This Sunday is “Christ the King”…the last Sunday of Pentecost. Next week we will enter into Advent, a new year in the church. Lately it seems that our readings have been of the “doom and gloom” variety…disciples still not understanding who Jesus is, prophetic teachings about the end of days, and now we have Jesus on trial before Pilate. We have been challenged by these readings to maintain hope and faith amidst times of trouble and despair.
For a long time I used to scratch my head about the lectionary. How did these texts come together in this way? And yet, when I read the gospel from John (18:33-37), it suddenly started to make sense…on the eve of Advent, a time when we await the coming of Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us, we read of his trial before crucifixion…a reminder that God’s kingdom was, and is, and is to come. Liturgical time, sacred time, is ongoing.
When Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews, he’s asking Jesus about his leadership. As we all know, a king would have borders to defend, an army and weapons. Pilate, like many Jews who were awaiting a political Messiah, is puzzled by this Jesus who has no borders to defend, no army or weapons. Jesus’ response to Pilate is that his kingdom is not of this world. So what is Jesus’ kingdom like?
The kingdom of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, is a kingdom of service and inclusion. It is a kingdom where no one is turned away from the table. It is a kingdom where the widow and orphaned are cared for and protected. It is a kingdom that has no borders to protect, where no one is “illegal” and all are welcome. The kingdom is one that raises up the least and lowly.
In our Old Testament reading last week from 1 Samuel, we have Hannah praying fervently for a son, and God looks with favor upon her. In today’s reading from 2 Samuel, we have David reflecting on his kingship that was anointed by God. In between these two readings is the story of Hannah’s son, Samuel, who goes on to be a faithful Israelite leader, the begging of the people for a king (so they can be like everyone else) and the selection of Saul, who becomes a terrible king, and the anointing of David by God as the new King of Israel. David was the youngest boy in his family, and had his faults as a king, but he remained faithful to God. Jesus is from the line of David…one of the least and lowly who was raised up.
Jesus tells Pilate that he was born to testify to the truth. What is this truth? Truth is revelation. Truth is a stimulant for faithful living and witness. Truth is about freedom, change and transformation. Truth is that God’s kingdom is one of love and grace, not war, oppression or violence. Truth is that God became incarnate in Jesus, to be with us in our trials and joys.
As we consider this day, the feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the truth of Jesus’ ministry…the welcoming of the stranger, peace which passes understanding, and God’s unlimited grace. According to Revelation, the kingdom of God was, and is and is to come. How are we living into the truth of Jesus’ ministry? How are we witnesses to the reign of the King?
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.