The Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B
[Texts: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4-8; John 18:33-37]
“Not That Kind of King”
I speak to you today in the Name of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
What do you think of when you hear words like “kingdom” and “monarchy”?
Perhaps you think of works of fiction and fantasy
that take place in magical kingdoms,
long ago and far away
and once upon a time
full of dashing princes and beautiful princesses
and lavish banquets and balls where only the fanciest and most powerful people were invited
and mighty kings who rode white horses into battle,
leading their troops to victory.
Or a time when most nations in this world were ruled by kings and queens,
The Middle Ages, for example,
ruled over their subjects with an iron fist
from tall, imposing castles on a hill.
These kings and queens were thought to be answerable only to God,
because God Himself, they said, gave them the right to rule.
(To their credit, I suppose “God” sounded like a better answer
than “strange women lying in ponds distributing swords.”
That’s no basis for a system of government.)
Or maybe you thought of the royal wedding in England earlier this year.
It really was spectacular, wasn’t it?
Those royals sure know how to put on a wedding.
I don’t think anyone could have looked at Westminister Abbey that day
and questioned the power, prestige, or wealth of the British monarchy.
But whether we’re talking about
reality or fantasy,
modern times or once upon a time,
all of these kingdoms have a few things in common.
When we think about what it might be like to be a king or a queen, we imagine
being wealthy beyond our wildest dreams,
having the best of everything–
from food and drink
to furniture and possessions
to medical care and education–
that money can buy,
having our pick of the most dashing young men
or the fairest maidens in all the land,
and most of all, being really, really powerful.
If we could be the king or the queen of our very own kingdom,
we would be powerful, wouldn’t we?
We wouldn’t have to follow anyone else’s rules.
We’d be the ones making the rules!
No one would outrank us.
We’d be in charge.
(And if anyone has a problem with that,
I say, off with their heads!)
Man, all this kingdom stuff sounds pretty good!
Where do I sign up?
As a matter of fact, our reading from Revelation today
tells us that we are already part of a kingdom.
But it’s not that kind of kingdom.
Because we don’t have that kind of King.
Christ, whose Kingship we celebrate today on this Feast of Christ the King,
doesn’t really tick all those boxes we were daydreaming about earlier.
He was born not in a palace but a barn,
not to a well-dressed queen but to a teenage girl.
He didn’t rule from a tall tower or a mighty castle;
in fact, He was a refugee as a child
and homeless, owning nothing, during His ministry as an adult.
He wasn’t waited on hand and foot by a staff of servants,
but washed the feet of His motley crew of disciples.
He didn’t hobnob with the who’s who in glittering ballrooms;
He took His meals with tax collectors, prostitutes, and outcasts.
And when the time came for Him to leave this earth,
He died as a criminal.
No carriage-drawn funeral procession through the streets
(or Elton John singing “Candle in the Wind”
to a cathedral full of weeping mourners.)
He was buried in a borrowed tomb.
If you’re thinking, “gee, Anna, that sounds literally nothing like
any king I’ve ever heard of!”
then you’re in good company.
Jesus’s contemporaries were, for the most part,
inclined to agree with you.
They were expecting something a lot more… well… regal.
They wanted a warrior king,
a real macho guy who
wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around
and get things done.
They wanted somebody who was going to come swooping in on a big horse
and teach those nasty Romans a lesson
about messing with God’s chosen people.
And they got…
Who was none of those things.
Because Jesus isn’t that kind of king.
And we are not called to be that kind of kingdom.
If He was,
we would all be pretty screwed.
Sure, that kind of king can put on a good show.
He looks great on a white horse
in a freshly-pressed military uniform with all kinds of medals pinned to his chest.
When he gives orders, he certainly sounds like he knows what he’s doing.
He’s got all the trappings of royalty– all the things you’d expect.
He has the affection– or, at the very least, the fear– of his subjects.
He may even have won a battle or two.
But his power comes from this world,
from human beings.
What power does he have over sin?
Can he simply say, “off with your head” to the forces of evil?
Can he issue an edict telling Satan where to stick it?
Can he lock up death in some cobweb-covered stone cell
underneath a castle?
“Of course not, Anna,” you say.
Of course it’s silly.
But it’s something we all fall into believing from time to time.
When we proclaim Christ to be our King,
and ourselves to be members of His Kingdom,
what are we saying about Him?
(and about ourselves?)
How often do we let the identities we claim as citizens of this nation
distract us from our common identity as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven?
How often do we pray, “Thy will be done,”
while secretly thinking, “my will be done?”
How often do we place our hope in the wealth and might and rulers of this world
instead of the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord?
How often do we get so caught up in wishing we had that kind of king
that we forget who the Kings of Kings is?
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates!
Behold, the King of Glory waits!
The King of Kings is drawing near!
The Savior of the world is here!