Feast of Christ the King
Christ Church Cathedral
26 November 2017
Today is our day: the feast of Christ the King.
While most people know us as Christ Church Cathedral we are actually the Cathedral Church of Christ the King. So today is our festival day.
This festival occurs on the final Sunday of the church year.
Next Sunday we begin Advent and a new church year, but today we wrap up a year that has passed:
- a year of learning
- a year of ministry
- a year of transitions
- a year of new beginnings
During this week we might take some time to think back to this time last year:
- what has happened in your life since then?
- what has changed?
- what has remained constant?
- what has been reaffirmed and strengthened?
- what do we regret?
A community dedicated to Christ the king
Looking back can be instructive, but I invite us to look forward at this time. What does it mean for us to be a cathedral community dedicated to Christ as our ‘king’?
The term ‘king’ can be problematic here as it reflects a world of empire and certainty.
We have neither. The empire has fallen. We live in a time of transition, and uncertainty is the air we breathe.
But that exaggerated title still speaks to our core values:
- we are community for whom Jesus is central
- it is no longer a claim to privilege
- it is no longer a claim to certainty
- but it is certainly our cardinal orientation
We are a community where Jesus matters:
- what he believed, we believe
- how he acted, is our model for action
- how he treated people, is our guide for life
So let’s unpack this a little further.
The Wisdom of Jesus
At the heart of our faith is the spiritual wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth.
Unlike many spiritual teachers, Jesus had a just a very brief moment in which to live the wisdom that his heart embraced. He did not have 20 or 40 years to unpack his ideas. Rather, his public ministry lasted maybe just 18 months. But what an impact he made in that brief time!
We find the spiritual wisdom of Jesus especially in his parables and aphorisms. He was an oral poet, and with just a few well-crafted words he invited people to see the world differently.
More than that, Jesus challenged people to live as if what they had glimpsed was already true. At the heart of his wisdom was a fresh vision of the Kingdom of God, the Empire of God, the Commonwealth of God:
- not the Empire of Rome
- not the tribal supremacy of his own Jewish people
- certainly not Christendom
- or the empire of the church
Rather, Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: not at the end of time, but right here and right now.
If we are the Cathedral Church of Christ the King, then the crazy dream of the reign of God has to be at the very centre of who we are, what we do, and how we do it. We will see the world differently, and act accordingly.
The Practice of Jesus
The words of Jesus are validated by his actions, and that surely is a message to us as well.
What we believe must be demonstrated by our actions. We must walk the talk, we must practise what we preach.
In Jesus’ context that meant creating a community in which the outcast found a place for themselves.
Jesus lived and died for people on the margins. He was not interested in the powerful, the privileged, or the comfortable.
Ordinary people, little people, were at the heart of Jesus’ ministry; and that needs to be true of us as well. If we forget that, we have lost touch with Jesus.
The bottom line here—as surely we must have learned from Royal Commission—is that our best ideas do not have as much impact as worst actions. We must ensure that our actions align with our core beliefs. As a Cathedral, we need to act as a colony of God’s kingdom, rather than as a bastion of privilege—and never simply serve our own interests.
The Integrity of Jesus
Jesus validated his spiritual wisdom by the circumstances of his death.
The cross of Jesus looms large in Christian thought, but is mostly misunderstood.
In the ancient world, the key to a life lived well was how a person died.
That is a piece of wisdom our culture finds hard to embrace, although it is one that we encounter as our own journey brings us close to death. To die well is to be someone who has lived well.
Jesus could have evaded death, but he chose not to do so. He could have left Jerusalem, but he chose to stay.
We shall never fully understand his motives, but we can see the choices he embraced.
Jesus’ death on the cross, was the validation of his life and his own personal understanding of the reign of God. This is why a common way to depict Christ the King is to portray Jesus on the cross wearing a crown and royal robes.
In the horror of his death we see the integrity of the one who both understood and embraced the reign of God. The cross becomes his throne, as the Gospel of John seems to understand. The crucified one, the excluded one, becomes the one who reigns because of the ultimate power of God’s love to defeat fear and death.
And now it is our turn!
As a faith community, we have inherited a fantastic title into which we choose to live: the Cathedral Church of Christ the King.
Now the challenge is before us:
- dare we embrace the vision of Jesus?
- dare we waste our lives for the sake of others?
- dare we risk failure and death for the sake of our vision of God’s new world?
Yes, we do.
Yes, we will.
Yes, nothing else deserves our best!