblical in its themes, though, so the festival was adopted. 


So this is why we celebrate Christ the King!


And we have Cyril of Alexandria’s comments from Matthew to back up the tradition with scripture.

"From this it follows that to Christ angels and men are subject. Christ is also King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer. ...' We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price"; our very bodies are the "members of Christ."[7] A third ground of sovereignty is that God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion. "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18)


Why are we glorifying Christ as King?  Kings belong to fairy tales and fantasy.  Kings are known for battles and wealth and self serving laws.  That is not who Christ was.  Jesus was a different kind of man.  


In today’s Gospel we have the exchange between Pilate and Jesus.  This dialogue is unique to John, as is Jesus’ statement regarding the origin of his kingdom.   John wants to clarify that Christians are not a  subversive political movement but instead proclaim religious truth.  John focuses more on Jesus’ civic trial than the synoptic Gospels do because Rome represented the whole world.


In this story we have two men representing two types of leadership. One through force and one through love.


Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect of Judea from 26 to 36 CE.  Before ordering an execution his task was to discover a non religious charge against Jesus that touched on Roman law.  If Pilate, or the religious authorities or the disciples could pin Jesus down to the type of king they expected then perhaps they could figure out what to do with him.


The Gospel reading raises the question of OUR expectations of Jesus vs Jesus’ refusal to meet them.


YOU say I am King.


In this exchange Jesus is not a silent responder but an active and informed inquisitor.  Jesus never directly answers Pilate’s question - are you the King of the Jews?  Are you a King?


But they could not figure out what to do with him because Jesus refused to follow the expectations of civil or religious authorities or the disciples or those who followed him wishing desperately for the type of leader who would overthrow the Romans. People longed for a King who would make things right.


Jesus would not play Pilate’s game.


For John’s initial audience claiming Christ as King was immediate and dangerous.  Claiming Christ is King is political.  It was in Pilate’s time and it is in our time.


And a final word from Frank Senn:

Yet the themes of the original Christ the King promulgated by Pius XI linger on, and these themes are also worth consideration. The last judgment is not just a judgment on individuals; it is also a judgment on human history. The dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ in John 18 demonstrates the struggle between the kingdoms and republics of this world, on the one hand, and the kingdom of God and of his Christ, on the other. 


Jesus never claimed the title King for himself.  It was given to him by others.  He was not a leader who would use violence against others.  He was not interested in power or wealth or control over others.  He was interested in truth.  And Pilate could not understand the type of man Jesus was and so he asks him - what is truth?  And Jesus does not answer.  Because the truth of the kingdom is that God’s power is in love, forgiveness, mercy, justice and health.


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