Christ the King Sunday
November 21, 2021
Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” — John 18:37
Sometimes it is difficult to hear Jesus amidst all the noise of daily living. Think about it. Right now as I’m writing this reflection I can hear the hum of two computers, the tapping of two sets of hands on two keyboards, the music of Suzanne Vega from my spouse’s computer speakers, the hum and clank of the radiator, my daughter’s television, and the occasional sound of cars driving by outside. Ours is not a silent house, even if it is quite peaceful. The last time I can remember silence and stillness was during Superstorm Sandy, when the power in our entire borough was off. Even then all it took to find noise was to stand close to the window to hear the sound of the Fire Department’s massive generator, just a block away. Noise is everywhere. Noise competes for our attention. Noise distracts us, calms us, encourages us to shop more leisurely, or encourages us to sing aloud.
So how do we listen to the voice of Jesus in our noisy world, especially right now in this bridge between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Christ the King Sunday is the last stop before the end-of-the-church-year line. It’s the Sunday between ordinary time and Advent–a blip on the liturgical radar that most folks aren’t even really sure how to handle. Nonetheless, here we bridge the gap between years B and C of the Revised Common Lectionary, ready to jump into the next year while simultaneously applying the brakes to experience Advent before slamming full on into that most silent, holy night of the year. Whew! Sometimes it makes me weary just thinking about the next few weeks.
Pilate knew a thing or two about weariness (and noise!) in the reading from John’s gospel today. One moment he is talking with Jesus and trying to make sense of this indelicate situation that’s been foisted upon him, and the next minute he’s trying to quell the agitated crowds and the determined religious leaders. Torn between the noise of world and empire and the quiet voice of an unlikely king, Pilate eventually capitulates to the louder crowd and washes his hands of the dilemma.
Is it much different for us? How tempting it is to give in to the siren call of our hectic, noisy world with its conflicting messages and competing claims. Our consumer culture tells us that we need so much, that if we wear this or buy these or drive that we will be happy forever, or until we get home — whichever comes first. We learn that we are less than, not good enough, too homely, too poor, always reaching for the brass ring or next rung on the ladder to an illusion of success.
All the while, Jesus softly and clearly testifies to the truth and invites us to listen and follow. Our uncommon king has no need to compete with the loud and stifling messages of the world because what he offers is life and truth and hope for all time–in all times. Maybe now is the right time to challenge one another to enter the season of Advent with open ears, expectant hearts, and quiet space each day. Listen. Can you hear him? The Truth speaks to you; best of all, the Truth loves you like no other.
Consider juxtaposing images of kings throughout history (remember some were absolute tyrants) with images of Jesus with the crown of thorns and on the cross. Instead of a throne our king hung on a cross. Instead of a jewel-encrusted crown, he wore a wreath of thorns. Instead of fine linens and furs, our king wore the scars of a humiliating scourging. Yet for all their supposed might and power and glory, only our king rules the entire cosmos across time and beyond space. Yet again, Jesus turns the world’s notions of power and glory on its head, making all things new and testifying to the Truth.
Give you a little history and background on how the celebration of Christ the King Sunday came to be. Click here for more details. Talk a little about royalty. Ask youth what kings and queens they know currently reigning across the globe. Click here for a list. Compare their kingdoms and limited powers and reigns with the fact that Jesus reigns in the hearts, minds, and lives of all Christians, regardless of nationality, age, or ethnicity. How is he like the world’s monarchs? How is he unlike the world’s idea of a king? How can we understand the upside/down and inside/out reign of God in Christ when many of us have never been exposed to a monarchy? Spend some time thinking and talking about the gospel lesson (John 18:33-37).
Focus on Revelation 1:8 by talking with the children about how Jesus covers everything from beginning to end and all points in between. Have large cut out symbols representing alpha and omega. Let one child hold each letter. Also have large cut out letters to spell JESUS. Have five more children hold those letters. Challenge them to arrange themselves so that JESUS is spelled out correctly between the Greek symbols for alpha and omega. Finally, if you have enough children, give the smallest child a sign with ME! spelled out. Now invite the other children to make a circle around the child with the ME! sign. Explain to the children that Jesus, from A-Z, from alpha to omega, is always there for us, surrounding us with love and the promise of forever. Before your closing prayer, give each child a sheet with the letters of the alphabet written from top to bottom. Invite them to work with their families to come up with a word to describe Jesus for every letter of the alphabet as a reminder that Jesus really is all things, our all-in-all.
*This reflection was first published for Christ the King Sunday, Year B, 2012.