Sunday, November 22, 2020
Christ the King Sunday
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Every year, when this last Sunday after Pentecost rolls around, it seems I find it more and more challenging to talk about what it means not just to say Christ is King but to live it.
In first century Palestine, when Jesus walked this earth, kings ruled. The Israelites themselves had begged God for a king so that they could be like all the other nations. In 313CE, Constantine issued the edict of Milan which legalized Christianity across the Roman Empire. For most of its first 2000 years, Christianity existed alongside monarchs and emperors. It was the norm.
In the United States, we live in a country that threw off the rule of queens and kings over 200 years ago. Our society fought to not be ruled by a monarchy. Throwing off the rule of England empowered us along a path of believing more and more that each individual is an autonomous individual, coexisting alongside societal laws but being ruled by no one. We no longer place much, if any, value on discipline (please don’t confuse discipline with punishment) and cry out that our liberties are being threatened when anyone asks anything of us to contribute to the greater good of all.
Most of us in the United States are overwhelmed by this life we think we should be living. Most of us live in a perpetual state stress and we see no end in sight. We are bombarded with advertisements that tell us we need a new wardrobe, a new face, a new car, a bigger house, fancy jewelry, the latest gadgetry, etc. We are bombarded with messages of anger and fear in the news and on social media that tell us we must be angry and fearful, too. We are taught that we need to attack those who disagree with us because their disagreement is somehow a threat to our very existence.
Like tired and hungry 5 year olds, we yell “you’re not the boss of me” when someone, anyone, says we need to do one more thing, follow a new rule, give up something we like, or inconvenience ourselves for the sake of someone else.
In our finger-pointing, foot-stomping tantrums, what we really mean is “I’m too overwhelmed right now to do this thing you are asking of me.”
We’ve not been taught how to follow a leader the way Jesus invites us to follow him, with complete trust and faith in unconditional love and compassion. We’ve been taught that compassion and empathy are signs of weakness in a leader.
We’ve been taught to be suspicious of those who claim authority over us. We’ve been taught that happiness is the ultimate goal for our life and that we will find it in material things or by some external source that we are ever at risk of losing. We’ve been taught we must fight against anything that threatens our individual happiness. And so we’ve let some illusive ideal that we can’t even name or articulate become our ruler.
Jesus teaches us to let go of the fight and instead to work for the good of all. The life God intends for us isn’t a competition or a fight, but a shared journey looking out for each other, grounded in the confidence of God’s love for us.
Jesus teaches us that joy, the everlasting peace of knowing that even in difficult times God loves us and values us more than anything, is the reward for following him and that nothing or no one is powerful enough to to take that from us.
Jesus teaches us that by giving up our way for God’s Way, we will be set free from the overwhelming stress and anxiety our culture imposes upon us.
Jesus teaches us how to be ruled by Love.
I keep this picture framed on my bathroom counter so that I see it often. It encourages and empowers me whatever is going on. It helps me keep the right perspective, my compass calibrated to the Kingdom of God.
To live with Jesus as our King is so much more than a praise song or a focus one Sunday each year. It means we give up our own rule over ourself for God’s rule of Love.
To live with Jesus as our King means we have our perspective set straight so that following Jesus isn’t an add-on but the very foundation from which we see and do and hear and experience everything: from our regular daily and seasonal routines to the most exciting life events to the most defeating and every moment in between. (See my previous post.)
To live with Jesus as our King means that we know that whether we have everything or have lost it all, our worth and value comes from God’s everlasting love for us.
We are beloved children of God and when we choose to let God “be the boss of us” we find rest for our weariness, peace in place of our stress, and love instead of fear. We are living what we learn in Sunday School.