21 November 2021
As the Liturgical Year comes to an end, we are reminded, one last time, of the focus of Christ’s life, which is also our calling – the Reign of God. It is tempting to view Christ’s Reign as a conquering, all-powerful, phenomenon that will violently destroy human power systems, but that would be to misunderstand it. Rather, what the Lectionary reveals is a Reign that is not of this world, that is a completely different reality, and that works within human systems, even as it subverts them toward justice, peace and love.
May our worship remind us of this eternal, “otherworldly” Reign of God and enable us to open our hearts to receive it right here and now where we live.
2 Samuel 23:1-7: David’s last words, celebrating the beauty of the one who rules righteously, and remembering God’s covenant with David and his family. This is all in contrast with godless people whose lives are wasted.
OR Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14: Daniel shares his vision of God’s throne, and the One – “like a son of man” – who comes in glory on the clouds and who is given all authority and whose kingdom never ends.
Psalm 132:1-12 (13-18): A Psalm in remembrance of David’s quest to build a Temple for God, God’s promise to David of an eternal dynasty, and God’s choice of Jerusalem as God’s “home”.
OR Psalm 93: God is the Monarch, clothed in majesty, with an eternal throne and a reign that will last forever.
Revelation 1:4b-8: Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the first to rise from death, and the ruler of all kings. He has freed us by shedding his blood and has made us a kingdom of priests. He is the beginning and the end, and will be seen by all people when he comes with the clouds of heaven.
John 18:33-37: Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews. Jesus replies that his kingdom is not of this world. When Pilate seeks to confirm that he is a king, Jesus cryptically replies that it is Pilate who says so, but that he came into the world to testify to the truth.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The Reign of God has always been a central focus of the worship of God’s people. From the time of the promise to David of an eternal dynasty, the vision of the Reign of God’s Monarch has been the hope of God’s people. Yet, the challenge has always been to understand God’s Reign as of a completely different order from human power systems. In Samuel and in Psalm 132, the “descendant of David” is contrasted with godless people whose lives are wasted, and is associated with worship and God’s presence. In Daniel and in Psalm 93, the Reign of God is depicted as glorious and authoritative, but also as being manifest through one who is “like a son of man”. In Revelation this one is seen as Jesus, who is revealed in glory, and whose sacrifice is seen as the primary act in bringing God’s Reign into the world. Finally, in the encounter between Jesus and Pilate, the difference between human rulership and God’s Reign is starkly shown, as Jesus explains that he claims no human kingship, but is the king of a realm that is not of this world. It is a kingdom of truth and justice. The challenge of this week’s celebration is to avoid triumphalism. We are not to make God’s Reign out to be the same as human power systems, only stronger, more dominant, and longer lasting. Rather, we are to recognise God’s Reign in acts of compassion and justice, in service and sacrifice, and in the challenge to human systems to give up their obsession with war and conquest in order to build a world of peace and love for all.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
The celebration of Christ the King raises two issues for us as followers of Christ:
1. The issue of authority: Jesus cannot be followed while retaining our own agendas. As we follow Christ, we are called to embrace His agenda. In our striving for justice, equity and a better world, there remains the need to proclaim the eternal kingdom of God, and to call people, leaders and communities to faith and to submission to the authority and priorities of Christ (which is not the same thing as the Church).
2. The issue of the nature of God’s Reign: The glory of God is revealed not in conquest or power-over, but in sacrifice and service. God’s Reign is not “of this world” – it is a completely different reality that exists within, and subverts, the power systems of the world. Therefore, in our quest for justice, we must be careful not to get drawn into competitive power games in which only some can win, while others lose. Rather, we need to constantly hold ourselves faithful to the service and sacrifice of Christ, to the welcome and inclusivity of Christ, and to the love of Christ for all – even our enemies.
In our own communities and lives, it is easy to set up our own little kingdoms – even when we’re doing good, or working for justice. It is easy to get caught up in purely human agendas and priorities, but ultimately these will all fail us. So, as we seek to live out our faith in compassion and justice, we need also to embody the priorities of Jesus, and call people to higher, eternal values. This means that we relinquish the need to get our way all the time. It means refusing to co-operate with any systems or courses of action that oppress or reject some people. It means committing to the serving and sacrificial nature of God’s Reign within our families, churches and neighbourhoods. And it means keeping Christ as both the object of our worship (as opposed to our own desires, agendas or needs) and the model on which we base our lives. It is only when we are willing to commit daily to these values that we can truly claim to be worshipping Christ as King.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Your Kingdom Come
The Subversive Kingdom
May Your Kingdom Come
Jesus Shall Reign
O Worship The King
Sing We The King
Rejoice, The Lord Is King
How Great Is Our God (Link to YouTube video)
Above All (Link to YouTube video)
Ancient Of Days (Link to YouTube video)
A Foretaste Of The Heavenly Banquet
Reign Of Christ
Jesus & The Kingdom
Justice, Power & The Kingdom