My favorite part of any good book is where you hold the bulk of the story in your left hand, with only a few in your right yet to be read. I love the feeling of familiarity that comes with that stage of the story; I love how you can almost tell where it’s going. You know that your favorite character might not get the justice they deserve, but hopeful for the world they leave behind. I think I love this part of the story, because there is such an intimacy and closeness with the ins and outs of the story. You don’t want it to end, but even though you know it will, there is an immense gratitude for how the story has changed you.
This is where we find ourselves this morning on this Christ the King Sunday. It’s the last Sunday of our lectionary year, and there are but a few short days left before we will close this story out and begin again. Next week as we start Advent, we will find ourselves in the darkness of unknown beginnings, but this week, we know where this story is going. Our gospel lesson is an exchange between Pilate, the judge who essentially sent Christ to the cross. But out texts don’t lead us to the crucifixion and resurrection, instead we end this lectionary year with an exchange between these two men about who is the real King, it’s a familiar exchange, but I would like us to turn to the people who are living this story as it’s happening.
The Book of Revelation is one that is shrouded in as much mystery as it is assumptions about how the world will end. But really, it’s a letter to the seven churches dispersed throughout Asia. John is writing with heavy symbolism in a time of deep and profound unrest; it was a time of active persecution of Christianity. A time wherein which those who followed Jesus rarely new peace in the face of the Roman government, and what we hear today in our second reading is John’s opening greeting to these churches. John exalts the Christ and reminds the people that God’s work in the world through Christ is not yet done nor was it without purpose. Then there is a bit of a back and forth, perhaps a call and response to which the people of the churches respond, “Amen.” And the God speaks and reminds the people that God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end, there is not part of existence in which God is not present; no doubt this a word of deep comfort to those who are dispersed and persecuted.
I won’t lie to you; I’ve had a long enough Christian journey to develop some areas where I really struggle with my fellow Christians. One such area is when folks claim persecution when no such thing is happening. We are gathered here today, like Christians all around our country in a big, beautiful, visible space, where we toll the bell to tell the whole neighborhood church is about to start. Our country is not one where our main consideration as Christians is persecution. We may never know how meaningful it was for the Christians dispersed throughout Asia to hear John’s Revelation read aloud, with some of the first words being “Grace to you and peace…”; peace was such a significant and important, and scarce thing for the lives of those Christians.
And while it is not us who are persecuted, I do think that the words that John brings to those people can be for us as well. We live in-between two worlds; we cannot entirely detach from our world and surrounding, and yet our baptism calls us to live in a world where only God is King, where Christ is our Lord, and the Spirit is our guide. Where God is Alpha and Omega, the beginning, and the end. And what was true for the diaspora in Asia almost 2,000 years ago is true for us as well, God is present in all aspects of our life, and God’s way is not the future we can imagine, but it is so much greater. Because, you see, Jesus, the very Christ, the King paves the way for radical beginnings, and this is only the birth pangs of new beginnings.
Right now, I have at home a book that I’m rereading, and when I reread it, the bulk of the story resides in my left hand, while I await the joy of the ending to come. It’s a book and story likely known by everyone in this room, but when I picked up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis a few days ago, I was not thinking of Christ the King Sunday. I was not thinking of how we are about to close this lectionary cycle and to beginning again next Sunday. But when I reread Susan’s timid question when she first learns of Aslan, “Is he—quite safe?” to which Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King,”.
My friends, Christ is King, but that doesn’t mean that following him will be safe. It does not mean it will be a convenient life choice that requires nothing of us at all. No, Christ is King, and that means that we must live boldly into our baptism. Our baptism calls us to bring about the kingdom of God, what does it mean when we consider that God is the Alpha and the Omega? It means that we must reject the ways of this world; we must reject the status quo of systems of scarcity. We must reject the way our society functions in believing that some people are more inherently good or bad. When we live out our faith boldly, it means that we seek and serve Christ in all persons, no matter what.
Christ is King, and that means that we must also pattern our lives after not just the cruciform love of Christ, but also the compassion that led him there. Christ did not just end up dying of a torturous death because it was always supposed to be that way, but because the world in which he lived looked down upon Christ’s message of love and unfailing hope, and it is our job to live into that love.
Christ is our King, and that means that we must be motivated to action. We must be compelled to take the energy that is coursing through our congregation to help bring about God’s kingdom. It is the calling of our life, of our faith, and of the season into which we are entering. When I remember that God is the Alpha and the Omega and remember this call upon our life to live out our faith boldly, I am confident that we have all we need to do the work given to us to do, but that a key part of that is God’s unfailing nearness.
We find ourselves on the cusp; we find ourselves at the end of one chapter and ready to begin another. In the coming year, I pray that we may have the courage to live boldly into our faith, and to know truly that what we most need in the days and weeks to come is not safety, but Goodness as we answer God’s call to bring about the God’s kingdom in this world.
A sermon delivered to the people of Christ Episcopal Church in Bowling Green, KY for Christ the King Sunday on Revelation 1:4b-8.