This past Sunday, churches in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran traditions marked the holy day of Christ the King. Appropriately enough, it marks the end of the long Pentecost season, a time in which to reflect on the season of Advent and the Feast of the Incarnation of Christ to come.
Who IS this King of glory? I've been seeking Jesus among the crowd -- but maybe I've been looking in all the wrong places. And as we sit on the threhold of the season of Advent, I'm trying to redirect my gaze.
In the aftermath of our bitterly fought American elections, it was tough to focus. Lately, I've had the troubling sense that many of my neighbors, and some of my good friends, are ticked off about something -- all the time.
The small business owner has a list of how the (socialist) government disenfranchises him. Academics and working class folks simmer with a sense of oppression by the wealthiest two percent. Tea Party activists take up the torch against Obamacare, whether they are on Social Security or not. Poor folk? Well, they don't too often get a place at the table, except in the minds of those who imagine them as sheep, being misled, or led, by some canny politician.
The fact that there are many Americans truly suffering seems to be relegated to the sidelines in this clamor of voices competing for our attention -- but those of us who are people of faith can't afford to lose sight of what really matters.
I'm embarrassed to say that until this year I'd associated Christ the King with solemn masses cloaked with incense, erudite reflections and rousing choruses of the hymn "Lift High the Cross." It wasn't until I did a little googling that I became aware that the holy day was added to the church calendar by Pope Pius XI -- a stinging rebuke to the secularism and materialism that he saw around him. As he watched the rise of human "saviors" in Europe, Pius reminded his flock that there is only one Redeemer, and one King.
But who is this King? Well, some wise set of jokers decided to pick the story of Christ set between two thieves on the cross. The Gospel of Luke passage reminds Christians that our King is the crucified Christ. The Christ who didn't call himself a top dog, but a shepherd. The Christ who took his place at the table with sinners and screwups. The Christ who is constantly placing the have-not's in the faces of the smug citizens of Jerusalem.
He is our king of glory. He is the one for whom we wait. And in the meantime, perhaps some of our brother and sister citizens might consider doing a little less whining, and a little more outreach to the people who aren't part of the national conversation about wealth, and health, deficit reduction and the "culture of poverty."
I've got the feeling that maybe Christ has gotten there already, along with many of you. Whether you are impelled by convictions that have nothing to do with faith or a sense of responsibility that has everything to do with holy calling, you are sharing in the countercultural kingship of the man of sorrows.
In the meantime, when I start to feel a little discouraged, I'm going to try to sit at the foot of the cross. While I'm not about to put myself right up there with this disrespected, bloodied and sad-eyed king, I might have something still to learn about glory.