11/20/11, Living with Christ as King

Living with Christ as King

(Eze. 34:11-12-15-17 1 Cor. 15:20-28, Mt. 25:31-46)

With this 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we come to the end of another liturgical year.  On this last Sunday of the year, the Solemnity of Christ the King is celebrated not only by Catholics but also by Episcopalians, Lutherans and many mainline Protestant churches. How did we come to have this occasion on our liturgical calendar?

 Pope Pius XI instituted this universal feast in 1925. At that time in world history many Christians doubted the Church's authority as well as Christ's authority. The Christian world, witnessing the rise of dictatorships in Europe, saw many believers being influenced by these powerful earthly leaders.   This annual celebration of Christ the King intended to reaffirm that God in Christ is the true ruler of all nations for all eternity.

Today, "lord" and "king" titles for Christ are troublesome for many people because they represent oppressive systems of government.  Jesus knew well the oppressive nature of secular kings.  But Christ’s teaching radically redefined and transformed the concept of kingship. In contrast to oppressive rulers, he connected his own role as king to humble service. He directed his followers to be servants as well.  Christ’s teachings spell out a kingdom of justice where judgment of shortcomings is balanced with radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. When we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but one whose "loving-kindness endures forever.” Christ is the king that gives humanity true freedom and dignity. 

Our scriptures today point us to this principle of servant leadership.  In the OT, God speaking through Ezekiel says that he himself will tend the sheep as a shepherd: feeding them, healing them, bringing them back when they are lost, giving them rest when they are exhausted.  Perhaps Jesus was thinking of this very scripture when he told this parable. He uses the metaphor of shepherd separating sheep from goats, just as Ezekiel did.  The humble servant shepherd of the Old Testament has become the humble servant king of the New Testament.  This king’s rationale for judgment is still the concern for how the hungry and sick and naked and lost were treated.  Those who minister compassion and care to the needy are invited into the kingdom of God, while those who ignore the needy are dismissed from God’s presence. 

Connect to this podcast http://snapjudgment.org/it-wasn%27t-me, and listen to the section “The Rabbi and the KKK”.  Then read the gospel selection from Mt. 25:31-46.

 This gospel passage invites us to see “The Christ” in small everyday actions, to live Christ’s love now.   However, when we hear this passage read we are presented with a challenge. The literal language reads as an either/or spirituality and a final judgment for “eternal life” or “eternal punishment.”   This flies in the face of a grace-filled theology that affirms our inclusive, non-judgmental view of spirituality and Christianity

It seems more helpful to hear Jesus’ message in a metaphorical and non-literal way. Perhaps Jesus is asking us to realize that in each moment of living we have a choice to make.  We can choose to see “eternity” in every moment-by-moment attitude and action of our days.  The Kingdom of God is NOW and if we choose lifegiving actions for others and ourselves, we are already living in the Kingdom where Christ’s law of love reigns.  A literal reading makes us think of the Reign of Christ as something “in a future day to come.” When we focus on how much time we have left to accomplish this or that human pursuit, or agonize with guilt over our shortcomings, we limit our ability to live in each moment with vitality and gratitude.

 In the Lumen Christi community we experience Christ’s reign as a present reality and that is the eternal hope we live in.  We see ourselves as already being citizens in the Kingdom of God.  As citizens of this Eternal Kingdom we are called to see the Christ in every person and every moment and to shape our actions in accordance with that view instead of thinking of ourselves as citizens of this passing world.  We do not have to be subject to this world’s cultural expectations for temporal success and its judgmental way of seeing others. We are subject to Christ:  before us in each person and around us in all of Creation, in every moment.   That is what Jesus draws our attention to in this passage rather than the question of who gets to live eternally and who gets sent to eternal punishment.

 How then will we live? The King of this eternal kingdom directs us to live by his law of love, to be in harmony with the grace of the small, the present moment of Christ in every age, in each person, in all time, every culture, every creature. To see Christ in all and to serve all as we would serve Christ– is to live the reign of Christ the King now. So may it be as we move forward in this Lumen Christi community.

By Sandra DeMaster