It is Christ the King Sunday which has always seemed a weird thing to me. I think I struggle with this idea of Christ the King for several reasons. One, we don’t live under a monarchy. I don’t know what it’s like to have a “King” as a ruler. We elect (or re-elect) our “rulers” every 2-4 years. Two, I have a vision of a king as someone who rules with an iron fist. I guess Hollywood movies have given me that perception. And that’s just not the Jesus I know. Three, so often when I think of the ways to describe Jesus, “King” is not always at the top of my list. I think of kind, healer, mercy, grace, love, teacher, and maybe halfway down my list I will eventually say “king.” Lastly, I struggle with the idea of Christ being King because I always struggle with the idea of what kind of “king” would allow things to happen that happen.
This is also a strange Sunday for me because it will be a year tomorrow since my ordination. A year since friends and family gathered around me at Faith Lutheran Church in Wichita Falls, Texas as I asked God to help and guide me through the ups and downs of being your pastor. So, this occasion has caused me to reflect back on our year together. And as I’ve reflected, I keep asking myself and answering myself. I find that I’m a good conversationalist with myself. I keep asking myself “what kind of King….” and then answering myself with “the kind of King that…” What kind of King would allow me to wade through the darkness and doubt of not having a call, of not having a church to serve, of making me question whether or not I’m really supposed to be a pastor? The kind of King that was preparing me and you for each other. But there’s more than that. When I thought about Christ being King, I thought about the amount of loss we have experienced together this year; and we have experienced a lot of loss.
What kind of “King” would take Lyle, a warm, kind hearted soul who wouldn’t hurt a fly, in the blink of an eye from this earth so quickly? It’s the same King who has accompanied Irene through surgeries and triumphs over life–the same King who allowed her to (recently) see 90. What kind of “King” takes a relatively healthy, loving, and loved man and allows him to struggle? What kind of “King” was with Todd? And what kind of “King” was with Kim in her darkest hours? What kind of “King” was with a mother of three as she left this world? I guess it was the same “King” that finally called Letha home after years of struggle and battle with a disease I still struggle to understand. I guess it was the same “King” that was with the Petersen family as we said goodbye to Arlene and with the Ryan and Edens family as we said goodbye to Gwen. And this could go on and on. I struggle because a “King” wouldn’t let this happen. But a “King” did and will continue to accompany us along the way.
I also struggle because a “King” wouldn’t be born in a barn, laid in hay and surrounded by animals. A “King” wouldn’t be seen interacting with a leper, a blind man, a hemorrhaging woman, a possessed man, and on and on and on. A “King” wouldn’t be sentenced to a death so brutal and so inhumane. A “King” wouldn’t so easily forgive, so easily love, so easily shower us with grace. And yet, our King does.
I also struggle because if Christ is King, that means so many other things in my life are not. So many other things in our lives are not. If Christ is King, that means my money, our money is not king. If Christ is King, that means our jobs are not. If Christ is King, that means our vocations in life as mother, wife, husband, dad, aunt, friend, etc… are not. If Christ is King that means our homes and everything we have claimed to work for and earn (even though it was given to us by God) are not king. If Christ is King, then that means I am not. If Christ is King then that means you are not king either.
And there’s good news in all of this, too. If Christ is King, then that means the number I see on the scale isn’t king. If Christ is King, that means my depression isn’t. If Christ is King that means cancer is not. If Christ is King, that means hopelessness, hunger, sadness, homelessness, racism, hate, and injustice are not. When we start to view the world through the frame of a cross, we begin to understand that all the things we put weight into, that we put worry into, that we put money, time, concern, energy, and effort into are ultimately not king. There is only one king: Christ. That’s not to say that those other things are not important. But they are not, ultimately, life giving.
Christ, who is King, is calling us into something new. Christ, who is King, is calling us into a life where because he IS King, evil has no power over us. Christ, who is King, invites us to a meal, fit for a King, but humble enough for us who are both sinner and saint. Christ, who is King, invites us into the season of Advent (starting soon); the season not of hustle and bustle, but a season of waiting, and great anticipation. A season of new birth and the cries of a new baby born of a peasant unwed virgin and a carpenter, in a manger full of the chill of winter and the lovely smells of a barn, and a time of renewal. A season that begs us to stop, slow down, breathe, and wait. Wait for Christ the King who is making all things new.
Next time we struggle with life and all that life has to give us, let us challenge ourselves by not asking “what kind of King…” but instead answering “the kind of King….” Not “what kind of King would take away the ability for Augie to come to church, to ride in the combine, to allow him to serve others as he so loves.” But instead we rejoice at the King who is accompanying him through this, who will call him (and all of us) home in our own time; the kind of King who equips doctors and nurses to care for him. The kind of King that gives Erline patience and understanding, the kind of King that gives us wisdom and strength. Not “what kind of King would allow a man of God like Pastor Sondrol to struggle” but instead, we thank a King that has given Pastor Sondrol time to get things in order (as he likes to do) and for a reminder that the community of faith, no matter how long one has been gone from it, is always strong and supportive.
The challenge to change our thinking this way from “what kind of King” to “the kind of King that…” is difficult, I know. Maybe it seems impossible. Even if you can’t make the switch, remember this. We are disciples of the kind of King that never leaves us abandoned. We are claimed by a King that loves us, no matter what. We are called by a King that challenges us to serve others as a response to being freed from our sin. We are embraced by a King no matter our scars. And we are served by a King that loves us to the point of death. Even death on a cross.