Readings for November 20, 2022 -- Christ the King Sunday

Jeremiah 23:1-6

23:1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.

23:2 Therefore 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.

23:3 Then 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.

23:4 I 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.

23:5 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.

23:6 In 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."

Psalm 46

46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

46:2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

46:3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

46:4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

46:5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.

46:6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

46:7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

46:8 Come, behold the works of the LORD; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.

46:9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth."

46:11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Colossians 1:11-20

1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully

1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

1:13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,

1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

1:16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers--all things have been created through him and for him.

1:17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

1:18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.

1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

1:20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Luke 23:33-43

23:33 When 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.

23:34 Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

23:35 And 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!"

23:36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,

23:37 and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"

23:38 There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."

23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"

23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

23:41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong."

23:42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

23:43 He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

 

Reflection

This Sunday, the last before the beginning of Advent, has been designated across church calendars as "Christ the King Sunday". Readings throughout the Old Testament progressively offer the expectation that God himself will come to rule the earth. Jesus reflected this understanding through his parables and "miracles, and also in his words with Pilate the day he was put to death. Pilate asked Jesus if he was a King, to which Jesus said, "Yes".    
 
The inference is that Jesus is "God come to be King of Creation."
What could this mean for us? In our day most "royals" are only figure-heads where once Kings and Queens had ultimate powers within their own sphere of influence. In other words, perhaps even the word "king" in our minds is an inadequate interpretation of what God was saying through the prophets of Israel, and also through Jesus himself.
Jesus said his kingdom was "not of this world", which would mean that it was unlike even the ancient expectations of kingship. In his own person he represented more a fierce yet gentle wilderness shepherd, than a warlord ruler. His teaching of the disciples also clearly expresses his leadership as transformational, rather than that of hierarchical might.    
Add to all this the contemporary view of our world that whatever happened to Jesus after the crucifixion, history has "moved on". Those who believe in Jesus may have their own experience of what his Kingship means, but is that something we can express to the non-church world around us? What do we understand "Jesus as King" to imply?
This last question is the one which has caught me in its grip, leading me to a curious inside-out approach to what God accomplished in Jesus becoming "King of the World" when he was raised on the cross, died, and then appeared again over several weeks before "ascending" beyond the tangible experience of his friends and followers on earth.
 
The implication is that we need to learn from Jesus exactly how to interpret his "Kingship" for ourselves, and for the world around us as well, since Jesus came to redeem the whole of creation, and not simply those who believe in him.
 
Further adding to the challenge is that the words in Christian life which refer to the Christian church play heavily into a view which says that we who follow Jesus are "part of his body", that Jesus lives in and acts through us, as we open ourselves to his presence.  
 
The implications are numerous. One is that if Jesus is now King of Creation, then we who are members of "his body" (the church) are part of his transformational presence, creating openings in our own words and actions and relationships for "the Kingdom of Heaven (= God) to be present on Earth". We live on earth ~ yes ~ but with "heaven" constantly breaking into our lives and our world, sometimes around us, sometimes through us.