In the calendar of the liturgical churches, which includes the Lutheran church, tomorrow is Christ the King Sunday. It is the last Sunday of the seasonal church calendar, so that the “year” starts with the first Sunday in Advent. (More on Advent next week).
In my little congregation of Community of Faith, this is a very special Christ the King Sunday for two reasons. First, it marks the end of our first complete church year as a new congregation. Second, and really more important, we will be installing our new permanent lead pastor, Pr. Dave Sorensen, as shepherd of our flock. We are really excited about having Pr. Dave come worship with and lead us. He is a man who definitely lives with Christ as King of his life, and that is so important in a pastor.
But you might be asking, what exactly is Christ the King Sunday and when did it start? This celebration, or feast, of Christ as King was first instituted in the Catholic Church in 1925, and has been adopted into the calendar of the Protestant liturgical churches as well. The purpose of the celebration is focus on Christ as King and Lord of the entire universe. He is not a king in the earthly sense of kings who often rule for their own benefit as tyrants. Rather, Jesus is a servant King who rules in the hearts and minds of those who choose to follow Him, and who calls His people to service toward one another.
One important scriptural basis for exalting and celebrating Jesus as King of all is found in John 18:28-37 (NIV):
Jesus Before Pilate
Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
I love that we end the church year with Christ as King. We begin in Advent by celebrating His coming as a helpless little baby at Christmas and then end the year with Him exalted above all the earth, having conquered sin and death on the cross, been raised from the dead, and sent His Holy Spirit to reign in the hearts of His people. His rule is one of love and mercy for the humble, but justice for the proud and wicked. He is able to rule lovingly and justly because He alone understands the heart of each person who ever lived. He understands our motives and our struggles. He knows that alone we are nothing, but that with His grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit we can be the kingdom He desires to rule.
Is Jesus King and Lord of your life? Does He reign in your heart? Do you know the love and mercy of this wonderful Christ the King? He desires to know you, to love you, to show you mercy and grace. He desires to have you as part of His wonderful kingdom, a kingdom that transcends your earthly location or nationality. All you have to do is ask Him to come rule in your life. So what are you waiting for? Maybe this Advent will mark the beginning of the first full church year of your life in Christ.