Sermon; Christ the King Sunday
Today is the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. It is the last Sunday of the long, green season of Ordinary Time. Next week begins a new year and the beginning of “liturgical time.” What I mean by that is that during liturgical time – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter – the focus is on the events of Jesus' life. During that time we focus on preparation, his birth, another preparation, his Passion, and his Resurrection.
In Ordinary Time, though, the focus is not on the events of his life, but how he lived his life. We see how he cared for those who were hurting. We see how he provided for those in need. And we see how he was continually elevating love of God and neighbor over love of rules and institutions.
This is the person we claim to follow. A man who taught that those outside the norm were worthy of dignity and respect. A man who broke rules that kept people separated from God, but upheld rules of loving others. A man who worked to level the field between the haves and the have nots. As followers of Christ, as disciples of Christ, this is how we should strive to live in everything we do – from our daily personal interactions to how we should structure the Church to how we vote.
As we make this journey with Jesus following him in how he lived his life, we learn to become disciples. We (hopefully) learn how to prioritize our lives, or order our lives, with God as the focus. This follows last week's gospel of Jesus telling us that many will come in his name but not to follow them. Because I think that in following the self-proclaimed prophecy experts, or the self-proclaimed messiahs, we are really following our own desires. In following these people we are simply following those who confirm our own biases and prejudices.
Following Jesus, though, leads us down a different path. Following Jesus doesn't guarantee financial wealth, no matter what Joel Osteen and other prosperity gospel preachers say. Following Jesus doesn't result in positions of power and control, no matter what the advocates of christian nationalism want you to believe.
Instead, following Jesus leads us to work to care for those in need, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and heal the sick. Following Jesus will lead us to cast down the mighty and lift up the lowly. It will lead us to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Following Jesus will put us in direct conflict with the powers and principalities of the world because the world has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. It has a vested interest in maintaining its power.
While the power of the world comes through force and control, Jesus gives us a different example of power. His power comes through exhibiting and practicing love of God and of neighbor. His power comes not through force, but through a willingness to work for change. His power comes through recognizing and advocating for the equality of all people by the mere fact that all people are made in the image of God. And this is something the world cannot tolerate.
And yet . . . that is who we claim to follow.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. Today is the culmination of the past 24 weeks. Today is the capstone of Jesus' ministry on earth. Today is the day we say that Jesus is the one who lays claim on our life. But in an ironic twist of claiming Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, this is also the day we hear of the crucifixion of Christ.
This is, unfortunately, how it must end. As Jesus lamented that Jerusalem was the city who killed the prophets, Jesus will also be executed by a state that cannot bear to submit.
On this Christ the King Sunday we can choose to follow the world and those things which are contrary to the will of God, but are easy; or we can choose to follow the difficult, narrow path of a king who gave his life as a ransom for many.
My prayer is that we continue to do that which is difficult but right.