Sermon November 22, 2020
What words come to mind when you think of a king?
A colleague asked that question on a Facebook page I belong to earlier this week.
Quite often, depending upon the denomination, today is referred to as Christ the King Sunday, instead of Reign of Christ.
The word King can carry a lot of baggage with it. There is a good reason attempts have been made to get at the heart of what the day is supposed to be about while trying to utilize different language.
In fact Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday has a relatively short history. It was started in Europe in the early to mid 20th century in response to the rise of authoritarian governments and was intended to challenge the question f where our ultimate loyalty rests.
That is a question and a reflection that remains relevant even today.
But, the question of what we look for or expect to find in a king; a queen; or really any ruler is still worth asking.
We can talk about power; privilege, wisdom, wealth, a whole host of notions that follow from those ideas.
One significant thing that is often forgotten in our modern world is the idea of royalty being touched by the divine. Whether it was factual or not, is certainly up for debate, but the notion was the king was anointed by God to ruler over God’s people, govern them, protect them.
Or in the case of the Roman emperor, or the Egyptian ruler, they were themselves God, or a god.
And all of this goes a long way to explain why Jesus would use such language when describing himself returning in glory at the end of days.
This notion of divine power over God’s people being a king fits an already established view of world order.
Except Jesus, as he was inclined to do, upends that vision somewhat.
Jesus says he will separate the goat from the sheep. He rewards those who have fed and clothed the poor, visited the sick and the prisoners. What you did for the least of these you did for me. To the goats he says, what you didn’t do for the least of these you didn’t do for me.
Jesus identifies with the least of these. He calls on his followers; he calls on us to see him; our king; our God, in the faces of the least of these. Christ as ruler or king identifies with those we all too often do our best to ignore, or to pity; or to be wary of. Certainly we often avoid looking them in the eye; to recognize their faces.
But Jesus pretty much says that’s where you will find me.
But it’s more than just a story about how to identify Christ in our midst. How do we live our faith, our loyalty to god and Jesus? Matthew tells us Jesus is looking for more than words acknowledging Christ in our world. Jesus is calling us to live that faith. How we treat one another illustrates who we see in our neighbours. And inaction is a defining choice as well. Jesus doesn’t say you are judged for treating someone poorly, but for not doing.
Matthew’s continued description of punishment is difficult for me to process. But I am struck by his call for us to tie our faith to how we relate to the world.
Matthew is pretty clear that we should see God at work in the world around us. That we should see Christ in our fellow human beings and respond accordingly.
Furthermore, God works thorough more than just the “really important and powerful” men of our time. We don’t get off the hook because we are simple folk. We don’t get to wait for other people to come and do all the hard work. God is in and about us and we are expected to prepare and work and take risks in anticipation of a new world.
But by the same token, God sees our worth. God sees value in us. Jesus says he is found in the least of these. Jesus identifies with the least of these. Jesus is not putting himself down. He is saying that the people most often denigrated or ignored or exploited by our world, God loves and blesses.
This is an ongoing theme of Matthew. Blessed are the poor of spirit, the meek, the peacemakers. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. And now this.
Jesus ministers among the poor and the overlooked and tells them they matter to God. The beauty of God’s creation is evident in their faces. That’s where God may be found. And we need to treat people accordingly. We need to treat God’s creation accordingly.
All too often I think we lose sight of this. We dehumanize through language those we want to push aside; or disappear. They are labelled dangerous or outsiders. They are often described as being of questionable loyalty. Perhaps terms such impure or dirty get tossed around.
We don’t identify ourselves as being one with them ever, do we? Where do we see our face? Or where do we wish to see our face?
Jesus forces us to ask difficult questions. What do we think of when we hear the word king? Where will we find Christ our king? Our ruler? Our hope? Perhaps where we never thought to look.
Thanks be to God. Amen
Rev. Warner Bloomfield
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streaming license number 20369698, Size A.