Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 20, 2011: Christ the King (Reign of Christ)

The celebration of the Feast of Christ the King (Reign of Christ) causes a bit of cognitive dissonance in today’s world. Inaugurated in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, it was meant to be the church’s response to the growing secularism of western society. At that time, the church which celebrated the Feast had living memory of the reign of powerful monarchs, and therefore had a real-world referent to the kind of kingship the Feast celebrates.

In the 1 September – 23 November 2008 issue of Homily Service, Judith Simonson addresses the need to re-imagine the Feast of Christ the King in a world where monarchs are, by and large, ceremonial figureheads devoid of real power.

Many of us have never lived in a monarchy. The actual concept of a king is foreign to us. We would be pleased to be invited to the White House for a state dinner with the king of some country. We would tell all our friends that we had shaken hands with the monarch and exchanged a few clever words. But we would not want to live under a system in which power was inherited automatically. (In the U.S. the same family can be elected to high office!) We have a lot of trouble granting power to another. Even in church, votes are carefully counted and we bring our ideas of winners and losers into our life together.
This day we worship a king whose power came from death on a cross – extreme weakness. Raymond Brown called this the “embodiment of truth.” In God’s economy, to give life is to gain it. To receive the gift of membership in the kingdom through baptism is to become free from the need for power as the world knows it because God works through us. We are called to embody that truth which says I do not need the glory or the credit, God has already taken care of me.

Homily Service: an ecumenical resource for sharing the word. 23 November 2008; Christ the King, 41:4, 143.

Judith Simonson is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She currently serves on the Inter-Lutheran Coordinating Committee for Ministries in Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling, and Clinical Education.

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