Thursday, November 29, 2007

What does it mean when Christ is KING?

The last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year is the Sunday before Advent. It is called Christ the King Sunday, a day to celebrate and remember Christ's kingship. It has become a rather controversial day among some as they consider the language of kingship outdated or oppressive. Unfortunately, this is the curse of modernism: culture transforms Christianity instead of the other way around.

For many, the images of kings and kingdoms conjure up thoughts of tyrants. Few of us have ever lived under a King. Most of our images of kings are from fairy tales, which are rarely consistent with the actual historical concepts of monarchs. These are certainly challenges to the Church’s efforts to proclaim God’s reign, but should not dictate the Church’s language. Rather, the unchanging Christ proclaimed by the Church should transform all secular notions.

Jesus' ministry was not one of military might. It was one of peace, liberation, and above all, service. Jesus turned the whole concept of lordship and primacy on its head:

For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45, NRSV)

Jesus knew the popular images of kings and lords and he specifically redefined them, but did not reject them. God the Son, King of all creation, humbled himself to become human, even sharing the ultimate fate of his captive subjects: death. Jesus' role of King is closely tied to his role as Judge. Unlike our judgments, Christ sees the heart. His judgment is both just and compassionate. Our justice is in retribution; Christ's is restoration. Christ calls us to repentance and salvation through the Sacraments of his Church.

Democracy is a gift to the world, where all receive a voice in their destiny; yet, democracy is not Christianity and it is certainly not God. The voice of the people is not the voice of God. God has given us the Church founded on Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. Scripture and the Church’s tradition continue to speak with eternal significance. Certain images of God as Lord and King will always seem foreign in a democratic society, but remember, God is a different type of King: all-powerful, all-loving, all-merciful and inviting us into relationship through his Church. We bend the knee in submission to Jesus, our Lord and King, but it is a submission that also brings true freedom, freedom from the penalty of sin.

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