For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:19-20
The concept of “king” in America is a tough one to sell. Oh, sure, we have the Burger King mascot, the television shows King of the Hill and King of Queens, and the king at prom and Mardi Gras, but these characters are not taken with much seriousness. We are not a people who look for someone to rule over us; in fact, we are more than happy to give our governing officials a piece of our mind when we disagree with them, and we turn on them with fickle heart and fractious speech. I suppose if we have any iconic “kingly” figures at all, their scepter would be some sort of ball, and their palace a playing field or arena.
How then are we to understand, celebrate, and proclaim the good news about Jesus as “king” on Christ the King Sunday? What kind of king do we honor, and how do we celebrate our lord’s reign? I suppose one could counter a theology of glory with a pastoral shepherd king image, but then how many sheep herders populate your pews? Alright then, with Luke’s gospel we may certainly lift up the suffering servant king image, right? Leaving the church year at the foot of the cross before coming back next week to “Light one candle to watch for Messiah” is a pretty jarring juxtaposition.
You could provide a little history lesson as part of your sermon; most Lutherans don’t have a clue why we celebrate the day anyway. They just know it’s the last Sunday of the Church year, the paraments change to white, and we light the paschal candle. If this is a route you would like to pursue, check out David Bennett’s comprehensive treatment of the topic at churchyear.net.
Somehow, though, a history lesson just doesn’t seem to be the most effective vehicle for bearing the good news on this day. Very few folks in the pews will engage in the mental gymnastics necessary to connect history and an abstract image of Jesus with life in the real world. Most people want something relevant to carry them through the week, to be reminded that what they do as disciples of Christ matters, and that they are somehow part of this abstract “reign of God.”
The cosmic scope of God made flesh in Jesus, the mystery and majesty of the One who was there at the moment of creation and who is with us now and who continues to hold all things together stands on this day to enfold us, whether “us” is a fractured congregation, a grieving widow, an angry divorcee’, an unemployed father who worries about feeding his family, or even a fiercely independent soul who sees no need to rely on God. The good news is that no matter what our own human broken and distorted image of Christ as king might be, Christ is bigger than we can imagine. Maybe SupercalifragicosmicexpialiJesus! isn’t such a stretch after all. Jesus did love us to death, and he loves us still–wildly and wonderfully, beyond the outermost edges of our comprehension. Our King of Kings will not be confined to the comfort of our own constructions. Be sure the faithful hear those words.
Blessings on your proclamation! May the Spirit guide and direct your words this day.