This text may seem out of sequence. Here we are on the last Sunday of the Christian year, and we are reading Holy Week texts? And where does “Reign of Christ” Sunday come from? Has someone done away with the traditional designation of Christ the King Sunday?
To start with the last question, no one has done away with any way of naming this end of the liturgical year marker. There are some who believe the term “king” speaks of a patriarchal era that doesn’t speak to all. Also in a representational democratic system that many countries around the world have today, the idea of kingship seems foreign or outdated. The alternative phrase “reign of Christ” seeks to be more inclusive and recognizable as we often speak of reigning in a variety of fields. And sometimes the way to draw attention to something is to give it a new name. But there is no requirement that one term be used over another. If the more traditional nomenclature still speaks in your context, feel free to use it.
The larger question then is, “What does it mean to speak of the Christ who reigns, or Christ the king?” What is clear from the gospel accounts is that Jesus came to redefine what it means to be king. The one who reigns over us is the one who was tried as a criminal, who was punished by oppressive authorities and crucified – killed in the most heinous act of execution devised by the powers of this world. That is the one to whom we pledge our allegiance. That is the one whom we gather to worship and follow. The one who reigns over us, Christ our king.
So how do we worship this king? With our words and praises, of course. Let our worship be full of songs of praise to Christ the king. Let our prayers abound with our commitment to the one who reigns over us, and our pledge to be Christ followers into eternity.
But what are the pointers to allegiance to Christ once you leave the sanctuary after worshiping this day? What are the marks of those who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and not just the nations of this world? How will we live differently? How will we live out our citizenship? Some descriptions of kin-dom living would be helpful here. A call to love God and neighbor in tangible ways each and every day, and then to put some “meat on those bones” by giving direction and suggestions and possibilities. And the reminder that we can live as followers of Christ only when we do it together. What opportunities for fellowship and learning are available? What covenant groups might help people on the discipleship pathway? To whom do I go, with whom shall I grow as I seek to be one who doesn’t scoff at the criminal dying on a cross but sees the king who will reign over my life always?
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.