Welcome to the last Sunday of the Christian year – a day traditionally referred to as the Festival of ’Christ the King’.
Now, I say ’traditionally’, but it’s actually only a practice that goes back just short of 90 years – to 1925, when the feast day was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX.
1925 was a very interesting time for our world. We had only just emerged from the war to end all wars, and the signs were everywhere that it was hurtling towards another. We were in the grip of a worldwide economic depression, and desperately looking for answers.
And of course there were some outspoken leaders who believed that they had answers to those questions. One was the Italian leader, Mussolini, who had just celebrated his third year in office.
Another was a young rabble-rouser by the name of Adolf Hitler, who had been out of jail for a year by that stage, and whose Nazi party was rapidly growing in popularity across Germany.
The world was watching, waiting for answers, and listening to these powerful men competing for the limelight, and so the then Pope felt that it was time to remind Christian people everywhere that our allegiance is to Christ and not to any of these worldly rulers.
And so we have ’Christ the King’ Sunday, celebrating not a political power-monger, but one whose Kingdom has to do with truth, justice, mercy, love and service.
LET US PRAY
Most holy God, by your Spirit encouraging us, and the love of Christ enabling us, may we worship you with the enthusiasm born of true love.
We join our voices with the millions who this day praise the name of Jesus from every nation on earth, and with the great host of heavenly souls whose praise and love fills the universe and flows far beyond all time and space.
Glory be to you forever! Through Christ our King.
SERMON – CHRIST THE KING (YEAR A).
The older you get, the quicker time seems to pass!
I’m amazed that we’ve come almost full circle in the Church’s liturgical year. Next Sunday marks the beginning of Advent again.
Last Advent (as with every Advent) we look forward to and prepare for the coming of the holy child born in Bethlehem, and anticipate the King returning in judgement and in glory.
Then Christmastide, with shepherds, and Magi at Epiphany – soon to disappear from view, returning to their everyday tasks, but changed men, as we are changed folk, having glimpsed something of the divine breaking through to the humdrum routine of life. Where “BC became AD”
Then we wondered how we were going to spread the light of God’s love made known to us….
But before we could catch our breath, we were walking the road to Calvary once again.
We witnessed the King riding on the back of a donkey into the Holy City. We heard Pilate asking Jesus, “So, you’re a King then?!”
And then a bleak and lonely Friday with a cross silhouetted against the sky, and a sign above it: “the King of the Jews”
And so we mourned – the King is dead! But, wait! On the third day….. the miracle of miracles…. Resurrection, joy, wonder – Long live the King!
we cannot explain it, but he rose again from the dead! But then to leave, in a burst of glory – to reign at the right side of the Father, to use Biblical language and imagery.
But we were not orphaned, not bereft – for the Spirit came. And still comes when perhaps we least expect it, and He teaches, guides, and binds us together and closer than breathing to the King of Kings.
The year continued to unfold, and we listen to, learn from, and struggled with what our faith meant for us in our day to day living.
What a journey! What a road to travel!
Now that journey has brought us to the place where we can sing the praises of the One who now reigns supreme.
…….but we are still left with one nagging and all important question —- “How DO we worship and show devotion to this one who sits on the throne?!”
The Gospel Reading for this Reign of Christ the King tells us…….
Let’s listen now for God’s Word:
READING: Matthew 25:31-46 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.
32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left
. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?
39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’
40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’
45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Henry Van Dyke’s classic work, The Other Wise Man is a fictional story about a fourth wise man named Artaban.
This star-gazer & three of his friends plan to set out to find the promised King of Israel.
Selling his possessions, Artaban bought three jewels — a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl. He would “carry them as tribute to the King.”
He had only 10 days to meet up with his three companions, but was held up, when he came upon a very ill man lying in the road. Artaban stops and helps him.
He came upon a very ill man lying in the road & stops and he helps him.
By the time he reaches the place where he and his friends were to rendezvous – they have already set off without him
He was forced to sell his sapphire to buy a train of camels and provision for his journey. “I may never overtake my friends. Only God the merciful knows whether I shall not lose the sight of the King because I tarried to show mercy.”
But once again, Artaban discovers he is a step behind. He arrives in Bethlehem just as the cruel soldiers of King Herod are killing the baby boys of Bethlehem.
Guarding the doorway of a home where he has discovered a young mother and her baby son are hiding, Artaban confronts a soldier: “I am all alone in this place, and I am waiting to give this jewel to the prudent captain who will leave me in peace.”
Artaban hands the soldier the ruby, “glistening in the hollow of his hand like a great drop of blood.” “March one!” the soldier cried to his men, “There is no child here. The house is empty.”
For 33 years Artaban continued looking for the King — spending his years helping the poor and dying — before at last coming to Jerusalem during the season of the Passover. There was great commotion in Jerusalem.
Suddenly a slave girl, being dragged by soldiers, breaks away from her tormentors and throws herself at Artaban’s feet. Taking the last of his treasures, the pearl, he gives it to the girl. “This is thy ransom, daughter! It is the last of my treasures which I kept for the king.”
While Artaban spoke, a powerful earthquake shook the city. He was struck by a roof tile.
Artaban knew he was dying. He would not find the King.
The quest was over, and he had failed.
But the ransomed slave girl, holding the old, dying man, heard a sweet voice and then saw Artaban’s lips slowly move. “Not so, my Lord! … When saw I thee sick or in prison, and came unto thee? Thirty-three years have I looked for thee, but I have never seen thy face, nor ministered to thee, my King.”
But the unmistakable voice came again and the lass heard it clearly: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”
Van Dyke then ends his story: “A long breath of relief exhaled gently from Artaban’s lips. His journey was ended. His treasures were accepted. The Other Wise Man had found the King.”