Well today on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are celebrating a feast day on the church calendar. The church calendar that we follow each and every week was established that the Council of Nicea all the way back in the year 325 ad. So it's almost 1,700 years old. The calendar established the dates for Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, and various feast days, like Epiphany, Pentecost, and Palm Sunday.
Today on the church calendar, we celebrate what's known as the feast day of Christ, the King, or Reign of Christ Sunday. This feast day is always celebrated on the Sunday, right before the beginning of Advent, which starts next Sunday. And this feast day of Christ, the King is relatively new. It was established less than 100 years ago. And it grew out of a time of immense political turmoil.
The year was 1925. And if you know your history, you know that that was the time when people like Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler were coming to power. It was a time around the world of dictatorships and authoritarianism, a time when we saw the rise of ideologies like nationalism, and fascism, communism, and Nazism.
So the Christian church in 1925, established Christ the King Sunday, and put it on the church calendar, to remind believers around the world that there is only one power, and that is the power of the Christ. Christ, the King Sunday was established to challenge modern leaders and political movements that value power over peace, dominion over justice.
And that's why today's feast day of Christ the King seems so particularly timely right now in 2020. Not only because we're living at a time of great division in our nation and in our world, but also because we too, are experiencing a new rise of nationalism and fascism once again. Christ the King Sunday reminds us that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, wanted us to build a new kingdom together, one that would be ruled by love, where peace and justice would reign supreme, a kingdom where the last shall be first, where the lowly and oppressed will be lifted up high, where the least of these would be given the most importance. And that is in direct opposition to how kingdoms are usually built.
Most kingdoms throughout the world's history have been built on wealth and power, dominion and oppression. The kingdom Jesus had in mind was very different. But then again, Jesus was a different kind of king. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is asked time and time again, if he is the Messiah, the King of the Jews.
But Jesus never answers that question. He resisted the title of King throughout his lifetime. Jesus didn't want to be called King. And yet here we are celebrating the feast of Christ the King. I wonder how he would feel about that. I wonder how he would feel about all the works of art created by some of the world's greatest artists, which depict him wearing a gold crown, holding a bejeweled scepter. And sitting on a mighty throne.
I don't know about you, but I don't see Jesus that way. Because when I think of a king, I think of someone with great wealth, power, majesty, and control. Someone who has lots of servants at his beck and call, someone whom people fear. When I think of a king, I think of someone who lives up high in a mighty castle, a fortress surrounded by gates and moats. Someone far removed from people's daily lives. And that just wasn't Jesus. In fact, that was the exact opposite of Jesus.
Our friend, the Christian author, John Pavlovitz, who we had the good fortune of having visit us two years ago around this time at Douglas UCC, wrote in one of his most recent blog posts that most Christians today wouldn't recognize the real Jesus. The real Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew, a poor refugee. He was a heretic, a radical, a revolutionary who challenged the political and religious authorities of his day, and who led a movement of the marginalized and oppressed. Pavlovitz writes, "Jesus was a progressive, he started a revolutionary underground movement. His message was not a return to family values, or the promise of making Palestine great again. Jesus championed the poor, and opposed the powerful. He freely gave food to the hungry and care to the sick. He welcomed women in ministry, and treated them as equals. He decried personal and systemic violence. He condemned the hoarding of wealth, and he was an activist for the common good."
That doesn't sound like a king to me. But Jesus was a different kind of king. Rather than establishing a kingdom in the worldly sense, he wanted to establish a kin-dom, a world where all people are one. And if we truly wish to call ourselves Christians, then we must be about the task of continuing to build that kin-dom together, a world where all are one, a just world for all, ruled by love, where peace and justice reign supreme.
So today's feast day is not a coronation of Jesus. Jesus would have hated that. Jesus never wanted to be a king, he would be repulsed by that idea. The focus of today's feast day is not on Jesus, the king, but on the Reign of Christ. I've told you before that the Christ existed billions of years before Jesus was even born. It's the power of love and light that birthed everything into existence at the Big Bang. So today on Reign of Christ Sunday, we're honoring that Christ light. And we're reminding ourselves that there was only one true power, and that is the power of love. May that love reign in our hearts, and may justice rule in our land.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
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