Ezek. 34:11-12, 15-17; I Cor. 15:20-26, 28; Psalm 23; Matt. 25:31-46
The Feast of Christ the King was first promulgated in the Roman Church in 1925, the Anglican Church added it to their calendar in 2000. It is thought that some of the impetus for the creating of this feast was the growing communism, socialism, anarchy, atheism and fascism in the period after the Russian revolution and the First World War. Society, and the Church, needed to be brought back to an attitude of looking to Christ as King, instead of the various “ism’s” that were popular at the time, not that they aren’t still popular now. What is curious about this is that, in his earthly ministry, Jesus actively ran away from any suggestion of kingship. When, after some miracle or other, the crowds were clamoring to make him their king, he would slide away, rejecting the very idea. It is only when he was questioned by Pontius Pilate that he claimed a kingship, but insisted that his kingdom is not of this world. What does this mean?
The kingdom that is not of this world is the kingdom of God. The term “this world” in Orthodox theology means the fallen world, or more precisely the fallenness of the world. The kingdom of God and this world are not separate places, we are in both right now, what makes the difference is to which and to whom we owe allegiance. In our Gospel lesson from St. Matthew Jesus describes the last judgment when he separates the citizens of the kingdom from the citizens of this world. He says to the righteous, “Come. You have my Father’s blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” And to the unrighteous he says, “Out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!”
The criteria for this judgment is simple – we either recognize and act upon the presence of the kingdom of God and its King in our midst, or we do not. We love our neighbor as ourselves in Christ’s name, or we do not. We serve God and our brothers and sisters in sacrificial love, or we do not.
When Our Lord said, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you…” we understand that to mean that we share in Christ’s kingship, we are a Royal Priesthood. If that is so, we must also understand Christ’s ideas of priesthood and kingship. To Jesus being a priest also means being the sacrifice, and being a king means being a servant. We are to sacrificially serve God, God’s Kingdom and God’s People.
How do we live this out in a practical, daily life kind of way? The most basic thing is that we ACT not REACT. We are not a leaf driven by the wind of our own and other people’s moods, whims and emotions. We stand strong upon the Rock that is Christ and choose our behavior and our words according to his standard. This is not easy, it takes great discipline, trust and reliance upon the Presence of God. It is a mistake to believe that sacrifice, or sacrificial love means giving in, giving up what we want for someone else’s wishes. Sacrifice means to make holy, sacrificial love means to stand firm on Christ’s holiness and not to waver from it, and to accept humbly whatever may be flung at us for our stance. The sacrifice is that we may lose relationships, friendships, jobs, possessions, or possibly our life, for standing firm in our faith. As we have been teaching for almost thirty years, Christian love is not an emotion, it is an act of the will for the salvation of another human being. It is not about how we feel or how they feel, but about what is true and good and right and holy. That is kingly and priestly behavior. Choosing to live our life by the Standard of Christ and his love does not make our lives peaceful, smooth, easy or quiet. But then neither was his, if we want a Christ-like life then we must expect persecution, disappointment, being deserted and betrayed by friends and loved ones, hounded by officials, both civil and religious, wandering homelessness, being misunderstood and rejected and run out of town and in the end wrongfully arrested, tortured, and executed by people who just want us to shut up. That is our King and Priest, our Sacrifice and Servant, and that is who and what we are called to be, if we call ourselves citizens of the Kingdom of God. We can expect to get no better than what he got, except that he is always with us, in all our trials, tribulations and troubles, we are surrounded, upheld, strengthened and nourished by the Presence of the Triune God and the Body of Christ, the Church. The Church is the Kingdom of God on earth and it is our true home, the village where we live, the family in which we mature.
Christ is our King, our Ard Ri Mohr, because we have chosen to live in his Kingdom, to be Children of the King in the fallen world, to stand up for Jesus when the world tells us to sit down, to risk everything in this world so that we might inherit the kingdom prepared for us.
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