Since the death of the Queen, we have had a king for the 1st time in 70 years, some of us have never known a king before. At national events for Remembrance last week, Charles was leading the country for the first time as King. Many of us had to concentrate on singing the National Anthem last weekend – King and not Queen, him and not her. And over the next months and years we will see changes to coins and stamps.
Does it feel different to have a King rather than a Queen?
Perhaps it will seem even more strange for countries who don’t have a monarchy to understand.
When we think of “King”, what words come to mind?
- Royal, Reign, Regal, Powerful, Respect, Rich, Ruler, Authority, Servants, Head of organisations, Allegiance, Wise, Privileged, Crown, Palaces/Residences, Robes, Uniforms, Leader, Ceremonial, Land-owner
Reading – Jeremiah 23:1-6
Restoration after Exile
23Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
The Righteous Branch of David
5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
Reading – Luke 23:33-43
33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[34Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,37and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ 38There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ 40But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
How many of the words written above apply to Christ the King – do they mean the same or different things when applied to Jesus?
Very few of them apply to Christ the King, or apply in different ways.
What additional words do we need to describe Jesus?
- Peaceful, righteous, divine, servant, holy, compassionate, poor, itinerant, homeless, justice, humble, loving, teacher, healer, listener, guide, role model / example, caring, accepting, patient, wise, story teller, unique
Is Christ the King a helpful description/image of Jesus? The conclusion is no, not really.
Jeremiah sets out the faults of poor leaders and the characteristics of good leadership.
In the world of politics, qualities of leadership have been under question recently, and a number of politicians who have fallen below the standard expected of them have had to resign, and some who are clinging on, may have to resign soon!
What qualities do we expect from our leaders?
Jeremiah talks about a shepherd – not an immediate image which comes to mind when thinking about a king, but perhaps it suggests a softer, more pastoral side.
Sole purpose of a shepherd is to care for all in the flock. We know stories of leaving the flock to gather in a stray. Shepherds are also brave and courageous when facing wild animals and danger, and puts the needs of the flock before their own safety, they are weather toughened from being on the hills, able to rough it not needing luxury.
Christ the King Sunday is the ultimate end of the liturgical year and the end of the story of Jesus, which enables us to think of Jesus as ultimately victorious and reigning in God’s kingdom. Throughout the year perhaps the word King is less helpful, it may be better to think of Jesus as a shepherd caring for sheep.
The gospel reading refers to the sign nailed to the cross above Jesus’ head “King of the Jews” – a title given to him, not a title he chose for himself.
How we imagine Jesus is very much dependent upon our experiences of God, so no one single image is ever going to be sufficient. Multiple names/images are needed at different times, and we should not therefore dwell too much on King if that is not helpful, but instead look for another title which better fits our understanding of Jesus’ nature.
Aa Advent begins next week, we are reminded that we prepare for the coming of Christ. As the year unfolds, we will experience God in many different ways, perhaps see God with new eyes. God will always show love and qualities of compassion and justice. We need to be open to new understandings and new titles to describe Jesus, and welcome him into all aspects of our lives.
May God bless us, on this day and every day.
May God enable us to recognise heaven in the ordinary, and empower us to bring heaven into the ordinary. Amen.
Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.