(Creative Commons Image by Jason Train on Flickr)
Here we are. The last Sunday of the church year, Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday. The year has gone by fast, hasn’t it?
As I sat down to write this article, a new perspective crossed my mind -- that Reign of Christ Sunday is the Sunday before Thanksgiving. What difference might this make for how we preach this festival day? Because I wonder -- how many of our parishioners will attend Thanksgiving services, either eve or day? They will be traveling, cooking, hosting, eating. Perhaps thinking about Christ’s reign in our lives might be cast through this lens this year -- the lens of gratitude for knowing an alternative power in our lives and to consider how that authority actually makes a difference for how we live our lives.
Gratitude for having experienced Christ’s reign might mean being thankful for aspects of our life or causes that are worthy of living out; being thankful that we can voice “but I say to you”; knowing thankfulness for a way of being in the world that both challenges the world and loves the world. To be a citizen of God’s society affords these kinds of choices, this way of living.
And that’s a choice worth living.
There are so many other ways to be in this world. We know that Christ’s kingdom is opposite all. That it challenges empire. That it calls out power that is abusive. But if it is to make any difference in our lives we have to live as if that kingdom exists and that our participation in it, commitment to it, and dedication to bringing it about matters. For us, for God, for the world.
Let me be clear. I do believe that God makes possible God’s kingdom in the world regardless. But I absolutely also believe that God needs us for the kingdom to be more that it could be without us.
Therefore, Reign of Christ Sunday is not only about acknowledging it, but participating in it. Intentionally. Deliberately. It means trusting in the words of Ephesians, so that, “with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power” (1:18-19).
The hope to which the writer of Ephesians witnesses gains greater meaning when we reflect on this Sunday in the liturgical year. It is simultaneously a looking back and a looking forward, isn’t it? A chance to look back on the year and imagine where, how, why, and when Christ’s ideal of the world has had power in your life. At the same time, it is an invitation to look forward and see how you want that to be true.
So maybe another direction for preaching this Sunday is that this is an opportunity to construct New Year’s resolutions. Don’t wait until January. Make this Sunday the New Year’s resolution Sunday. Have your congregation members look back on God’s reign in their lives and then invite them to imagine how they want to be a citizen in that kind of kingdom.
Wow. These could be some seriously different resolutions. And at the heart of what Christ the king/reign of Christ is all about. That God’s reign in our lives matters. That we are so deeply a part of this. That God calls us to a different way of being in the world.
At the end of the day, to claim Christ as king, to believe in God’s reign, has to be a claim on our present, and not just the future glory of “thy kingdom come.” That how we decide to live matters. Not just for ourselves. Not just for those immediately around us. But for the sake of procuring the reign of Christ here and now. I wonder how many resolutions include, “My New Year’s resolution is to strive for how to make the reign of Christ more possible for my neighbor.”
Matthew’s specifics are a good place to start. But they need to take on some specificity for your congregation and for each and every person in the pew to understand how crucial his or her role is in making Christ’s kingdom possible. That would be a very different start to the new year.
If we invite a throne mentality now, what difference would this make? We always wait for January to get on with our lives, but what would happen if we chose to get on with life now? How would Advent and Christmas be different? Because then, our presence and our preparation would actually reflect the reality of Christ’s kingdom in-breaking now. Christ’s reign will not wait until we are ready to sign up for our New Year’s resolves. When we are fully prepared and perfect. It’s here and now. What if we meet Christ today? Or tomorrow? And say, okay, here, I am ready to go.
I don’t imagine Christ waits for all of us to be ready. Christ can’t. Nor should we. What if we just decided that we would go ahead, jump in, regardless of knowing the outcome or whether or not our efforts mattered. That we would choose to participate in bringing about the reign of Christ with the only trust that the reign of Christ will happen. What if? It could very well be a different world.
Our God reigns indeed.