I was a freshman in high school the first time someone asked me if I was a Christian. I’d gone to a friend’s youth group and the leaders were not shy about expressing their concerns. During the prayer circle I passed, rather than pray out loud. I’d read prayers out loud, but I’d never spontaneously prayed out loud and that raised some eyebrows. At the end of the meeting, the young man who was the youth pastor pulled me aside and asked, “Are you a Christian?” He was not satisfied with my answer that I went to church regularly. He tried clarifying. “Is Jesus your Lord and Savior?” I thought so, but didn’t really know what he meant. He said he would pray for me and that I could come back any time.
I was haunted by that question for years. I thought of Jesus as Lord and I wanted to be saved from my own self-destructive tendencies, but I realized that the youth pastor meant something different. It was only a few years later when I participated in a college Christian group. They emphasized a personal relationship with Jesus. This was also a struggle for me. At the time, I thought Jesus had better things to do than listen to my repetitive prayers for health and wholeness. Yes, my relationship with God was personal, but, again, I thought maybe I’d missed the mark.
Now, decades later, I belong to a denomination that has changed “Christ the King” Sunday to “Reign of Christ” Sunday. I understand why and agree that inclusive language is important, as is non-binary language. However, the impersonal language helps keep Jesus at a distance. Keeping Jesus at a distance also weakens passion, commitment, and identity.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a king or a lord. Of course, I’ve read about them and know they exist and have existed for generations. I also tend to think about these as titles only, not descriptions of identity. Unless, I’m talking about Jesus. I think of Jesus as Lord as the One who reigns over all that is. If Jesus is Lord, then the lords of this world have less power no matter what title they hold. If Jesus rules over a kingdom that is not of this world, then the “kings” of this world who wage war look even more foolish. When Jesus is Lord I am challenged to live into the Kingdom that Jesus rules and avoid falling into the foolishness that human rulers deem important. There is a freedom in serving a God who rules above all others.
There’s a freedom and a personal responsibility. If Jesus is Lord and the rulers of this world are not, there is hope for the future for all of us. If Jesus is Savior that means no one on earth is going to save us from ourselves. If both these things are true, I have responsibility bring the Kingdom of God into being one moment, one interaction at a time. Faith becomes a comfort and a call to action; it’s personal.
I’m all for inclusive, non-binary language. Although, every once in a while, it’s good to return to language that reflects relationality. If Christ is King, then we are members of a sacred Kingdom – interconnected and interrelated. Living in this Kingdom reminds us all that God’s ways will save us from our tendency toward self-destruction as love, mercy, and forgiveness rule. It’s important for all of us to be good citizens of God’s realm. What we say and do matters.
It’s no secret that church membership continues to decline. We have made God so impersonal that there is so little to grab hold of. Taking a moment to honor that we are residents in a Holy Kingdom, individually members of One Body, and that we are called individually and communally to embody the Love that brings us together. Maybe in this we can reclaim some passion and purpose and breathe some new life into the church.
RCL – Year B – Christ the King/Reign of Christ – November 25, 2018
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18]
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14