Sermon – Christ the King

I had a baptism this morning, so I was not preaching. (The baptism is the sermon).

However, for those who want a sermon, here is one that I preached earlier….

I wonder how many of you are familiar with the portraits of Picasso. I believe that there have been a few documentaries on the television recently about Picasso and a film was released not so long back.

If you have ever stood in front of a Picasso portrait, you have probably seen the results of his attempts to look all around someone. He seems to be trying to paint different views of someone ? often looking from different angles on the same canvas. He tries to put in two dimensions a many dimensional reality. The paintings are truly multifaceted. You can see the side of a face at the same time as being able to see the face straight in front of you.

It was an uncanny and a startling way of painting which many find disconcerting yet many want to go back for a second or a third look at the various subjects.

That sense of going back for a second or a third look is the way that I am going to be preaching this morning.

We are going to be looking at the same thing in different ways to build up a picture of Christ the King.
We are going to be looking at the same thing in different ways to build up a picture of Christ the King.

Today is the last Sunday in the Church year ? next week, with Advent Sunday we begin again with a whole new cycle of readings. And this Sunday, the last one of the year is traditionally called Christ the King ? a day for thinking about the kingship of Jesus.

I remember talking about this last year and pointing out that we no longer have a Sunday called Christ the King but instead have a Sunday called the Reign of Christ. I?ll not labour that point, as we spent some time on it a year ago, but it does give us a way in ? two different perspectives ? the contrast between Christ the King raised up and ruling in majesty, and the Reign of Christ ? the kingdom of God which John the Baptist heralded, Jesus announced and which we, the body of Christ have been left to usher into being.

Two different pictures of the King.

Christ the King enthroned in majesty is the Christ whom we were addressing in our first hymn ? with everyone in every part of the world ultimately owing him honour. How did you feel singing that? Is that vision of every tribe and people of every tongue coming under the sway of Christ the ultimate ruler one which you resonate with? It is a good sing, sure enough, but is that the whole of the story? Would such a hymn still be written now, now that we know more about other faiths? What might people of other faiths think of us singing about them all coming under the sway of Christ the King?

That may make you feel uncomfortable, I don?t know. There are three possible responses to it ? first to accept that Christ the King is indeed the answer to all the problems of the world and carry on with that image. Or secondly to acknowledge that the different faiths are moving along different paths which each have intrinsic value and to reject the image of everyone being subordinate to Christ. And thirdly, to assume that Christ is now present in every faith though he is invisible but he will be revealed in every tradition and eventually each tribe and tongue will ultimately discover their own Christ in their own way.

These things cannot all be reconciled ? I am not going to try.

What about another image to think about. Well, what about the second hymn which we sang ? Immortal Invisible. I?ve already referred to the invisible Christ. The invisible God. Is that an idea which you find helpful. Is this image of the reign of Christ fruitful for you. God hidden in the world, hidden from our eyes. It is not a very personal image, though one which has sustained many Christians on their journey. Did you like singing that hymn? If so, then perhaps you should be exploring that idea of the hidden God a bit more. It is a rich tradition ? a mysterious tradition. God?s actual works are veiled in mystery. God is present even when we cannot apprehend God. Think of the words of that hymn ? thy justice like mountains high soaring above, thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

A whole tradition of praise which does not conjure up images of God being like us ? like a superman in the sky. In this understanding of the reign of Christ, we have to think of big concepts like love, justice, life, liberty, glory, light and so on. These high ideals and aspirations are like a symphony of praise to the every greater glory of God.

Is this the God you know?

Let us change the angle again. Shift our point of vision. What about the king whom we will welcome at Christmastime. What kind of king is that. Welcomed by scruffy shepherds and strangers from the East ? a king is born in the middle of the night, in the middle of an occupied country, in the middle of a rather odd world. A king is born, whose birth is noticed by angels and innkeepers alike. What kind of king is this ? the holy family huddled by a manger ? a family soon to be on the run to Egypt, huddled in the stable in a poor troubled village. Is this the kind of king you know. Will you arise with the shepherds and follow them to Bethlehem this year. Is that kind of Christ your kind of King ? the vulnerable child in the manger.

Or finally, when you think of Christ the King, do you think about the figure in Luke?s gospel this morning? Hanging on a cross, held there by his love for the world. It is just about the last we will hear from Luke for about two years. He has told us his story. We have heard his tales ? the song of Mary, the story of the birth, we have heard the parables told in Luke?s distinctive way, but it has come to this ? the death of a man who had done no wrong on a pathetic cross on a hill outside the city walls.

Today, perhaps it is time to think. I have laid out for you a number of different images ? which of these will you accept this November ? which is your Christ the King. The majestic one ruling heaven, the sinless one on the cross, the immortal one hidden from view, the vulnerable child or the king in our midst, bidding us to build his kingdom afresh and anew?

There are no wrong answers this morning. Christians have found truth in all these images, but it does no harm to be reminded of them and to look at them side by side.

I?m going to end with the words of today?s collect, which sum things up rather well:

God our Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us your Son, the beloved one who was rejected, the Saviour who appeared defeated. Yet the mystery of his kingship illumines our lives. Show us in his death the victory that crowns the ages, and in his broken body the love that unites heaven and earth. Let us ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

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