November 25, 2012


Are you King of the Jews? – John 18: 33

   Here is a description of the opening of a synod of the Church of England in Westminster Abbey according to The Church Times: “The Church’s supreme governor was there, looking small, dignified and very pretty in pale duck-egg blue.”

   Whatever we may think of Queen Elizabeth, this description sounds all too much like some modern theologians trying to describe God. More importantly it reflects the emasculated image all too many Christians have of the Lord of the Church & of creation. For evidence, we need only look to the numerous insipid & sentimental artistic portrayals of Jesus.

   Confusing humility with weakness, we find it difficult to respect such a figure much less submit to His yoke. Taking Him for a wimp, we find it hard to know Him as the light by which our lives can be given direction & purpose. It was no wimp that endured the Passion & Crucifixion without protest or whining.

   Recently we celebrated the feast of All Saints. The world celebrated it in one way, by going around the night before in garish costumes & hidden faces. The Church celebrated it by holding up the saints for all the world to see & saying, “Here they are!”

   Like Adam in the garden, fallen humanity has to hide from glory. The saints do not hide. They see a vision of something beyond the mundane ugliness which surrounds us in the world. This glory is not completely beyond us – we do catch glimpses of it from time to time, in sacraments, in prayer, in a person, in scripture, perhaps even in the most unlikely of places, a sermon. But then we let it pass – distracted by our own sense of self-importance & self-sufficiency. We trade our birthright for a mess of pottage.

   On this, the last Sunday of the Christian year, it is only right that we should be reminded of the Kingship of Christ & of His glory, for there is a sense in which this is what the rest of the year is about. It is also appropriate that we should take stock & ask ourselves if He has indeed reigned this past year, not only in our own lives but also in our families, our parish, our city, our country & our world. For, you see, Pilate was wrong: Jesus is not just King of the Jews, but of all mankind & of the cosmos. It is not enough that Pilate did not see this. The question is do we see it? If not, why not?

   Part of the problem lies in the very notion of kingship. We Americans associate it with tyranny. As a nation we were born out of a revolt against authority, & after 200 + years we have managed to take that premise to its logical conclusion: we are suspicious of all authority save that of the individual to do his own thing.

   In the Old Testament, the word we translate ‘king’ also means shepherd. For the Hebrews, the king was a living expression of God’s loving concern. The authority of Christ does not consist of coercion: it is the gentle strength of a Love that knows no bounds & will stop at nothing, not even the cross, to restore us as heirs of the kingdom.

   The only real authority belongs to God, & it is the Church’s privilege & responsibility to proclaim this by word & deed. Let us pray fervently that in the coming year each of us will be fortunate enough to discover the glory of God, & with it the King who is also a shepherd!  AMEN!