Christ the King Sunday was not one of those days that would be recognizable to the earliest Christians. It does not come into the church until around 720 CE and is abandoned by most Protestant groups at the time of the reformation. The problem that the reformers had with Christ the King Sunday, and all of the feasts was that they were continually trying to connect with the earliest Christians, trying to purge out everything of the tradition that was not connected to Christ. In fact, the only real holy day kept was Easter.
Over the years many of the holy days crept back in, and today we celebrate many, including Christ the King. Most of the observances that came back into the liturgical year were brought back but given a very reformed spin, like the All Saints celebration we just had. But the feast of Christ the King was brought back in the same fashion that it was always set aside to be, it was a day that we recognize and celebrate Christ’s dominion over us and our calling to be Citizens of his Kingdom.
It seems like it would be a given that as Christians we recognize Christ as our King, but throughout history this has continually been a problem. This Sunday we look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, one of the earliest Christian communities. In this very direct letter you can see Paul’s frustration that this early church had already forgotten that Christ was the head of the church, placed here by God.
What is interesting is that Paul does not demean the followers in Ephesus; rather, he celebrates with them their faith. While he is celebrating this faith he redirects their motivations away from their egos and back to their callings to be Kingdom Citizens. This is important because throughout human history we continually find ourselves in the position where we are putting ourselves before God, forgetting that our lives and our communities should be ordered on God.
This is something that the Presbyterian Church takes seriously. So much so that a few years ago when they re-organized and updated the Book of Order they separated out this understanding, placing it at the very beginning of this new section known as the foundations of Presbyterian polity. This means that in everything we do, hopefully, we start first by submitting ourselves to Christ’s authority.
This is why every meeting we have always begins with prayer asking that God may be present at the time to give us wisdom and understanding. This is very important because often when we forget to do that we find ourselves forgetting that the business at hand in not for our desires, but for God.
Maybe it seems like more of a problem today than other times, but forgetting God in the midst of our ministry causes real problems. Not only is it hard to understand why we make the choices we do, but also we often take a path that may not be one which ultimately builds up the body. I think about the recent fall of another mega-church pastor. In the short term he spoke a good message and was able to grow his congregation, became nationally known, but the power brought him to a place where he no longer was speaking for God, and that separation caused him to be let go from his position, which was probably a good thing. But in the same way this lack of focus has brought many people to lose their faith because their time in that community was not built on God, but on a cult of personality.
So as we celebrate our place in the Kingdom, we start with a joyful recognition that Christ is our King. At the 10:30 am service we will look at what that meant for the people of Ephesus and how that relates to our community today. At the 5pm Gathering service we will discuss what is means to be a “Kingdom Citizen.”
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen