Colossians 1: 15-18
6:33-3:25 (Power of Vulnerability clip, Brene Brown)
If there’s a spectrum of fully vulnerable in complete denial, I might argue that I’m so far over to one side, I might actually welcome a little numbing.
And today is Christ the King Sunday….and in our scripture, we have this very vulnerable moment from Christ.
So we have King, lord over, and this vulnerable Jesus who asks God for help.
And by the end of this, I hope you come to understand that Christ is both Lord over… and every bit as human as us. Both And.
Christ the King Sunday, began in 1925 in response to growing secularism.
In 1960 another Pope raised its importance ranking it a feast of the first class.
and then in 1969 it was assigned to it the highest rank of “solemnity" Whatever that means…
Each pope found it necessary to elevate the importance of this day in response to what they were seeing around them, who was a decline in religious devotion and a rise of secularism and nationalism.
This is your king the day seems to say, that you should reject all the ways of the world in exchange for Christ. I’m not against the idea, I’m just not sure that this kind of language or imagery works for today, for the younger generation who are skeptical of religion in general.
There’s another image of Christ that I think may be more appealing. It doesn’t strip Christ of his role as Lord and King, but it reframes him as a reminder of what kind of king Christ is, which is in opposition to the way we think of kings in general.
Christ, our king is not like other kings, and his kingdom is nothing like the kingdom of other kings.
In the words of Pope Pius the XI Christ must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls,….
That’s a lot of should and musts…
That language may speak to some, but to be honest, it doesn’t leave me a whole lot of room to be whole hearted.
We’ve been given countless paintings through centuries of Christ as king, countless hymns with imagery of king, and ruler over all….
We know it well. Some of us take comfort in it.
But for those of us who haven’t grown up in the church, which is more and more of us…. this idea of Christ as king doesn’t resonate quite so fully.
We established our country to identify in opposition of monarch, aristocracy and royalty. Typically kings held tragic flaws, were cruel, selfish and disconnected from the people they governed, but they were also thought to be directly appointed by and anointed by God,
So when Jesus is described as king it is in an entirely new way, a new kingdom, and ruler over darkness of every kind, over pain, over suffering, bringing the first word of life and love to all creation…nothing created before him.
That’s all what we refer to in theology as a high Christology. It’s why the liturgical color today is white.
But there’s another narrative of a different Jesus. And it’s one that holds equal value, maybe even more value in terms of reaching those who are skeptical of religion. It’s a depiction of in our second scripture, which was not part of the prescribed readings. Your Pastor went rogue and chose one of her favorite moments in scripture.
An extremely human moment, where Jesus goes off by himself to pray….and prays
2“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.
Just like that. This is my challenge with scripture…..it moves form one profound moment to the other so quickly we can miss the importance and weight of the moment by blinking….
listen again….only this time with a pause in-between…
2“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me;
How long did that part of this scene stay in that moment? Minutes? Hours? days?
Jesus is essentially saying; if there’s any other way, any other way, please let me get out of having to do this. Some call it a moment of weakness, I call it one of the greatest gifts of human-ness; the reminder that Christ is you and me when it comes to vulnerability….and in this one moment shows us that even he can feel what we all feel from time to time….make this go away, I don’t want to have to feel this suffering, this grief….
Who knows how long he was in that head space. Scripture doesn’t tell us.
the second part of that sentence….
“yet, not my will but yours be done.”
Followed by the appearance of an angel who gives Jesus the strength he needs.
What if all of that took days?
Speaking of things taking days, I had the flu for days this week…
So I watched The Crown which I though fitting for this coming Sunday. Hands down some of the best acted, best directed, best written shows I’ve ever seen. This season specifically.
It begins with a young Prince Charles of Whales…(tell story in own words)who is called out of Cambridge where he’s studying acting, to visit whales for three months. Just protocol of every Welsh prince, to go learn the language and then leave. Only during his time he’s given a mentor and teacher who educates him on the plight of the whales which feels its losing it’s identity, and it’s language, and the monarchy, the establishment is to blame, and the prince, who is played by an actor whois the best I’ve seen in decades, the prince, is not like his parents, and begins to understand based on his own lost identity within his own family, he understands the idea of feeling displaced without a voice, unseen and unheard….so in the speech that queens speechwriters have written for him deliver tot he people of Whales, he changes it, and writes a page of his own and asks no permission….
and when he gets home his mother and he have it out….
Charles-I am not just a symbol.
I can lead not just by wearing a uniform or by cutting a ribbon but by showing people who I am.
Mummy, I have a voice.
Queen-Let me let you in on a secret. No one wants to hear it.
Charles-Are you talking about my country or my family?
Then we cut back to Cambridge where Charles has taken on the role of King Richard the II.
Richard too is disconnected from his land and its people. and eventually overthrown by his cousin, leaving him to contemplate his own death….
And that’s the speech we witness for Charles…
And this is the speech I woke up to on the couch….listen for the implication of Christ, who was nothing like Richard the ii or prince Charles except maybe this one way…..All three are in these moment feeling disconnected from those around them, seeking to be seen and heard as a human being with a voice rather than a figure head with no emotion, no heart…. All three enduring this projection of king as something other than flesh and blood, fully human.
Act 3, scene 2- the play within the play. Prince Charles, playing Richard the II….but imagine if you will that Christ himself stood up in the face of of all the projections that people placed upon him, in a moment when he was most vulnerable….
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?
I imagine on this high holy day, Jesus wants us to remember him not as royalty, but as a model for vulnerability.
I imagine that Christ must watch us place him on the pedestal so high that we get it into our heads that faith means not struggling.
Succumbing to God’s will yes, ultimately just as he did, but not without struggle, grief, fear, vulnerability, and prayer along the way.
The king that lords over me is also the man who prayed to God, dreading the very thing he was born to do. As he makes his way to the cross, to be crowned with thorns, we are given our true king….
The king who lords over us is not the king of monarchs but the lamb of God, the one who gathers in the weak, the lowly, the least of us. The king who lords over us is every bit as able to feel need and want as we are…..and the king who lords over us will enter into this world, all over again, just a month from now…as a vulnerable baby who coos, in want of food, in need of the arms of those of us who will hold him, and love him, into being our lord and savior.