A few weeks ago at our Wednesday evening study Kneeling With Giants, we talked abut Teresa of Avila. In that chapter of our text, we considered the various ways that we address God when we pray. For example, we talked about Jesus as friend: one who walks with us and remains with us through the deepest darkness as well as the brightest heights. We talked about Jesus as confessor: one who bears our burdens and sins and secrets. We talked about Jesus as guide and Savior and shepherd. There are many names and roles for Jesus throughout Scripture. And in that Wednesday study, we were to pay attention to how we address Jesus, what attitude we go to Jesus with when we pray. We were to be mindful of where we are in our thoughts, in our needs, in our emotional awareness. And when we pray, what did we need Jesus to be for us? What did our relationship need to be in those moments of prayer?
So, before we start to unpack those questions now, I want us to understand why we have this day in our liturgical calendar. In 1925, the world was in significant turmoil. While World War I had ended a few years prior, the aftershock of an entire planet at war — nation against nation — was reverberating throughout the countries. The economic landscape of the world was forever changed; one after another of the countries in Asia and the Middle East began fighting against colonialism; with troops traveling across countries, disease was spread unlike any era had ever seen; a shift in balance of the genders began as women from all countries were left at home caring for families as well as businesses and social systems; also, as a result of travel during the war, ethical and religious ideologies were challenged as people who might never have known one another were suddenly face-to-face with differing belief systems. It was in just such an aftershock that Pope Pius XI realized a critical element about mankind: he had forgotten who was the Eternal King, and man had replaced the Eternal King with the rulers of the nations. Mankind, in his fear or violence or hubris, was turning away from the Supreme Justice. So, in order to foster a re-establishment of the perfect hierarchy and remind man — whose faith was waning in the chaos of those days — Pope Pius XI proclaimed this as Christ the King Sunday. Even though the nations may not agree politically, socially, economically, even morally, there would be a dedicated Sunday each year that we mark Who has already won the greatest war.
So, this Sunday is a unique day. Why is it different? What makes this Sunday unlike any other Sunday? Well, consider our passages of text. Our passage from Daniel tells of Daniel’s prophecy of seeing God on His throne. It speaks of hair as white as pure wool, of dominion and languages and glory, of thousands upon thousands attending to Him, of the books of judgment being opened. As a matter of fact, we actually see the Holy Trinity in this passage from Daniel: the Ancient One is God on the throne; the stream of fire issuing and flowing out from His presence is the Holy Spirit; and the one like a human being coming to the Ancient One is Christ.
“Well,” you say, “this doesn’t answer why this passage is different from other Sundays.” Okay. Then, let’s consider our Psalm. We see that the Lord is King and puts on his splendid apparel. We see that since the world began, His throne is sure and everlasting. We see His might and His holiness. We see the voice of the waters claiming the testimony of God.
“Nope,” you say, “still not helping in what makes this different…” All right. Let’s look at our Epistle from Revelation. Here we see the sacrifice that Christ completed for us, for the world, reinforced when we read that it is through His blood that he has made us to be His kingdom. John continues to write that he saw Jesus coming in the clouds and every person will see him, even those who crucified Him. God says that He is the Alpha and Omega, and He is the Almighty.
“Still no,” you say, “I’m just not seeing what’s different here.” Well, considering our Gospel passage, we see Pilate and Jesus having a conversation about Jesus. Is Jesus King? Is he King of the Jews? But, Jesus never directly answers Pilate’s questions. Instead, He follows His own line of response in that He was born specifically to do what He was about to do, which was to die.
So, finally, what is it that makes this Sunday’s readings different from any other day? The fact that we are stop and to reflect on the fact of Jesus as King. Each passage tells us a different quality, a different character of Christ as King. In Daniel we see the glory of Christ and the multitude who will worship Him. In the Psalm we see His permanency, His significance over the earth. In Revelation we see what He has done for man through His death and that even those who killed Him will bow in submission to Him. Also in Revelation, God echoes who He is when He says, “I am the Alpha and Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” And in our Gospel, we see, through Jesus’ rhetoric with Pilate, who He is as God as human.
When our world may not be enduring a world war as in Pope Pius XI’s era, there are many corporations and nations jockeying for supremacy. Our world faces a crisis of conscious as our medical advancements move faster than our systems of bio-ethics can afford. When our youth are taught more by youtube, Snapchat, and Reddit than by the presence of the family around the supper table. When nations war and citizens weep.
What does today remind us to do? Recognize Jesus as King. Acknowledge His power. Confess His supremacy. Praise Him. Adore Him. Worship Him. Be still and know that He is God. Remember that when all seems lost or hopeless, that God is ultimately in control. We have a beloved Savior who knows our pain, our fear, our anger, our loneliness. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Know that He was crucified, died, and was buried. Know that Jesus is supreme and IS coming again in Glory. We serve the Risen King, and we pray that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.