Christ the King or Reign of Christ?

Scripture: John 18:33-38

Let us pray:

O Most Holy, Illumine these scriptures for us that we may learn of your true nature, and ours. Teach us the way of everlasting, and keep us in the palm of your hand. Amen.

I added the set of scriptures from the Gospel of John today to the revised common lectionary because I was troubled by something. In searching for inspiration to include in a “Christ the King” Sunday sermon, I came across a reflection by Father Richard Rohr that goes like this:

“Humans are more comfortable with a divine monarch at the top of pyramidal reality. So we quickly made [Jesus] who described himself as “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29) into an imperial God, both in western Rome and eastern Constantinople. This isn’t the naked, self-emptying Jesus on the cross. This isn’t a vulnerable, relational one, who knows how to be a brother to all creation. The Greek Zeus became the Latin Deus; and we no longer knew Jesus in any meaningful sense that the soul could naturally relate to….”[1]

On this day of days, one in which we sing and pray to Christ as King, the Gospel of John reminds us that Jesus didn’t actually say he came to be king of this place, of this reality where we experience religious factions facing off across great ideological divides – or where the fortunes of nationhood, status of immigrants, and fate of the environment swing like pendulae to and fro depending on which party is in power. Nor did Jesus say he came to rule the Romans or any otherworldly empire. He said, “My kingdom is not from this world.(Emphasis added)

I can probably grasp the Other-worldliness of Christ’s kingdom, and even see the way clearly enough to envision the other-worldliness of Christ’s reign invading from whatever that other-realm is into this one, which would help explain our theological understanding of the kingdom of God being here but not yet fully realized.

But, being utterly entrenched in this world myself, I do have to ask, how can we understand Christ’s other-worldly reign in any real and meaningful way for the here and now of temporal reality?

Again, Rohr has an insight which might shed light on this; namely:

“All divine power is shared power and the letting go of autonomous power. If the Father does not dominate the Son, and the Son does not dominate the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit does not dominate the Father or the Son, then there’s no domination in God.

There’s no seeking of power over in the Trinity, but only power with—a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinity of trust and mutuality. … Isaiah tried to teach such servanthood to Israel in the classic four “servant songs.”[2] He was training them in being “light to all nations” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6), but Hebrew history preceded what Christianity repeated: we both preferred kings, wars, and empires instead of suffering servanthood or leveling love.

Trinitarian theology says that spiritual power is more circular or spiral, and not so much hierarchical. It’s here; it’s within us. It’s shared and shareable….”[3]

Reflecting on the meaning of this last Sunday in our lectionary year, and preparing for the first Sunday in Advent next week, I now think that perhaps the difference between Christ the King and the Reign of Christ is: removing from hierarchy and entering mutuality. Kingship includes so much baggage around hierarchical and political power, whereas mutuality is focused on love – one might even call it true love.

This gives me great hope and comfort, for it also gives me a true vision of how we are to relate to all others we encounter on this earth: in love. To participate in the reign of Christ is to be one with Christ’s love, extending it to others, receiving it from others, and touching the deepest chords of being – or should I say natural relativity – with strands that reach out connecting us one to another, with God our Maker, Christ our brother, and the Holy Spirit who sustains all of us and all Creation at the center of our interconnected souls.

Prepare ye the way, my friends, for once again Emmanuel comes – into all earth communities, into our community, into our hearts, into our beings, into our very souls; for all of us are vessels into which the Holy Spirit can be poured, awaiting to be filled in service to God.

May all glory be to the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 95-96.

[2] See Isaiah 42:1–9; 49:1–13; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12.

[3] Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 95-96.

Questions for Reflection

Paul declares that peace was made through the blood of the cross (Col. 1:20). How do we think about the inherent violence in the crucifixion? Is there a way to reconcile the call to be peacemakers with this statement that peace comes through the blood of the cross?

Household Prayer: Morning

God of the new day, at the dawning of the first day you spoke creation into being and declared it good. You crafted each flower and vegetable and bird of the air and beast of the land, and there at all of it was Jesus the Christ. We give thanks for the dawning of this day and pray we might know your holy triune presence in all we see and do.

Guard our hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies that we, too, might sing the goodness of creation and remember your call to be good stewards of it all. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Ever-present God, even on that dark day, in that dark place called the Skull, you were present to the suffering and those in pain. Be present to the suffering on this night, too, and rain down mercy and justice upon your beloved creation. Be with us and those we love this night, and bring us through to the dawning of a new day filled with righteousness, love, and peace. Amen.


About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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