Today we celebrate the reign of Christ. It’s not my favorite liturgical moment in the life of the church. To me it sounds hierarchical and authoritarian. But Reign of Christ Sunday has an interesting history. In 1920s Italy, Pope Pius XI was concerned about the rise of a narrow nationalism at home and abroad. He wanted to mark a day when the church could recognize and affirm that our primary loyalty is not to a political party, or even to the nation we live in, but to Jesus Christ. So Pius took the last Sunday of the Christian year, which before this was called variously “Day of the Last Judgment” or, more cheerfully, “Dooms Day” and changed it to honor the lordship of Jesus, the Reign of Christ.
Today serves as a reminder to us that whoever is in power, whoever occupies the throne or the White House, our allegiance is to the Jesus who was declared a king while standing trial for treason. Today we remember whom we follow and to whom we affirm our allegiance.
Jesus reigns! So Caesar doesn’t. Jesus reigns! “Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities . . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Jesus reigns! “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
And then on the cross, under a sign that mocked his authority—“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (John 19:19)—Jesus shows the basis for his power and his authority. Nothing. Nothing but that of love. In the name of the Prince of Peace, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Lonely One who ended this life crowned with thorns on a cross of shame.
Lord, may I follow only you. Amen.
Second Samuel records the final words of David. David takes comfort in the covenant that God has made with his family, which must be continued by kings who will honor God and rule justly. The psalmist sings of this same covenant with David’s family and the same necessity to follow God’s decrees in order to rule well. Revelation opens with a vision of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, the King to rule over all kings for all time. Many expected Jesus to set up a political kingdom. Yet in John, Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not an earthly one. This week let us thank God that the kingdom is based not on the exercise of power but on Jesus’ example of serving others.
• Read 2 Samuel 23:1-7. Upon your deathbed, what would you like your last words to be?
• Read Psalm 132. What is your vision of Paradise? Who will be seated around your table?
• Read Revelation 1:4b-8. How do you bear faithful witness to “the Alpha and the Omega”?
• Read John 18:33-37. To whom do you pledge allegiance? To whom do you give lip service?
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