“You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world.” These words of Jesus to Pontius Pilate were delivered prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, and is a clear statement of the kingship of Jesus.
Welcome to this feast of the celebration of the Reign of Christ, or Christ the King Sunday, or the Sunday Next before Advent as it is known in some places. It is held at the end of the church’s calendar year and ahead of the first Sunday in Advent, starting next week.
When we think of kings, we can have preconceived notions of men in ornate fancy robes, with crowns on their heads and yielding great power. Over the centuries, there have been many kings, some fitting that description and others who didn’t. In the Old Testament lesson, we read of bad kings, called “shepherds.” The prophet speaks out against them. Historically, the southern kingdom of Judah is now subject to Babylonian rule. Some Israelites have been deported while others have scattered.
In the midst of this situation, we are reminded of the Lord’s Kingship. “I, myself, will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.”
I like this imagery for kingship, as it is nurturing and caring, as of course the shepherd is for the sheep. Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost and knows His own.
Anyway, there have been many kings, good and bad,even the mighty King David, called and anointed by God as a young man. David was the one we credit with having written many of the psalms we now use in worship. This same David was as human as you and me. He sinned, committing adultery, for example. These men were human and made their share of mistakes, but they were led by God.
In our own Anglican tradition, much of our heritage is traced back to a king, Henry the Eighth. Henry was King of England from April 21, 1509 until his death. He was the second monarch of the House of Tudor, succeeding his father Henry VII. Henry VIII was most known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. There is a poster on the upstairs wall of the cathedral that states “There is much to be said about forgiveness in a Church that was headed up by a man with six wives”
Henry VIII may be thought of as the founder of the Anglican Church due to his inability to get a divorce from his first wife, Catharine of Aragon, but that would not be accurate. His beef with Rome had to do with the Pope sending foreign bishops to have control over the Church in England. His struggles with Rome led to the separation of the Church of England from papal authority, the dissolution of the monasteries and the establishment of himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. He also laid claim to the title “Defender of the Faith”, a title the Queen holds today.
In Henry VIII’s reign, the structure inherited from Rome remained, with its bishops and archbishops, priests and deacons…the structure we are familiar with today. We were known as the Church of England in Canada up until some time in the 1960s and I remember when the name was changed to the Anglican Church of Canada.
Kings and the monarchy remain with us today, but I will always recall the words of a former Primate, Michael Peers. It was during a dark time in the Church’s life. The Anglican Church of Canada faced bankruptcy over the issue of Residential Schools and the many claims that had been filed. Anglicans were panicking, including those Aboriginal Anglicans gathered at the national Sacred Circle. Many were thinking the Church would disappear.
In his message to that Circle, our Primate said that over the ages, many have come and gone. Our Church has seen emperors come and go, kings and princes come and go, but this one fact remains. After it is all said and done, the Church will remain. Why? Because the Church is the Body of Christ and the only King that matters is Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So what about this Kingdom of Jesus? Where is it? It is in the past, when Jesus walked the earth and said “The Kingdom of God has come near you,” It is perhaps more importantly in the present when the Body of Christ gathers as we do today. The kingdom is with us in the here and now. We, too, today, can say to someone “The Kingdom of God has come near you,” when we approach someone, since the Holy Spirit resides within us. The Kingdom is also in the future, when Jesus will come again to judge the earth as we hear about in the season of Advent.
The kingdom could be found within Jesus and is not of this earth, as Jesus tried to explain to Pilate. The kingdom is within. This kingdom is one of peace and love and joy. Jesus said this of the kingdom… “Those who do not accept the kingdom as little children will not enter it.” By this He meant the nature of children, the attitude of trust and openness found in children. Accept it, not like children in childish ways, but as children, in child-like ways, open to the working of God in your life.
Paul speaks of kingdom life, the inner spiritual life in his letter to Ephesians read today. He says this… “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
Those words are inspiring for us today…a Spirit of wisdom and revelation…think about that….the wisdom that comes from God is not the same as human wisdom. This wisdom, along with prayer and discernment will bring about revelation from God as to how to approach mission and ministry. “When two or three gather in my name,” says the Lord, “there I am in the midst of them”. Paul asks for these gifts so we may know the Lord better, so we might grow or mature in our faith in Christ. It is that genuine faith that moves us to action and any action taken with the help of the Lord will be accompanied by great power.
This inner life, this kingdom life, is seen in each of us when we accept and acknowledge the sovereignty of God in our world and in our lives. The kingdom of God, this kingdom of peace and love and joy, is within, and can be passed along to a world that needs it. As we become like little children in our attitudes of trust and obedience to our King, we begin to spread that Good News to others around us.
The kingdom view often looks nothing like the kingdoms of this earth. Since the earthly kings are human, they will make earthly mistakes. Yet, every king, every authority, every aspect of our earth owes its reliance on our God and King. When peace reigns in the heart, the individual is moved to extend that peace to others.
The writer of the Book of Revelation perhaps said it best concerning Jesus. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
May we be found accepting the kingdom within and may that acceptance lead us to assist others to do the same, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen