Who and what is your king? We seem to come back to this question year after year on this Sunday, known as Christ the King Sunday. And as we continue to reflect, heal, protest, or just sit and observe the world around us since the election, it seems that we have forgotten that to proclaim Christ as King means that we are proclaiming a crucified king, a king who declared forgiveness to all, a king who granted (and grants) salvation to criminals, and a king who promises to bring those who are condemned into paradise with him. In short, we have a king who has declared that love reigns. And, from my perspective, we’re a little short on love in this world lately. Now, please understand that I am talking in broad terms. I am not claiming that any of you are guilty of anything. I don’t claim that any of you have forgotten that Christ is King. I also am not claiming that any of you need reminded of Christ’s love and that love actually is king. But, I am just stating what I have observed over the weeks since the election.
Those crucifying Jesus had no idea what was going to happen. They finally had their guy. They finally had arrested and put on trial their guy that was a “threat” to the empire. What they didn’t want to admit was that the threat to the empire was a man who fed people, forgave people, healed people, stood beside people that others wanted to ignore, turned water into wine, and resurrected Lazarus. He was seen as a threat because he was spreading a message counter-cultural and counter-intuitive of the empire. He was spreading a message that Caesar wasn’t king, God is king. A “king” by Jesus’ definition sides with those whom society forgets. Caesar wanted to put a boot on the neck of those who didn’t support him. Jesus spread love; Caesar spread fear.
What Jesus did, who he defended, what he believed, and the message he spread was definitely not the message a “king” would give. It wasn’t the definition of a king during his time and it certainly doesn’t seem to be the message a modern day king would give. Those who were persecuting Jesus put the sign “King of the Jews” over his head as some kind of cruel joke. They were mocking him. As it turns out, the joke was on them. Jesus wasn’t a king of power, like the people were used to, he was a servant of love. Jesus continues to be a servant of love. However, in a time when we seem to so badly want, need, desire, and even crave the love of Christ, instead we look to the things in our life that cannot give us that. Nothing comes close to giving us the love we receive from Christ….but man, do we go looking for it.
When I ask you “who or what is your king” it’s not for a nice little question as an afterthought for you to talk about on the car ride home. I want to challenge you with this question because the way that we answer this question affects (or at least should) the way we demonstrate to others who God is in our life. Maybe think about the question this way instead: why does it matter to you personally to say that Christ is King? Because the thing is, the Jesus we hear about in today’s reading is the Christ of love. This is a leader who loved, who forgave, who grants salvation and mercy, who welcomed and brought condemned criminals into paradise. So, if we declare that to say Christ is King means that love is also king, then friends I fear that the church is falling short.
The church (and I don’t mean this church specifically, I mean the church as a general term) has become a safe haven for opinions that are anything but Christ is love. Because, if to say “Christ is King” means “Christ is love” the hour on Sunday at church wouldn’t still be the whitest hour in the US. If we’re going to declare that Christ is love, then that means we must fight against the ideas that someone like me (that is, a female) isn’t welcome in some pulpits. It means we must fight against the stigma of rape and sexual assault and work to dismantle the “old boys club.” To declare that Christ is love means that we should be angry that the corrections institution in this country is a for-profit institution. This means that the more bodies that are in prison, the more money certain companies make. To declare that Christ is love means that we should work to understand movements like “black lives matter” instead of thinking it is just a bunch of whiny kids protesting (as I’ve heard it called). But instead, we stay quiet.
The church has stayed quiet for too long. We stay quiet in the interest of making sure our neighbors in the pews are comfortable. We’re concerned about the bottom line. We’re concerned about no longer being relevant. And so we stay quiet. Instead of speaking to who Jesus is, what Jesus did, or what difference Jesus can make in the world, we stay quiet. Rather than tell the truth to the world: that Jesus’ love is a love for all people we remain quiet. We are quiet when racism becomes normal speech. We are quiet when sexism is shrugged off. We are quiet when systems of oppression stay in place and our fellow humans suffer. We are quiet when people with a little bit of color in their skin (Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans, anyone not white) are persecuted despite the fact that the lord we claim is a Lord of love WAS NOT WHITE. We stay quiet.
Last week I spoke about how the church has been acting in the world through programs like Foods Resource Bank. But, we still have work to do. We have work to do, church. We have to be brave and bold. We have to not let fear win. We have to step up and say “enough is enough” and start to declare that Christ the King is King of love. Society, now more than ever, needs the church. And the church needs society; we especially need the members of society that don’t agree with us because that’s a great way to see Christ: in the face of the other. We have to be willing to shine a light on the dark places in our society that validate hatred, injustice, violence, and fear and say “this isn’t who God has called us to be. This isn’t the society the King of Love would want us to be.” The church can no longer afford to be quiet.
Members of the body of Christ are dying in the streets. Members of the body of Christ are genuinely hurting. Members of the body of Christ are living in fear and in the shadows. Members of the body of Christ fear for their lives and for their children’s lives. And I’ve said this before, but when one member of the body of Christ is hurting, we all hurt. Now, more than ever, the world is hungry for the word of love that is Christ Jesus. So yes, church, we have work to do. It starts with listening, reconciliation, and not being in a big hurry to “fix” the other. And yes, to declare Christ as King means declaring that our king is a king of love. And this means that this is good news for you, and for me, and for all of us. But there are still those out in this world that don’t know that. We’ve got work to do, church.