This morning we celebrate Reign of Christ Sunday.
It’s a day of celebration common in many churches around the world.
Reign of Christ Sunday is a day when we celebrate our call to faithful living and servanthood in the name of a living, loving, compassionate, and justice seeking God.
With all of that in mind, I hope you can rest the beauty of our related prayers and hymns this morning that also lift up images of a living, loving, compassionate, and justice seeking God.
Reign of Christ or Christ the King Sunday has been on the books of church calendars since 1925 when Pope Pius XI declared it be so. (1)
As leader of the Catholic Church in his era, Pope Pius was very concerned that prevailing world leaders were at serious risk of losing their way, and all of humanity with them.
Since then, Christians around the world have celebrated this day every year on the last Sunday in November.
Even almost ten decades later, we still need to keep Pope Pius’ vision before us.
Even as followers in the Way of Jesus, we, too, run the risk of being swallowed up by the rancorous, disruptive, and disturbing political and cultural rhetoric defining our days.
We, too, as followers in the Way of Jesus need to be mindful of our call and our commitment to all that is true, loving, and just.
Living as we do in a postmodern, post Christendom era, this is no small chore.
Coming to our text from John’s gospel this morning, we meet Jesus in a tense dialogue with Pontius Pilate, Roman Governor at Jerusalem.
It’s a text more commonly read on Good Friday, the day Jesus is crucified.
Against the backdrop of Holy Week, the reading might feel out of place here this morning.
Until we remember that this last Sunday in November marks the end of the long season of what’s known in church circles as ‘Ordinary Time’.
Next week marks the beginning of the season of Advent and with the festive season soon to follow, it feels anything but ‘ordinary’.
As we anticipate the stories of Advent-the coming of this new king in the form of a tiny, vulnerable baby born to refugee parents, we will quickly forget this morning’ story about Jesus’ arrest and his impending crucifixion.
But for today, we need to stay where we are.
And where we are can feel unsettling and uncomfortable.
Trusting in the words of my favourite medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, I am reminded however, that
“all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”.
Looking again at our text this morning we find Jesus and Pilate coming face to face in a tense and terse conversation.
Calling anyone but the Roman Emperor ‘king’ has landed Jesus in very hot water indeed. In fact, it’s had him arrested.
As Jesus and Pilot square off, we remember that Jesus has already been betrayed by the religious leaders of the day and his own followers.
Here we come upon him in the first of seven vignettes that will eventually lead to his cruel death on the cross.
This morning’s short reading begins with a terse question from Pontius Pilate as pointedly asking Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Responding as he often does with a question to a question seems to help Jesus de-escalate the tension some but only temporarily.
In his commentary about not being from this world, not wanting to pit follower against follower, and then, speaking about his own grounded claiming of purpose, authority, and teller of God’s truth, Jesus does seem to have given Pilate something new to consider.
In fact, if we were to read further in the text, we would meet Pilate going back to those who want rid of Jesus and saying: “I find no case against him” (2)
This temporary respite, this need to give the difficult decision back to those who have set Jesus’ betrayal in motion, does not last long.
Still, Pilot’s momentary pause, this moment of indecision is food for thought as we, too, find ourselves standing in those pivotal places in our own lives and in our life as a faith community.
You know those places where someone’s truth telling has opened our hearts or our minds showing us what is right and true and beautiful even in the midst of feeling rattled, confused, accountable, or responsible?
You know those places in our lives where we might actually choose to let go of that which is easy or expedient?
You know those places in our lives where we might choose instead to be intentional about our call as followers in the Way of Jesus?
You know those places in our lives where we might be called upon to offer our gifts for the building up of God’s peaceable realm, God’s vision of Shalom where equality, justice, and peace as norm rather than as exception?
Who knows what could happen?
In just such pivotal moments, God’s dream for the world might also become our own.
Standing as we are on the cusp of a new season and a new era here at Trinity United, my fondest prayer is that this might be so.
Rev. Elizabeth Bowyer reserves all rights © 2018.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.
The impetus for this reflection is based on a series of readings and reflections as follows:
- trinityvernon.ca sermon attributed the Reverend Dr. Jeff Seaton, Good Shepherd, Crucified King, November 22, 2016
- The Harper Collins Study Bible, New Standard Revised Version, Harper Collins Publishers, 1989, p.2049
- Biographical note of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, co-author with Douglas Carlton Abrams’ children’s book “God’s Dream” illustrated by LeUyen Pham, CANDLEWICK PRESS , 2008
- Working Preacher.org, Sermon Brainwave, #634-Ordinary 34 (Christ the King, Reign of Christ Sunday), November 25, 2018
- https://asermonforeverysunday.com, November 25, 2018 B53.2:Reign of Christ, Year B, Rev. Carla Pratt Keyes