John 18: 33-37
As Jerry Seinfeld would say when things are outrageously at odds with expectations: It’s Bizarro World! What kind of a king is born in a stable? What kind of a king wanders around telling stories all day? What kind of king seeks out the low-lifes and the losers and then heaps scorn on the big-shots? He doesn’t have a castle; no crown jewels; not even a coach. What kind of a king is that?
He’s… Our King, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. There never was and never will be another king like him.
Think about it… a hundred years ago 80% of the world was ruled over by monarchs. But as we march further into the 21st Century, monarchy seems more and more a quaint anachronism…a boost for the British tourist trade, fodder for the tabloids, a source of racy plots for PBS soap operas… all strictly the stuff of fairy-tales. We’re comfortable with the Good Shepherd metaphor — a loving, protective, gentle Jesus — but what’s all this king stuff about?
Jesus always spoke in terms the people understood … the mustard seed, the lost sheep, the prodigal son. The concept of kingdoms and kingship was equally familiar to his listeners. It clearly described relationships, order, authority and responsibility. It did then. It does now.
But does that mean that God will be seated on a throne, have robes and a long white beard? I have my doubts, but never doubt that God has the will and the power to make all things, especially the strange and unexpected things, work together for the good. He is the creator and ruler of the universe. And that counts for a whole lot more than a collection of regal stage props.
As we’ve seen in earlier gospel accounts, Jesus was a terrible disappointment to those who wanted the Messiah to slaughter their enemies and dominate their neighbors. The peace of Christ is not the product of conquest. It is a labor of love. The kingdom Christ preached has no frontiers, no army, no navy. But it does have a constitution: Love God with your whole heart. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Over 2000 years, hundreds of powerful dynasties have had their day and faded. Only the Kingdom of God endures as fresh and as new, as vibrant and joyful as the day Jesus first proclaimed it. This Sunday we come to the end of our church year. It is fitting that we begin each year in anticipation of Jesus’ birth. And we finish each year celebrating Christ in glory.
In the perfect prayer composed for us by Jesus, we pray: Thy kingdom come. But we are not meant to be passive supplicants seeking the kingdom only in our prayers. We are meant to build the kingdom. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 7: Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord!, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father. How do we make the kingdom come? How do we build it? One act of love… one act of faith… one pardoned slight… one helping hand at a time.
Through divine grace the foundations of the kingdom have been sunk solidly into our hearts. Christ is faithfully waiting to help us build on that foundation. This side of heaven, that is where and how his kingdom will come. But first we must overthrow the kingdom of pride… ruled over by our unchecked ego. We must depose the prince of sin who usurps God’s place in our hearts. If in all things we seek first the kingdom of God, we have been promised that his kingdom surely will come. If we honestly and constantly commit to letting Christ reign in our hearts, in the words of St. Josemaria Escriva: “My every heartbeat and breath, my most ordinary word, my most basic feeling can be transformed into a hosanna to Christ, my king.”
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.
Image: Jesus as Alpha and Omega; – public domain