This is the last week of a season in the liturgical calendar that we call “ordinary time.”
The Episcopal Church defines Ordinary time as being, “understood in terms of the living out of Christian faith and the meaning of Christ’s resurrection in ordinary life.”
So in the cycle of Christ’s life, this is the time after His Ascension when the Church received the Holy Spirit and took the Gospel into the whole world. Considering that this movement has impacted the course of life and human history, arguably more than anything else, there’s really nothing “ordinary” about it.
Over the last few weeks, Father Mark has been talking about the second coming of Christ as discussed in our readings from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, a time when we’ll see our King, Christ the King, face to face.
It’s not an accident that passages like these about the second coming fall at the end of Ordinary Time, and just before the season of Advent, which is when we look with anticipation for the coming King. And we look not only for the first coming in the birth of Christ, but also for His second coming.
So Christ the King Sunday is not an end. But it’s an incredible way for us to step right back into the anticipation we feel during Advent.
Here’s a fun fact about Christ the King Sunday: Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 to remind Christians that their allegiance was to their spiritual ruler in heaven as opposed to earthly supremacy, which was claimed by Benito Mussolini.
The Anglican Church, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists all added it to the lectionary. It wasn’t in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, but it is specifically mentioned in the 1979 BCP that we currently use.
#notmypresident (and other thoughts on kingdom leadership)
But speaking of earthly rulers, it makes me think about the last couple election cycles. And listen, I am not taking any political stand here. I’m just making an observation about what happened.
After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, people who opposed (more likely, hated) him started sharing their disapproval of the election results by posting #notmypresident on social media.
Then in 2020, there was a little revival of that hashtag when Joe Biden won.
What I find fascinating about this is that this isn’t really how it works in a democratic republic. We collectively choose a leader, and then that person is the leader of our nation for the next four years, regardless of how much we like (or dislike) that person.
Maybe it’s just me with my experience as a Marine, but the Commander in Chief is the boss whether I voted for him or not.
But it’s different in God’s Kingdom.
In His Kingdom, we have a choice.
The King has extended an invitation to all of us, and we get the freedom to be able to choose if we want to be part of this Kingdom.
And that choice is important, because it’s an important element of Love. Let me ask you this, can love really be love if it’s forced? No! What makes it special is that it’s something we choose, because we want it.
So if we choose to submit ourselves to the rulership of this King, then we need to know who He is.
Who is this King?
Who is this Christ the King? Let me tell you a little about Him…
He was there in the beginning when the Triune God out of Love spoke all of creation into existence and called it good. That’s my King!
He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden, enjoying His creation with His people. That’s my King!
He was the Redeemer who brought the Israelites out of Egypt (Jude 5). That’s my King!
He was the Rock in the wilderness who provided the Israelites life-giving water (1 Corinthians 10:4). That’s my King!
He’s likely the one who walked in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in one of the greatest moments of deliverance of the faithful ever recorded. That’s my King!
He was the King in Isaiah’s temple vision when he described the glory of God (John 12:40–41). That’s my King!
He came to us born of a virgin in a humble manger in Bethlehem. That’s my King!
The Spirit of God descended like a dove after his baptism in the Jordan with the Father proclaiming, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” That’s my King!
He put the devil in his place while fasting in the desert for 40 days. That’s my King!
He called a bunch of ragamuffins to follow him as his disciples to prepare them to change the world. That’s my King!
He went to a wedding, and turned water into wine. That’s my King!
He cured people afflicted with disease and pain, demons, epilepsy, and paralysis. That’s my King!
He preached to the people about the heart of God. That’s my King!
He broke cultural barriers by talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. That’s my King!
He stilled the storm when the boat was being swamped by the waves. That’s my King!
He raised people from the dead. That’s my King!
He healed the woman with the issue of blood when she, in faith, merely touched His robe. That’s my King!
He walked on water. That’s my King!
He calls us who are weary and heavy laden, promising rest and complete restoration. That’s my King!
He called out the religious elite who cared more about their own comfort and wealth than ministering the heart of God. That’s my King!
He showed us that His rule is not by power and might, but by caring for those who need Him. That’s my King!
He’s the Great Shepherd who left the 99 to rescue the one. That’s my King!
He taught his disciples how to lead by washing their feet. That’s my King!
He prayed in the garden, “let this cup pass from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” That’s my King!
He took the whipping and abuse and mocking of the Roman soldiers, and said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” That’s my King!
He died a criminal’s death on the cross, taking with Him the sins of the world. That’s my King!
Three days later He beat death by rising from the grave. That’s my King!
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. That’s my King!
He’s back coming to restore all things. That’s my King!
When Stephen, the first deacon who also became the first martyr, looked up and saw the heavens open, He was standing at the throne. That’s my King!
He appeared to Saul while on the road to Damascus and turned into one of the greatest teachers and missionaries in all of history. That’s my King!
He looked at me, when I was broken and unworthy, and called me to a hope and a purpose. That’s my King!
He is close to the hungry, the poor, and the sick. That’s my King!
He makes a way for the orphans and foster kids in our community. That’s my King!
He is there with you when you’re struggling with life, and helps you to find a way. That’s my King!
He’s there when you’re broken-hearted, bringing deep healing exactly where you need it. That’s my King!
He’s the one who will wipe away every tear from our eyes. That’s my King!
When each of us comes before the Father on Judgement Day to account for our sins, He steps in and says, “I’ve got this one.” That’s my King!
He is Love. That’s my King!
That’s my King.
He’s all of these things and so much more to so many people. How do you know Him?
Worship in His Kingdom
So when we come to worship Him today, on this Christ the King Sunday. I want you to remember who He is in your life.
And I want you to remember that, in a way, every Sunday is Christ the King Sunday. We see it all throughout our worship in things we say, things we sing, and things we do.
When we begin worship (in both Rite 1 and Rite 2) we say:
(Celebrant) Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(People) And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever.
In this blessing we recognize and lift up our King and his kingdom.
During the Holy Communion portion of our worship, we join our voices with Angels and Archangels saying or singing something like…
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts,
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might
…which is from Revelation 4, where the scene is the worship happening in the throne room of the King.
Father Mark has talked about the three crosses we have here in our church. The one with Jesus nailed to the cross to remember his sacrifice for our sins. The one with Jesus not on the cross to remember that he’s not there anymore.
But my favorite is the one we have front and center over our altar. It’s the victorious Christ over the cross, but no longer nailed to it. This one reminds us that he has victory over sin and death.
That’s my King!
Closing Thoughts and Prayer
As I close, I want to re-read the reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. This piece is more than instruction in a letter. It’s a prayer. And it’s a prayer that I’d like to leave you with today.
But as I read through it this time, I want you to digest these words in light of who this Christ the King is to all of us.
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand 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.
And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.