Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christ the King

Tomorrow, we will be celebrating Christ the King Sunday (or "The Reign of Christ the King")! - It is the last Sunday after Pentecost and the last Sunday of the Christian year. It is also the Sunday just prior to our entering into the holy season of Advent.

The observance of Christ the King Sunday is really a relatively new celebration. It was originally instituted by Pius XI, Bishop of Rome, for celebration on the last Sunday of October. However, after Vatican II, it was moved to its current location on the Christian calendar.

The lectionary readings for this Sunday during our current year (year A), are quite interesting. The Epistle lesson, Ephesians 1:15-23, presents an image that one might naturally think of for this celebration. There, Christ is seen as seated at the right hand of the Father "in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come . . ." (NRSV).

The Gospel lesson, too, gives us an image of Christ the King. In Matthew 25:31-46, we see Christ in His glory with all of the angels. He is seated on His throne judging between the sheep and the goats.

But the Old Testament lesson, Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, gives us another image. Oh, there is still a reference to the Davidic throne, but the over-riding image is that of the Good Shepherd gathering, tending, caring for, and healing His sheep. - Here we see Christ as the Shepherd/King.

And so, when we read the Gospel in light of the Old Testament passage, we begin to discover that we sheep, are really called to be just like our Shepherd/King. We are called into a life wherein we are transformed by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit so that, like our King, we naturally reach out to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, visit those in prison.

This Sunday (and everyday!) may we celebrate and worship Christ our King, not only with our lips but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to His service, and by walking before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days (cf., "A General Thanksgiving," BCP). - May all glory be to God the Father, Christ our King, and the Holy Spirit! Amen!


Eric said...

Really, the job description between shepherd and King are not terribly different. Both protect, provide for, nourish & flourish, etc their "flock." It seems to me the biggest difference (and this might be splitting hairs just a bit), is the attitude with which one approaches his task. The king is high and mighty, all power all glorious. The shepherd is a lowly position and the shepherd knows it. His his humble and servile. It seems to me from the competing images in this weeks readings that we find Christ as a King, but not the kind of King we find in this world where "absolute power corrupts absolutely." Rather we find Christ as a King, who in true Philippian "he gave up his divine privilege; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross."

It is clear that Christ did not approach his calling or view himself in Kingly terms. He preferred the lowly shepherd. The bigger question, though, is: do we treat him as a common Shepherd, or as the King of Kings? Do we approach him as if he is just one of us, or as if he is the King of Kings? Does our worship say, "we are hanging out with a buddy at the bar?" or "are we bowing our lives with awe and holy-fear in the presence of the King of Kings?"

Incidentally, my favorite Christ the King hymn is "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven." You can here it here:

But you haven't really heard it until you hear St Paul's Cathedral Choir sing it!!!


Eric said...

This will give you a better idea, but the sound quality is not that great.