The Last Sunday after Pentecost E. Bevan Stanley The Feast of Christ the King November 21, 2021 Proper 29, Year B 2 Samuel 23:1-7 Revelation 1:4b-8 John 18:33-37 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world.” In the Name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen. The theme of this Sunday is Christ the King. This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Another theme of the day is the end of time. This is the end of the story. We Christians hope and believe that at the end of the world Jesus will return and reign over all of us and all creation as a just, merciful, and and generous King. So far, so good. When we start to think about that, we start to ask questions. What kind of king are we talking about? And over whom or what will he reign? In the first reading, we hear some of the last words of King David. Despite his many human weaknesses, David is held up a model of a good king. Why? Because he loves God and puts God first. David is described as “the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel.” Remember that the word “anointed” is Messiah in Hebrew and Christ in Greek. David is the Messiah and the Christ of God. God says, “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.” What a beautiful picture! This is the ideal King. David does not live up to this ideal, but he does understand that it is the goal. The reading from Revelation pictures God on the throne in heaven and Jesus as the “firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. In the Gospel of John, we hear of the conversation between Pontius Pilate and Jesus, in which we shown two different ideas of kingship. This occurs on the day when Jesus will die. Jesus has been arrested by the Jewish leaders and they have accused him of being a revolutionary who claims to be the descendent of David who will re-establish the kingdom of David. This would involve making war against Rome and throwing them out of Judea. The Jewish leaders fear that if such a person did start a rebellion, the Romans would crush it brutally and the Jews would be in worse shape than ever. Thus it is that when Jesus is brought before Jesus, Pilate asks him “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Jesus knows that this misunderstanding of Jesus’ purpose and mission came from the Jewish leaders and wants Pilate to understand that. Pilate replies, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answers, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Jesus is saying that the kind of kingdom and the kind of kingship that Jesus has in mind is not what either the Jewish leaders nor Pilate have in mind. He says that his kingdom is not from this world. His authority and power do not come from any people or nation, nor from the power of arms or money or popularity. Jesus’ only power and authority are those that come from God. Pilate asks him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.” This might be translated, “You said it.” It is meant as an affirmation. But Jesus is quick to reiterate that Jesus is not the kind of King that is intending to lead a military rebellion or cause civil unrest. Jesus continues, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” While he may intend to turn the world upside down, it will be by speaking the truth not by armed conflict. For reasons that are opaque to me, the makers of the Lectionary left out the last line of the story in which Pilate ends the conversation with a question: What is truth? What are we to make of all this as we celebrate Jesus as King? The Jesus gets his kingly power and authority from God, not from any power on earth. The power is used not to dominate but to establish a commonwealth of justice, compassion, and love. Jesus is to be king over that kingdom for which we pray every day in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the kingdom whose coming was the core of Jesus preaching from the beginning of his public ministry. His message was then and still is, “Turn your mind around for the Kingdom of heaven is almost here.” In his miracles, we see glimpses of the wholeness that such a kingdom would bring. In his love for all sorts and conditions of people, we see the radical hospitality of that kingdom. All are welcome. This is the kingdom described by the Welsh poet R. S. Thomas in his poem entitled “The Kingdom:” It’s a long way off but inside it There are quite different things going on: Festivals at which the poor man Is king and the consumptive is Healed; mirrors in which the blind look At themselves and love looks at them Back; and industry is for mending The bent bones and the minds fractured By life. It’s a long way off, but to get There takes no time and admission Is free, if you will purge yourself Of desire, present yourself with Your need only and the simple offering Of your faith, green as a leaf. I close with this benediction from Revelation: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming.