I had a great time worshipping at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Anacortes this past Sunday. Needless to say, I love engaging with the liturgical calendar and having a service dedicated to remembering the Kingship of Christ was a gift. Christ the King Sunday is to be celebrated as the closing of the year for Christians, which is the last Sunday in Ordinary time before Advent and was declared a feast day for the church by Pope Pius XI in 1925. The intention is to celebrate and remember Christ’s kingship over all creation, as well as remind us that all mankind must submit to Christ’s rule. Given our bent toward democratic views of rule in the modern age, it can be a rather controversial day among some Christians because they consider the language of kingship outdated or oppressive. Some Protestant worship book revisions, during the Eucharist service, even say, “blessed be God’s realm” instead of “blessed be God’s kingdom” which shows a lack of critical theological reflection on Christ’s Kingship. Unfortunately, the root of this mistake is the curse of modernism: culture transforms Christianity instead of the other way around.
For many, the images of kings and kingdoms conjure up thoughts of tyrants. Of course, few living Americans have ever lived under a king and even those are all immigrants. I would guess just as many people simply picture a character from a fairy tale or a movie, which could be positive, negative, or neutral. Regardless, the concepts people bring to the table should not dictate Church language. Rather, the unchanging Christ proclaimed by the Church should transform all secular notions.
In order to embrace the notion of Christ as King one must return to how Jesus, as King, acts. Jesus’ earthly ministry was not one of military might or oppressiveness. Rather, it was one of peace, liberation, and above all, service. Jesus turned the whole concept of lordship and primacy on its head – hear these words from Mark 10:42-45:
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Thus, Jesus knew the popular images of kings and lords and he specifically redefined them, but did not reject them. In the new age, in order to be a ruler of all, a person must be a servant of all. Jesus demonstrated this servanthood in his life and miracles. Even the Incarnation is an example of this: God the Son, King of all creation, humbled himself to become human, even sharing the ultimate fate of his captive subjects: death.
Perhaps this is a good reminder amidst the challenging task we as Americans have before us when we discuss what government should look like in the coming elections…