Sermon delivered by Rev Sydney Maitland on Sunday 22 November, 2015.
Daniel 7: 9-10; 13-14
Thrones set in place – an Ancient of Days took His throne — The court sat in judgment and the books were opened. [Watched as proud words were spoken by the horn – watched until the beast was slain – the dominion of the beasts were taken away.] Watched one like the Son of Man, came to the Ancient of Days, was given dominion, glory, kingship, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him.
Revelation 1: 4b-8
Jesus Christ, faithful witness, firstborn from the dead, ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests serving His God and Father. He is coming with the clouds; every eye shall see Him. I am the Alpha and Omega, who is and was and is to come, the Almighty.
John 18: 33 – 37
Are you king of the Jews? My kingdom is not of this world. If it were My followers would fight. So you are a king? You say so. For this I was born – to testify to the truth. [What is truth?]
The barbarity with which some observe their supposed holy day never ceases to amaze me, and we have regularly seen our Fridays marked by more and more extravagant orgies of bloodletting in support of the supposed advent of an end of age ruler or prophet.
Yet Jesus’ own warnings of the end of times told of a variety of social and political and natural disasters which would add up to a recipe for worldwide chaos: morally, socially, culturally and politically.
It would be a time of violence and of dislocation: but this was not the end. It might portend the coming of a global ruler of unprecedented mass appeal and of unparalleled destructiveness but even this would not be the end.
In one sense the end would be a new beginning for Jesus was also insistent that He would come again, this time in glory and as f ruler and judge. No more Mr Meek and Mild Guy. Now it would be to judge the world, and to vindicate those whose hearts and lives had already been committed to Him in faith and at a time when faith was the currency of the spiritual and the religious life.
To live by what could be seen and heard and tested was never going to be a life of faith, but of proofs of various kinds. The life of faith however would be vested in what we have known within our hearts, what we had learned in the scriptures and how these had been nurtured in the sacraments.
It would be the life of the Body of Christ, itself fed and nurtured by Jesus Christ in the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
And the Holy Spirit might be everywhere but He was never going to be apart from Jesus and hence from the body of His believers.
This therefore is the faith which we proclaim Sunday by Sunday as we say in the creed that he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.
There is however another way in which we understand the celebration of Christ the King, for it is placed at the end of the period of Sundays after Trinity and before the beginning of Advent.
We now prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the stable of Bethlehem and to rejoice in how God took the form of a baby.
We mark how, not holding to the splendours of heaven but obeying the bonds of love, to the extent of dying on the cross, God stretched Himself across His creation by coming to us in the person of Jesus Christ. And so we are looking both backwards at what God has done and forwards at what is yet to come.
But we are doing so at the dead end of the year, when we have already celebrated the Feast of All Saints, and marked the time All Souls, while being perhaps even more intimately connected with those who mourn those who have died for their country in war.
At the time when even the days have grown darker with the changing of the clocks, we are now to turn our minds and hearts to the light, when we shall begin to light the Advent Wreath, and bend out thoughts to the Man born to be King.
At Christ the King, however, we are looking at the kingship that is already there, waiting for the days to be fulfilled when He shall indeed claim His kingdom. This is a time when we may dare to celebrate that which has been promised and which is yet to be delivered.
It all gives us a sense of perspective as we see the unfolding of global events. We certainly have no desire to see poverty or war or riot or terrorist actions. And we may certainly work to avoid them where possible and to moderate them where necessary.
Yet we also see them within a wider context, first of the global disobedience to the will of God which is the character of our sinful state, but second in the context of the love of God already poured out for us and over us.
We may also see them in the context of how we may seek to bring mercy to the afflicted and comfort to those who grieve or are stressed or are in sorrow, for the Christian message is always that there remains a glorious hope that not only waits for us in the coming of the Kingdom, but which is also made visible in the lives and actions of those who follow Jesus.
In this sense, the feast of Christ the King is a time for noting the darkness but of celebrating the light. It is a time for standing on what God has already done in the expectation that the best is yet to come.
It is a time for encouraging one another, bearing burdens, sharing sorrows, relieving want, offering aid and support and comfort.
It is also a time when we may yet learn that we are never alone, not in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ and hence, we must never be alone in each other’s presence either.