Christ the King Sermon

How Jesus Reigns

Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46, Col 1:11-20, LK 23:33-43

            In the last two weeks the church has commemorated two queens. They are Margaret who was a Queen of Scotland and Elizabeth of Thuringia who was technically a princess in Hungary. These two stately figures are separated by centuries and united for a common passion for the sick and needy. It is their work among the impoverished and the sick for which they have been remembered by large segments of the church.

            Isn’t it something when we can remember royalty for their service to the people they lead. That doesn’t seem to typical. We remember kings and queens for their acts of conquest and political or military subterfuge, we honor kings and queens for their elegance, wealth, and influence. When we picture kings and queens we picture them being pampered and catered to by an assembly of handmaidens, court officials, and royal servants, not bandaging up the sick and dying, serving food to the hungry and malnourished, or clothing the naked. Yet that is what these two ladies of stature are known for. Where did they learn such a radical approach to wearing a crown?

            They learned from the King of the Universe, who they both called Lord. Today on Christ the King Sunday we recognize Jesus’ Lordship over the whole worled by hearing not about his teachings, which may show the power and influence he had over his followers,  or his miracles which show his power over the natural world, not even his resurrection in which he shows his complete dominance over death.

            Instead we celebrate Jesus’ rule by remembering he was willing to die a violent and shameful death for our sakes.  We come and pay homage to a beaten and bloodied king. This may seem odd at first but it is just the pinnacle of all the reversals we see in the Gospels. You see throughout the 4 gospels and especially in Luke we encounter how God’s kingdom brings about great reversals; penniless widows and children become models of great faith, teachers of religion become Jesus’ greatest detractors, death becomes a door to eternal life.  It is only in this light through the perspective of faith, that it begins to make sense that the King of the Universe’s greatest conquest is seen in this moment of weakness, in the midst of the mockery of those who should be singing his praises. It is that moment that the Son of God carries the sins of the world and bears the burdens of all history.

            Christ the King as a feast day was not instituted until 1925 by Pope Pius the XI. With the increasing nationalism and secularism that the 20th century ushered in Pius felt the last Sunday of the Church year was a great day to reemphasize for Catholics that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all who worthily commands worship and obedience. In a world that in the immediate future would see the rise of global leaders like Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler the church needed to point to the eternal, heavenly, and radically different rule of Jesus Christ where conquest was not won on the battlefield and people weren’t separated into us and them with them being gathered and slaughtered like animals.

            It is leaders like those I named earlier that God addresses through the prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading. Throughout the Old Testament we see Israel’s kings being referred to as shepherds. In today’s reading God accuses these kings of destroying and scattering His people. All through Israel’s history these earthly kings strayed from God’s plan for his people and doing so harmed the people they were supposed to be serving. As long as there have been nations and earthly kingdoms there have been kings and rulers who oppressed and mistreated people. As long as there have been legislation there have been policies that failed to insure peace and wellbeing among the people. As today’s psalm reminds us God is our refuge and strength, the God of Jacob is our stronghold. There is one king brothers and sisters who won’t fail us and it is this king we meet today at His crucifixion.

            And in His Kingdom anybody can be a prince or princess; even the robber who is facing his own death alongside Jesus today.  This robber who tradition has named Dismus realizes as he stares death in the  face the hard part is facing his life.

Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 

          He found himself evaluating his life and found it lacking. He realized that his life was full of poor choices and unfinished business. I wonder if we were to look back and take a survey of our lives would the regrets and mistakes outweigh the joys and accomplishments. There is a word for that it is human, and it is for people such as these that God’s kingdom is for.

            After Dismus realizes how forgetful his life is he does a very brave thing. He asks the Son of God to remember him. And the great news brothers and sisters is that the King of the universe does remember Dismus just as he remembers each and every one of us.

            He does not remember us as we find ourselves today, sinners who fail to place their utmost trust in God’s hands. But He remembers us as He makes us, sons and daughters of the most high. This my friends is the kingdom I want to call home.