Christ the King

The mindless television show of choice in our house is currently Masterchef, the Professionals. And it is a joint choice - I do have to accept equal responsibility - it’s undemanding, reassuringly predictable and easy to fall asleep to. I also love the unrelenting passion of the contestants’ answers when they’re quizzed about why they are there. You know the sort of thing - “Why have you come on Masterchef, Andy?” Look Greg, I’ve always loved cooking and I need to show what I can do. I want to get to the top, losing is not an option, I need to prove to my wife and kids that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. I want people to say, “yes, this is it,” when I put a plate of food in front of them.

In reality I’m living for the day when someone says, “lighten up Monica it’s only a game innit, I just thought I’d try it for a laugh didn’t I? And when all’s said and done it’s only a snack.” That’s not going to happen, but earlier this week David, a nice young man who has somehow scraped through to the semi-finals did just hint that cooking hadn’t always been his life-long passion when he admitted to trying a few other things – “I trained as a plumber, and a tiler, then a plasterer. I worked in a bar for a while, ooh, I was in the Navy as well, yeah,” he confessed.

I do hope he’s finally found what he really wants to do, but you do wonder don’t you. I guess many of us are a bit like that, our enthusiasms don’t always last that long and things that seemed a good idea at the time turn out not to be so attractive once we get stuck into them. I have to confess I’m sometimes like that and do admire those who are more single-minded and dedicated than me.

So I suspect I’d be a bit of a disappointment to the apostle Paul as we heard him writing to the Colossians: “May you be made strong,” he wrote, “with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father.” I’m not sure enduring is my strong point.

Paul clearly sees allegiance to Christ in an all or nothing sort of way. In the second part of that reading he went on to speak of the supremacy of Christ in a way that may be summarised in the phrase “Unless Christ is Lord of all, he cannot be Lord at all.”

This Sunday, designated Christ the King, is one of those when it’s hard to avoid the extraordinary theology behind the Christian gospel - that a man, who was executed in a far off land a long time ago, is at the heart of the universe in some way that defies comprehension and explanation. It’s hard to avoid the demands that the bible writings make on us - that this Jesus should in some sense be Lord of our lives. But interestingly, this feast day of Christ the King was first introduced to the Roman Catholic church calendar less than 90 years ago and only since 1970 has it been celebrated by the Church of England.

This isn’t a history lecture, so suffice it to say that it was introduced in the 1920‘s at a time of increased aggressive nationalism and secularism. The pope who instituted it hoped that:

So it was a political statement from a church that arguably still carried some clout at the time, but you’d have to say that it really hasn’t had the desired effect, as the church’s wider influence continues to wane.

It was becoming harder and harder to reconcile the universality of Christian teaching with the muddled reality of the world of the time and it continues to be so, of course. But perhaps it was ever thus. The gospel we hear in here today presents one world view, the world beyond is just that, another world. I have a fondness for orthodox church services which will have a pretty good go at bringing heaven to earth with their wonderful chanting and the amazing iconography of Christ Pantocrator, the almighty and all-powerful staring down from the ceiling. It’s an attempt to give life to what Paul means when he says:

“He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

And I suppose all church services are trying to do that in a way - to give a hint of what “new life in Christ” might mean, in the hope that some of us will take that hint and try to work out what it means beyond the church, out in the world.

That’s the challenge isn’t it? We hear and grapple with the idea of a different kind of king - a king crucified, dead and buried. Powerless and mocked by that sarcastic comment - “King of the Jews” when he was hanging there, clearly nothing of the sort. And yet now we celebrate him as Lord of all, not least in our hearts and minds. Perhaps the words don’t help, kings and lords don’t really cut it these days. But nevertheless, what this feast day is trying to tell us is that our faith is more than a possibly somewhat antiquated ritual which we enjoy for an hour or so each week, it’s about the whole world and all our lives within it.

Paul wrote of enduring. Masterchef candidates are wont to say how they’ve found their enduring passion in their cooking. Christ the King, Christ in the world, calls us to find our enduring passion in him.