Lectionary: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Psalm 93, Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37
Let us pray:
Cry out to us, O God, and give us ears to hear. Show us your majesty and your truth. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations on all our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Christ the King
You may remember the story. It’s after the exodus, after the people of Israel have been led out of the land of Egypt and into the land of Israel. The people have settled in the land; they continue to fight for their full land with the peoples who were already there. There have been a series of skirmishes, of defeats and victories, some of them overseen by temporary judges and prophets.
One day the people gather. They demand of Samuel–the current prophet–that they want a king of their own. Instead of having God as their king, they want a real live human being as king. Having God as king feels different than having a real human being, after all–there’s no man on a throne to look to, no elaborate palace, no certainty about doing the right thing.
On that day in Israel, the people were given a king: Saul, the first king of Israel.*
You may remember that it didn’t really work out, although that’s a story for another day. I’m not telling this story to talk about Saul. I want to talk about kings. This is, after all, Christ the King Sunday, when we look to Christ as our king and lord.
But what does that really mean? It’s all very nice to say, after all, but we don’t have kings anymore in America. As much as we may love royal weddings and cute royal babies, we have very definite opinions about having a king ourselves.
The writers of the Bible very intentionally used language of kings and Caesars and rulers to drive home a point over thousands of years: God is above any human rulers. God is more powerful than any human ruler. God is who we are loyal to, far more than any human ruler.
And we need to remember this, because our human rulers and leaders are far more immediate than God is. A king standing right in front of you, a president making a speech on TV–these leaders are right in front of us. We remember their power; we see the way they move crowds, the way others are devoted to them and follow their every order. Perhaps we agree with them, perhaps we don’t, but their power seems inescapable. They make laws, they move public opinion. Sometimes they seem to occupy every conversation, and we are either exalted at their success or disgusted at their choices.
And so Biblical writers have to drive their point home, over and over and over: these kings and rulers and leaders, they are not the ultimate authority in the universe. They would certainly like to think so, sometimes, but they are not. God is. God is the one who gave them their power; God is the one who created the universe, who shaped human beings and nations, who determined what justice is and what love is. God is the ruler, the ultimate authority. Not any human being, but God alone.
That is why we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. To remember. To look to God as our source and our foundation, so that even in the midst of political turmoil and disruption, even when politics feels like a dumpster fire, even when our country is rocked by vitriol and hatred and violence, we can know: God is our ultimate source of hope, not politics or politicians, not that bill or this policy.
When we know that truth–feel it in our bones, in our heart–that doesn’t mean we avoid politics. It doesn’t mean we ignore policies that are wrong, it doesn’t mean we abstain from voting, it doesn’t mean we never call our representatives. It means that when politics disappoint us, when politicians are politicians and people are people, we know that it isn’t the end of the world. We know that God is more certain than our politicians will ever be.
Alleluia, and Amen.
*Read the whole story at 1 Samuel 8.