Christ the King Deerfield November 25, 2012
Today is the feast of Christ the King. We celebrate Jesus’ present lordship in the world he has redeemed and we look forward to the time when all things are subject to Christ and we “enter the everlasting heritage” of God’s sons and daughters.
In December, 1925 Pope Pius 11th ordered a new feast of Christ the King be kept on the last Sunday in October. Three years before, in late October 1922, Mussolini’s Fascists had seized control of the Italian government. On May 30, 1924 Giacomo Matteotti spoke in the Italian parliament and charged the Fascists with electoral fraud and violence. Ten days later Matteotti was kidnapped and murdered. About the same time Adolf Hitler’s Storm Troopers began to terrorize Germany. The Fascists were political gangsters, determined to maintain order at the expense of justice. Fascism opposed Communism, but both Fascism and Communism were totalitarian ideologies fundamentally incompatible with Christian faith. The new feast of Christ the King in late October was the Pope’s 1direct challenge to Italian and German Fascism. That Fascism was defeated in World War II and in the calendar reform of 1969 Pope Pius 6th moved the Feast of Christ the King to the Sunday before Advent.
The church feast of Christ the King is relatively new, but the idea is biblical. The whole Bible teaches that God rules the world he made. Nathan brought God’s judgment to David for his crimes of adultery and murder. Isaiah prophesied (9:6-7), “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, . . .The Prince of Peace . . . to establish (his kingdom) with judgment and with justice . . . for ever.”
Today’s scripture readings show us three aspects of the rule of Christ the King. First in the Gospel Jesus teaches Pilate about his rule and its relationship to the power of the state. Second Daniel and Revelation focus on Christ’s rule in the last days. And third, as we live in this world awaiting the last days we consider how we celebrate Jesus’ present lordship in the world he has redeemed.
First, today’s Gospel is part of St. John’s account of Jesus’ trial. The next verse has Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” and Pilate’s judgment announced to the Jewish political and religious leadership, “I find in him no fault at all.”
Pilate’s judgment of innocence and his easy betrayal of that judgment under political pressure show his moral bankruptcy as governor. The only moral reason for government is to maintain justice and civil order. Without these government is simply tyranny.
When Pilate found Jesus innocent he took on a moral obligation to protect him, but instead Pilate caved into the mob and ordered Jesus’ execution. Christ the King calls us to use the authority we receive from God, as the prophet Micah commands (6:8), “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” Doing justice requires us not only to be just and fair in our own doings but to do all we can to ensure just and fair treatment of all persons and in all situations, to “make no peace with oppression” as we pray in the Collect for Social Justice BCP 260.
Second, both Daniel and the Revelation remind us of the scriptural truth that the universe as we know it is not permanent. It had a beginning and it will end. The God who made the world will in God’s good time bring it to an end.
Daniel says, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.” In Revelation St. John says, Jesus Christ our king “is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
By faith we believe that in the last day Christ will be king. The God who made the world will in God’s good time bring it to a just end.
So finally, what do we do until Christ returns to reign as king? First, because Christ is our king, because he is perfect justice and love, we seek “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly” in his service. And that means not only to be just and fair in our own doings but to do all we can to ensure just and fair treatment of all and in all situations, to “make no peace with oppression.”
Second, because Christ is our king, we “work, pray, and give for the spread of his kingdom” doing what we can as we can as a witness to Christ’s saving grace in our lives to the end that the world may come to know, love, and serve him in this life and the life to come.
And third, this is the feast of Christ the King. We celebrate Jesus’ present lordship in the world he has redeemed and we look forward to the time when all things are subject to Christ and we “enter the everlasting heritage” of God’s sons and daughters. Amen.