“He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.” (Daniel 7:14)
According to American legend, at the end of our Revolutionary War, George Washington was so popular with the people of this young nation that they offered to make him king. Obviously, General Washington turned it down and became our first president, but his acts, apocryphal or not, charted the course of our country as we are unaccustomed to being under the rule of a king. When we declared our independence, most of the world was ruled by kings, and even going back to the time of Jesus and further back to the Old Testament, kings ruled with a strong hand over their subjects. Kings were lords over the lands and over their people. People would bow in the presence. Some were hands on and led their armies into war while others ruled lazily from the protection of the throne. In short, we all equate kingship to great power and rule.
Enter Jesus Christ who institutes a new style of kingship: the servant-king. Jesus tells Pilate in today’s gospel what we will celebrate next month: “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world…(John 18:37).” Yet what confounded Pilate, and many of the disciples for that matter, is that if Jesus was truly king, then where was his power? Where were his subjects? Where were all the trappings that come with kingship? On Friday, in preparing the school children for today’s feast, I asked them what popped into their head when they heard the word king. Power. Crown. Throne. Wealth. These were some of the things they said. I took the crown and the throne and asked them that if Jesus was king, then were are his crown and his throne? We all agreed that his crown was the crown of thrones, but when I asked what his throne was, a little 1st grader raised his hand and said “the cross.” Even children get it. There on the cross we see Christ our King at his most vulnerable but also at his most powerful because it is there that he vanquishes sin and death. Listen to today’s Collect: “Almighty every-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise…” It is on the cross that he demonstrates the power of his kingship because he frees us from the slavery of sin and death.
But there’s another dimension of Christ’s kingship that we sometimes overlook. We celebrate this solemnity today and many have given their lives over the centuries because we firmly believe that Jesus is King. This is a central tenet of our faith, and if we believe the prophesy from the first reading that the Son of Man received dominion over all creation then he has dominion over us. But because our God is a loving God, he is not a tyrannical king that seizes our love or our hearts. He wants us to learn from his servant-king example, in which we were all baptized into, and give him our hearts on our own. So here’s the question I pose to you today: how much of our heart does Christ the King have dominion over? Do we give him just a part of our heart like when we give him an hour a week on Sunday? Or do we surrender and give him our entire heart and soul? To give him anything less would be a disservice to Christianity. Christ deserves our entire heart. Every word and action of ours should scream to the world that Jesus is King of our lives, for if we really believe that Christ is Lord and King then everyone would know it. Is Christ the King of your homes? Is Christ the King in your workplace? And yes it must be said: is Christ the King of this parish? This is the challenge of today’s feast. How much of our heart belongs to Christ the King?