|Christ the King|
Today we come to the last Sunday of the Church year. The 26 weeks of "Ordinary" time culminate in the feast of Christ's Kingship. The Gospel today has Pilate asking Jesus (right before his condemnation) "Are you the King of the Jews?" There is more to say, for example, Jesus' answer, etc., but first let's get in touch with our own experience of "kings" and the origin of the notion of king.
Most of us, as Americans, don't relate very well to the notion of royalty, or kings in general. The only "kings" we relate to in our country are those celebrities we make into kings, like Elvis, or like "King" Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, etc. Church-wise, as Anglicans we may take pride in the royalty of England. After all, the head of our Anglican Communion is Queen Elizabeth, and, one of these days there'll be a King of England.
But where did the role of "King" come from? This is kind of a composite explanation, but from ancient times, in all cultures, the one chosen King was a designated victim. As societies and tribes formed, and their belief systems included looking at the forces of nature, or founding stories or myths, there came a need to have someone who could be offered to appease the gods or forces they worshiped. Someone who could be offered to appease the gods, or, while alive, take on the blame for things that went wrong, or, if the case may be, someone who could be praised when things went well. This would the "chosen one" or King.
We're accustomed to "kings" staying in power for life, without term limits, etc., but that wasn't the case for many centuries at the beginning. The "victim" king was chosen by lot, or some other means, and destined to die for the gods on behalf of the people. Until the time appointed for his sacrificial death the chosen one had it pretty good in terms of comfortable living, clothes, riches, servants, etc. The people did it up "royal" you could say. After all, this was the person who would be sacrificed so he had to be made into the most valuable person possible to worthily represent the people in their sacrifice.
The term of office (actually, the time before the day of death) varied greatly. It could be short or long. For example, in one tribe in Africa, after selection the person would be brought front and center and the people would gather 'round and yell at the chosen one: "You are a turd, you are a heap of garbage, you have come to kill us, you have come to save us." After this, a bowl of objects (like marbles or stones) was put before the chosen one and a strip of cloth or leather was placed around his neck and then two of the strongest men in the tribe would pull with all their might trying to strangle the chosen one while he desperately tried to grab as many objects as the could. The number of objects he was able to grab and hold on to determined the length of his reign.
So how did we get to our "modern" notions about kings?
If at the beginning, a "King" was a scapegoat victim to be offered to the gods, and for a time, act as a person of blame or praise depending on how things went (success at war, good harvests, etc.), this person had a certain amount of time to live "high on the hog" until the day of his demise. Basically what happened is the "King" from his position of power was eventually able to secure others to die in his place, i.e. other, fresh scapegoats. In other words, to stay in power, it would be arranged that others would die for the King, so, instead of the king dying for the people on behalf of the gods, others would end up dying in his place. Isn't this still how people in power of the "kingdoms" of this world operate still today?
So when we read the story of Jesus' trial arraignment before Pilate and the "King" terminology is applied to him, it can be very enlightening and help us in deepening devotion to our King and where he leads us.
We read in Daniel:
As I watched in the night vision, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
Applied to Jesus, standing before Pilate in the Gospel, we can see how different the Kingship of Jesus is: God's Son, chosen by people to die, witnessed to as a king, but whose kingship will never end, and who chose not to have anyone take his place, freely offering his life. As Jesus said to Pilate, his Kingdom is not "of" this world, but it is definitely "for" this world. His prayer was "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
The whole movement is toward this very world in which we live, to help God's Kingdom take root here in this world through the actions of those who believe in Him with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is not the slightest idea that the goal is for us to be whisked away after death to a wonderful, disembodied spirit-world called heaven (this is Platonic thought, deemed useful by the Church), and this hope for departure from this world should be the reason for living! No, on the contrary, its this world with all its mix of beauty and terror, hatred, exclusion, lack of mercy and forgiveness, and desire for revenge against those who harm us. This is the reason for living and what the "Kingdom come" will transform.
Yes, it's too slow for me, but I don't call the shots. I just read the Gospel and see how Jesus lived, taught, and continues to live in the power of Resurrection. Jesus Christ is my King, thank God, a different kind of King, so I try, in my weakness and sin, to respond to the Holy Spirit, worship and act in this world as it is, eagerly awaiting His return. And, if he doesn't return in my life time, I'll bide in eternity time until he does and enjoy His reign forever.
So I ask, as your brother and priest, would you join me in following Jesus, and always keep it in the back of your mind (don't forget= the root of the word "Truth" that Jesus refers to in Greek is alethea [lethe means forget, and the "a" before the root means "not"]. In other words, when Jesus says "I am the Truth," what he means is "I am the one not to forget!" Isn't that our problem that we live many of our days without a thought that Jesus is truly the King of all kings, and worthy of all our trust and love? We gather to hear over and over "Do this in Remembrance of Me," so we don't forget that Christ our King is our true joy and peace!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
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