This Christ the King Sunday. When we celebrate Christ the King, I know we are hoping for a time when Christ will come in glory and reign over us. But we are here, in this world. The world Jesus was lived in. And when Jesus was alive, he didn’t want anything to do with royalty.
Jesus never wore a robe or a crown or sat on a throne. Jesus never wanted a bunch of servants attending him. He said he came to serve, and he went to have dinner with the tax collectors and prostitutes that no one else would sit with. Jesus said that the first will be last and the last will be first and he spent most of his time caring for those at the bottom of the heap. He spent the rest of his time trying to convince everyone else they had a higher calling than scrabbling around for first place. He didn’t write royal decrees sending people into war. He said, “Follow me” and headed out to the sick, the grieving and the hungry. He was never knighted. The government never gave him any honors. He did have one parade but then he was hauled into court on ridiculous charges. No one came to his defense. The first had become last.
Jesus came so God would reign over us, but I’m not sure Jesus would celebrate Christ the King Sunday.
Jesus was in favor of leaders like King Josiah. Josiah, who tore their royal robes when he realized how far the country had fallen short of righteousness. Josiah intended to be a good king, but it took opening the scroll to see he reigned in a kingdom where the first were first and the last got left behind. It took reading the words from the book of Deuteronomy for King Josiah to see what was going on in his own nation. There he found directions of how to end the abusiveness and corruption so God could reign once again.
We have to return to these old words too, to see the reality of the world we are living in and are reminded of the values of the One who is to reign over us. Who notice that the rich got richer and the poor never do. The vulnerable are perpetually taken advantage of by the powerful. Cults develop to entertain and enrich a minority and they don’t care if they mock and demean those who have little autonomy or representation. Children are lives sacrificed so others can maintain a certain standard of living.
It is here in these words that we receive directions. Notice those who are left behind and forgotten. Hear how we talk to people or talk at people. Accept responsibility for the children who are here – wherever they came from and whoever bore them – and the children who are to come and responsibility for people who are not able to take responsibility for themselves. We might just wonder what we need to tear open, tear apart and tear down. We might remember that we aren’t actually first in this world and then spend our time making sure the last aren’t left behind.
The Apostle Paul knew the history of Israel and Judah. He had heard the prophets. He had studied the book of Deuteronomy inside and out. When Christ reigned over Paul, it knocked him to his knees and the scales were torn from his eyes. When he stood up, Paul followed Jesus. Paul had this to say:
If you have gotten anything at all out of following Christ if his love has made any difference in your life, – don’t push your way to the front, don’t sweet talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside and help others get ahead. Think of yourselves the way Jesus Christ thought of himself. He set aside all the privileges of God and took the status of a servant. Because of this, God has raised him up to reign over us. The one who was rejected. The one who was abandoned. The one left alone to die. God has honored him, so all will worship him, call out to him and fall before him, giving him all glory and honor, begging him to reign over us – in this world and in the next.
Christ the King Sunday. I don’t know what Jesus would say about. I think it’s worth celebrating if it tears our hearts wide open. If it makes us fall before the one who humbled himself for us. If it reminds us to get back up and follow Jesus as he goes out to find the very last.