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Christ the King (C)
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Readings for Christ the King Sunday, Cycle C

1. II Samuel 5, 1-3

  • I hear the people choosing a commander of their army (who thus becomes king).  Although the tone is solemn, I can imagine a celebration such as takes place during a party nominating convention.  My tone should be that of a court historian who is building up support for David.
  • All the tribes  All the elders  It is a choice by acclamation.  I will rehearse until I can convey that sense of everyone’s approving.
  • As we celebrate, let me reflect on the cautionary words of I Samuel, chapter 8, about the abuses committed by kings and absolute (unitary) rulers in general.
  • They came to David in Hebron.  There seem to be two separate meetings, first to make the proposal and then to bestow the title.  He is chosen because he led the Israelites.  Let me pause between the two assemblies, clarifying in that way the differing roles of the people and their elders.
  • They anointed him king.  Here is a sacramental ceremony before the Lord.  Why is God present?  Israel is where God is supreme and where this people of the one God becomes God’s own people. 
  • Central point: This is occurring in the context of covenant.  The people are approving and completing God’s apparent choice for them.
  • Message for our assembly: The title seeks the man.  They came to him.  We may come forward, but it is the people who voice their approval and accept us.
  • I will challenge myself: To read this ancient story with God’s covenant in mind, and with an expansive sense of a very large and joyous assembly.

2. Colossians 1, 12-20

  • Part 1 presents an act of gratitude, in which we recognize our inheritance of the holy ones in light.  This is God’s work: The Father has made you fit to share.
  • Power of darkness is often depicted in films as something alien to our way of life, though in fact it is rooted in that very life.  Kingdom of his beloved Son moves us to a higher level of awareness, a state of life to which we are all called.
  • Part 2 repeats the cosmic hymn we heard back in the summer.  All is under Christ, subject to Christ, dependent on Christ, responding to Christ, understood and evaluated on his terms.
  • Once again I am brought face to face with the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers.  But none of them should come between us and Christ.
  • Here Jesus is not another warlord, bloodthirsty for personal gain.  He is the man for others, holding all things together, reconciling all things, making peace.
  • Let me find the poetic voice to honor Christ in all these exalted titles: image of the invisible God, before all things, head of the body, the beginning, the firstborn.  And the source of all this: the blood of his cross in the same clear declaiming voice.
  • Climax: All things were created through him and for him.
  • The message for our assembly: If we hold this seriously we will not have divided hearts.  Let us be astonished at the inheritance prepared for us! 
  • I will challenge myself: To celebrate with all the churches of the world this song of universal praise.

Gospel. Luke 23, 35-43

  • The Gospel passage follows the cosmic hymn, to where the inspiration for it began and draws its strength, onto the Hill of the Skull.  Let me make that connection.
  • This reading also has two parts.  First, the general view from afar, where a neutral observer only sees abject failure.  Jesus is an object of scorn, though he always sought reconciliation, by waiting for others to respond to his invitation. 
  • The lowliest of people did so, as the second part will show.  Most of the first followers of Christ were those who were scorned by their society.
  • The rulers who sneer at Jesus do not expect an answer.  They say what the philosophers of the early centuries said against Christians, including Celsus and Porphyry: how can we take seriously someone treated so shabbily?  A common criminal, no less!  How can we worship a God who does not show power when it matters most?
  • It happens today.  Our media laugh at a pol who seems to weep in public.  The men and women who would compete to lead us must show steely valor.  The public will forgive the most criminal of acts if they are done boldly and without any regret.  I recall all the secular fascination with monsters like Hitler and Stalin and their modern-day counterparts who do their dirty work coldly in secret rooms.  Are we paralyzed today by organized power?  So were the disciples.
  • But then the camera zooms in to the criminals hanging there.  What do they have to lose?  One reviles, the other rebukes.  And he says what we all know in our hearts: This man has done nothing criminal.  I should say it not as an opinion but as “the facts,” the truth.
  • Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  If we didn’t know that Christ was king, this will reveal it.  God works in unexpected ways, turning defeat into victory.  Let me also take Jesus’ side when I repeat the petition.
  • Amen, I say to you, today  Spoken like a king, like God’s Son.  How would that be?  Like a dear friend?  Otherwise it would be incredible.
  • Climax: Jesus, remember me.  Let me recall the Taizé round as I say it.
  • Message for our assembly: Are we ashamed of Jesus at these times, or do we penetrate more deeply into God’s love for us?
  • I will challenge myself: To bring out the contrast in the two responses to Jesus.

From Word to Eucharist: Like today’s reading from Colossians, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer reminds us to “be thankful” at the moment of communion with Christ. Are we?  Let us remember all the reasons for gratitude as we take in the procession.

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