Christ the King
Yesterday was Christ the King Sunday in the wider church, though I’d forgive you if you weren’t aware—it’s not a holy day we lift up with consistency. We do typically mark this Sunday as the final one in the Christian Year, with this upcoming Sunday being the First Sunday of Advent and the start of a whole new year together. If the gravitational pull of Advent and Christmas wasn’t enough, this Sunday tends to fall around Thanksgiving, which risks it being even more lost in the shuffle. And yet in some ways the whole Christian year, which traces the life of Jesus and the early church, led us to yesterday’s service.
In Advent we read from the prophets and wait expectantly for baby Jesus to be born. He arrives at Christmas and on Epiphany we mark those Magi coming from the East. In January, we follow Jesus’ baptism and then sometime in February or March begin our march toward the cross in Lent. Over Holy Week we trace Jesus’ final steps. We parade triumphantly with palms; we break bread, lift a cup, and wash each other’s feet; we strip the altar in agony; we rest in silence; and come Easter morning, we stand in awe and gratitude for the mystery of resurrection.
Over the Sundays of Easter we trace the disciples’ steps as they encounter their risen Lord and look back on lessons from the Gospels, hearing these stories with “resurrection ears.” At Pentecost we give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit and the ways it continues to move among us, and over the many Sundays that follow (about half the year), we focus our attention to what it means to live a life of faith.
All of which leads us to this Sunday, when, having once again seen and heard and experienced the story of our faith over the course of the year, we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and no one else. In the earliest days of the church, “Jesus Christ is Lord” was what baptismal candidates would say before being lowered into the water. Baptismal candidates here in our congregation say and do the same. For the early church, to claim Jesus Christ as Lord was to claim that Caesar was not—an act of treason and grounds for a very painful and pubic death. So in a very real sense, the stakes of making such a confession today in Central Georgia are far lower—though it’s good for us to remember the same is not true in other parts of the world. But in the devotional sense, these stakes remain equally high.
There continue to be any number of other people or institutions or nations or ideologies of political parties or candidates or possessions or memories or histories that would claim our allegiance. Caesar still reigns, though often in subtler ways.
Is it too much to say that confessing Jesus is Lord—not simply with our tongues, but with our lives—is every bit as risky, every bit as counter-cultural, every bit as courageous and costly today as it was so long ago? Is it so much easier to say but perhaps harder to live?
I’ll confess, this is a lofty aim for the Sunday after Thanksgiving when our bellies are full with turkey and our hearts are already looking with anticipation to the season ahead.
But in a sense, this Sunday is our “New Years’” in the church, and so it can be a time of taking stock. What of this story we’ve told and walked together over the past year has touched you? What has challenged you? What are you willing to give your life to?
And if you’re not quite sure what to make of it all, that’s okay too. We’ll start telling it again this Sunday.