Sermon for Evensong & Benediction Sunday 25 November 2018
Sermon preached by Fr Simon Cuff
Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world.’ Words from the Gospel according to St John, the 18th chapter, the 36th verse.
When you’re ordained, and you have to give an assembly or preach at a Church primary school, you can almost guarantee that no matter what you ask the children, the first answer will be ‘Jesus’.
‘Who is the Queen of England?’ ‘Jesus?’
Depending on the churchmanship of the school, and how many children were listening to the question, the second answer might be ‘Mary’.
Once those stock answers are out of the way, real answers to your question emerge which can sometimes be just as disarming. In some primary schools I’ve been to everyone from Elizabeth I to Theresa May has been on the throne, with a whole host of celebrity figures in between.
Today, the Church asks us who is King? And we answer, ‘Jesus’. All well and good, but what does it mean for us to proclaim Christ as King?
One thing we do know, is that Christ’s kingship is no earthly kingship. Even in Poland, where Christ has been declared earthly king, Jesus isn’t king over us in the sense that he’s head of state. Jesus’ kingship transcends earthly kingship. ‘My kingdom is not from this world’ as we read in our Gospel this morning.
Jesus’ kingship isn’t an office he holds, or a role he assumes. It’s not a position of political authority within the ordering of human society. Unlike earthly kingship, Jesus’ kingship stems not from what he does, or what election he’s won, or which royal line he’s born into. Jesus’ kingship stems from who he is.
Jesus’ kingship isn’t awarded by birth, or political success, or by popular acclamation. Jesus kingship stems from who he is. Emmanuel. God with us. The Word made flesh, whose coming we shall soon be preparing for during Advent and celebrate at Christmas. The Alpha and the Omega. The one who is and who was and who is to come.
Jesus is King, because Jesus is God. Jesus’ kingship stems from his divine nature. Not just as King ‘over us’, but God ‘with us’.
Often, we think of our celebration of Christ the King as being a reminder that if we put Christ in his proper place in our lives and in our nation, peace and good earthly conditions will follow. There is truth in this.
Pope Pius XI, whilst promulgating the feast of Christ the King, saw no ‘reason why we should despair of seeing that peace which the King of Peace came to bring on earth – he who came to reconcile all things’ if we acknowledge Christ’s kingship in our lives and in our world.
Today’s feast invites us not only to recognise where we place Christ in our lives, but who that Christ is. And to rebuild our lives on that foundation.
Pius XI promulgated the feast during the 16th centenary celebrations of the council of Nicea – the council which confirmed once and for all the eternal divinity of the Son. Reflecting on the that year of celebrations, Pius XI: ‘We have commemorated the definition of the divinity of the word Incarnate, the foundation of Christ’s empire over all people’.
The Kingship we celebrate today is the Kingship of God himself. ‘His dominion is an everlasting dominion, that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed’.
Today’s feast reminds us who Christ is. ‘Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made. Who for us, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man’. As we say each and every week in our creed.
Today’s feast is an invitation to reflect on the claims the Church makes about Christ, and what it means for God himself to become one of us. This is how God choses to be King ‘with us’ and ‘for us’. Being born as one of us.
We know where this kingship will lead him. To die for us, to be crucified as one of us. To be put to death for claiming to be king. In this death, his kingship is revealed, and with it what it means for us to live under his rule.
Not to build for ourselves any earthly kingdom, because God has numbered the days of all earthly kingdoms, as heard in our first reading. Not to take for ourselves any earthly power or throne, to withdraw when others would make us king or resist the allure of high office as we see Jesus doing in our second reading.
Rather to follow the kingship of the one who is King forever. To empty ourselves, to pour ourselves out, to take up our Cross and follow him.
Tonight, Christ pours himself out for us in the Blessed Sacrament. As we adore him, we follow him, and commit ourselves to doing likewise.
Pius XI reflected the importance of Eucharistic adoration for proclaiming Christ as king: ‘It is by a divine inspiration that the people of Christ bring forth Jesus from his silent hiding-place in the church, and carry him in triumph through the streets of the city, so that he whom men refused to receive when he came unto his own, may now receive in full his kingly rights.’
As we leave this place, if we make Christ king over our lives, if we follow his example, if we pour ourselves out in love and service of those around us, we too bring forth Jesus, we proclaim him as King in this broken and divided world. As we follow Christ our King, let us pray that world might see Christ as King more clearly through our witness to Christ’s eternal Kingship.
May Christ reign in our hearts, in his world, upon his throne of glory, and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.