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Church Explainer: Christ the King

Hello, friends, and welcome back. I’m the Rev. Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz and this is the Sunday Sermon. If you’re looking for the bits of the bible I’ve referenced in this sermon, you can find the link right here. For the nerds in the know, this is Proper 29, Track 2, Year C, and here’s the sermon I planned to preach on Sunday, November 21, 2022, and would have, if church hadn’t been called for snow. So, you’re hearing it here, first.

To hear the audio-only of this sermon, click here. To read the full text, scroll on!

Good morning! Today is the feast of Christ the King, it’s the end of this extremely long ‘green’ season in the Church, and next Sunday begins Advent, the four week season directly before Christmas. But let’s not rush to Christmas, even if that is the popular thing. Let’s pause for a moment and think about this feast day.

This is a relatively modern feast day for the Church and it’s not celebrated by all protestant denominations, to be certain. It was instituted by a catholic pope hundreds of years after the protestant reformation, for one thing, so that’s a perfectly good reason for Episcopalians and Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians to ignore it.

But it was instituted for a very good reason. It was instituted because Hitler was on the rise in Germany, and Mussolini was on the rise in Italy and the pope (for all his other faults) wanted to remind the Christians in his care who was really king.

And that’s not a bad thing to be reminded of, no matter who the head of your church is.

I will admit, that sometimes it can be a little odd in this day and age, with our own political proclivities towards democracy and away from monarchy, to talk about God being a King, or Jesus Christ being a King, or even the King of Kings, but the point such a sentiment is trying to get across, both in our ancient holy texts as well as in this rather modern feast day isn’t really about monarchies, or democracies. It’s not really about Kings, or Queens, Presidents, or Prime Ministers. The point is that God outranks everyone. And no one is above God.

And to mark Christ as King is to really talk about salvation. And where salvation comes from. Namely: God. And specifically not: Anything Else. 

Salvation doesn’t come from a cult of personality. Salvation doesn’t come from a certain economic model, or a certain political model, or a certain social services model, or a certain lifestyle, or a certain gender. There is, bluntly, nothing about this broken world that is going to save us, that is going to make us lastingly peaceful, or prolong our happiness. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t weigh our choices carefully – of course we should. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t practice compassion or make ethical decisions, or love our neighbors as ourselves. Of course we should.

Of course we should.

And that’s still not going to save us. Because salvation comes only from God, and the salvation we look for isn’t really about this world. And if there was any doubt about that, look to the gospel reading.

There’s a very good reason that on Christ the King Sunday we have a reading about Jesus’ death. Because salvation didn’t allow him to live longer, because that’s not what salvation is. In fact, salvation prompted him not to put up a fight, because it allowed him to use the crucifixion as a massive teaching event. And the lesson was so simple, and so hard to swallow. So very hard to swallow.

And it is this: Salvation isn’t about this life. It isn’t about these bodies.

So then why bother? If this life doesn’t matter, if these bodies don’t matter (at least in theory) then why bother? 

Well, Jesus teaches that to love ourselves and love our neighbors is to love God. And he said that partly in response to the lists upon lists of Jewish rules, which if you followed them, meant you loved God. And Jesus was saying, in part… no. It’s not about following rules, it’s about love and compassion and charity and forgiveness. 

So that’s our mission. That’s why we bother. Because salvation is of God and God alone. It’s not the democrats who will save us, nor the republicans. It’s not billionaires, nor green energy, nor bringing jobs back to the US. We won’t be saved by unions nor stronger protections for corporations. 

Salvation is of God, and our mission on earth, should we choose to accept it, is to love, despite all the obstacles in our way. And that is the point of the feast of Christ the King.


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