Toddlers and Tiaras: Entitlement verses Empowerment- What does it mean to be King?

Christ the King Sunday Year B 2021

Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thy Kingdom Come.

Each week we say those words in the Lord’s Prayer. If we are not careful, we can say them quickly and miss spending time reflecting on them.

What do we mean by thy Kingdom here on earth as it is on heaven?

What on earth is a kingdom and I mean that literally- here on earth we have kingdoms, the closest geographically of which is England. Kingdoms are ruled by a monarch, a king or queen. Queen Elizabeth, at age 95, has ruled now for 69 years (70 in February!)- her reign has evolved over the years as she has aged, as the country has changed, as England has gone from wartime to more peaceful times. She, as queen, is head of both Church and State. The defender of the faith and also has a “focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognizes success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.”

Queen Elizabeth is an example of a faithful, enduring leader- who has had her own challenges in leadership through the years and yet endured. She is queen due to the family she was born into, though it’s her actions that have earned the respect of her country.

Today is Christ the King Sunday. This Sunday is the final Sunday of the Church year. Next week we begin the church’s new year with the season of Advent. As we conclude this year’s cycle of readings we conclude with a reminder of who Jesus is. Jesus is human and divine, he is the Christ, the King. As we turn the corner and prepare for the birth of Jesus, we pause to reflect on what that birth means for the kingdom of God.

In scripture, we have heard of Kings well before Jesus. There are two whole books in the Old Testament to tell us their stories. The people of Israel had prophets and they wanted a king. They wanted an earthly king. Their craving was for something more than heavenly God as king. The people wanted a king on earth, the kingdom of God brought near. God is and was their King and they wanted more, they wanted an earthly king. Despite God’s warnings about Kings, and the limitations of their reign, God gave the people Saul, David and Solomon.

Kings continued to rule over the Jews, some faithfully, some less faithfully. We come to Jesus, and we all know about the king at the time of his birth King Herod, the King of the Jews. We know that King Herod’s rule had less to do with the safety and well-being of the Jews and more to do with exploitation of wealth and preservation of power.

Today we hear about Jesus’ audience in front of Pilate.

Jesus, on earth, is accused of being King.

Jesus, as King.

He is not the warrior king like David- leading the people into physical battle.

Jesus is not poet and lavish king that Solomon was creating the temple.

Jesus bore witness to being king in being present and seeing others for who they are.

He redirected people from abstract questions to kingdom living in the here and now.

So then, how does one live in God’s kingdom?

All you have to do is look at Jesus’ life.

Jesus saw each person he encountered.

Jesus stopped and listened.

Jesus equipped people with knowledge and skills and sent the disciples out.

Jesus listened, taught, explained, AND repeated this pattern over and over again.

Jesus loved with his whole heart, you saw his tears when his friend Lazarus died, his joy in each person’s life whose life was amended.

Jesus redirected those who thought they were completed with their work here on earth and focused them on the heavenly kingdom.

Because, really in the word Kingdom, the emphasis is not only on KING but on KIN.

Jesus, here on earth, reminded us that we are all children of God.

Each person worthy of respect, dignity and mercy.

God came near in the person of Jesus to show us the way, to show us how to love, care, have compassion and what kinship looks like.

Christ, as King, has created a rule of relationship and invitation.

Collaboration and community rather than competition.

Empowerment rather than entitlement by birth.

Seeking to have each person and be faithful to the end.

Jesus lives that example for us, his entire life bearing witness to such love and compassion that even standing before Pilate he is calm and centered. Jesus lets his life bear witness to what a king should look like.

Kingship, for God, is willing to suffer for the greater good.

 Jesus shows his might through his humble birth and death, glorifying God to the end.

Kinship means that we each recognize the citizenship that we have, is as children of God. Every one of us.

In praying thy kingdom come, we recognize that we are all striving towards God’s kingdom of justice and compassion.

Kinship means that Jesus as God came near to us, to be with us, to show us the way to love and to care for one another and to give us the ultimate example of how a king should lead.

Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven focuses our eyes on the eternal and not the temporary struggles. We learn to not lose hope with injustice but to keep striving for change.

God brought heaven to earth through the life, death and resurrection of his son.

God came near to us, embraced us and continues to reach out to us in this world of earthly kingships, entitlement and exploitation of power and wealth.

Here at St. John’s we just concluded our St. John’s Market and talk about kingdom of God here on earth. So many people, so many treasures, so many voices, talents, joy. So much work and also energy. Your faces, laughter, and conversation along with those we have never met before, those who came to seek, discover and felt welcomed through the doors.

The Kingdom of God come together for a greater purpose, beyond just self, welcoming people in…… exhausting and yet exhilarating.

So much gratitude. It’s been 2 years since we have been able to gather in this way and the gift of being able to resume such an endeavor of the community.

What I love about St. John’s Market is that not only can you find the perfect gift for your unique uncle, you can also be fed with cakes and great conversation. The market not only raises money for great causes, it also donates to the International Rescue Committee for those refugees resettling in our community who are in need of simple household items as they begin anew right here in Tallahassee.

Our friends from Temple Israel join us every year right as we are closing down to help reset Alfriend Hall for parish ministry. (look for the sign ups to assist with the Jewish Food Festival in the spring!) Coming together from all different directions, assisting one another and building up the kingdom.

We are going into Thanksgiving week. We will see family, some for the first time in 2 years. The table we will gather around will be different because we all are different from the last time we gathered for Thanksgiving. Take a moment and realize that together.

These past 18 months have been hard. We have endured a pandemic, an election during a pandemic, a country that is in need of racial healing from years of systemic injustice, and uncertainty still abounds.

And yet as we conclude this church liturgical year, we are reminded of the example of kingly leadership that continues to invite each person to the table, love through the difficult conversations, and continue to be the ultimate example of gratitude and thanksgiving. We are reminded of Christ the King’s love that endures more than 70 years, more than 70×70 years, a love that embodied through Jesus gives us common ground to stand upon and be family together.

This week, pause and see the kingdom, the KINdom of God come near and the blessings that are in our midst as we strive to follow the example of Christ our King, one day at a time, one prayer at a time, one loving action at a time.

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