CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY SERMON - FR. LANCE SCHMITZ, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God our strength our redeemer and our one and only peace. AMEN
There are few questions that strike fear in the heart of hearers more than “Who is in charge around here?” Rarely is this a question that folks ask because they want to say something nice. Never ever is it uttered in a Starbucks by a pleased and happy customer.
Who is in charge around here? Is one of those questions that folks are always trying to answer, because whoever is in charge is in power and whoever is in power, is on top and gets to tell folks what to do.
Governments want to have power. Businesses want to have power. Family members want to have power. Small children want to have power. Clergy even want power. Power as commonly understood is control, and control means safety for those with the power.
Power in and of itself isn’t bad, because at its very foundation power is just this ability to do something.
Teaching folks how to wield power isn’t taught very well, and what we end up seeing more often than not is folks exercising manipulation, condescension, abuse, and control under the guise of being the one in charge.
Into a world where people brandish power in such dangerous/manipulative ways we find ourselves today celebrating Christ the King Sunday, remembering/commemorating something that is all too easy to forget; Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is Lord is one of those phrases that we have heard so much and has been embodied so poorly, that it has lost its edge and has been robbed its ability to lay hold of our minds, our imagination, our lives.
Life is messy, unpredictable, and tiring. We often end up running as fast as we can to just stay in place and keep up. Our tired minds, our exhausted days end up making us targets of convenience for any person, political party, news outlet, employer who wants to exert power over us so that we become another reliable part of the bottom line.
The peculiar placement of Christ the King as a feast day right before we enter into the high holy days of consumption where we are told by powerful forces “buy too much, eat too much, and worry too much” is a delicious point of irony.
It is at this time of the year there are innumerable voices trying to exert their power/influence screaming or subtly wooing you into believing that you won’t be happy unless…
You won’t be happy unless you give these gifts to your loved one.
You can’t be happy until your home looks just like this.
You have failed because you haven’t done x,y,z.
Christ the King Sunday comes reminding/confronting/comforting us to remember of who we really are, what we are really called to be, how we can properly see the world, and who holds all the cards.
In our reading from Revelation, which isn’t a step by step prediction guide to the end of the physical world despite how it has been depicted in popular culture and far too many odd books and Kirk Cameron movies, we find John inspiring and reminding these readers/hearers that this world is ill the empire of Rome is sick and Jesus is Lord.
He reminds them then and us now, that despite the goings on around us there is something/one greater. Despite all the voices telling us otherwise, we are called to be about something else entirely.
The Kingdom of God, The Way of Jesus Christ is something worthy of giving our lives to, everything else takes a backseat to this way of doing life.
Revelation comes to us and reminds us when we feel lost, when we feel confused, when we encounter hurt that there is one you can cast your energy, love, and fears upon and that person is Jesus.
Then as today, there are people exerting power/control trying to lay claim to your life and imagination and inform you on what it means to be an acceptable person, a good citizen, a member of the right group.
Revelation reminds us that Christ is Lord, Jesus has primacy and ultimacy, that God who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. God is the beginning and the end. Despite all appearances, we have one that is worth casting our allegiances/cares/concerns with, and that is Jesus.
So what does this all mean for us as Christians dwelling in the 21st century? It is really easy to say Jesus is Lord with our lips and not embody it with our lives, but what could it look like if we did?
To claim Jesus as Lord means we live in this world as a peculiar people seeking the welfare of all and allowing no one to exert control over who we will love and help. We give no fealty to systems, structures, or isms(no matter how useful they are) that seek to harm those robbed of power.
To profess/proclaim/uttter Christ as King means that we refuse to allow any modifier/name to come before Christian. We are not liberal or conservative Christians but rather Christians who happen to be either liberal or conservative.
This subtle shift of language serves as a reminder to place our Christian commitment/identity before any other allegiance and it means that we ought always and universally give Christian love and charitableness towards all people, regardless of our political preferences.
When we say Jesus is Lord we make public confession that we follow the one who has called all things into being and everyone/thing else takes its proper place, because we know who has true power.
Because we follow Christ as King we are liberated/freed/loosed from worrying about protecting things that don’t need to be protected. Because of Jesus has freed to love and seek the welfare of all despite what others will say because we follow the one who throughout his life, death, and resurrection confounded conventional expectations/wisdom of what was expected and revealed to a hurting world the way of salvation and love.
God's sacred hope for you and for me is nothing short of absolute fealty to Jesus. Honestly though it is hard to ignore/drown out those voices seeking to exert power over our lives and usurp the lordship of Jesus.
Worship is the most effective form of resistance to the powers who would dominate our lives, because in our worship, whatever form it takes reminds us and others where our hope and faith truly rest.
When we show up in prayer the better we hear the voice of the one who is worthy of being followed, the more we serve the powerless the better we get at feeling God’s love, when we confess to God and one another that we aren’t in control the easier it becomes to claim Christ as King over our lives.
We are freed to follow God and ignore all those voices begging us to do otherwise, and this is some good news.
~ Rev. Lance Schmitz, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.