Christ the King

Father David’s sermon 20th Nov 2016

“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ “
(Luke 23:33-43)

When you hear the word “king” – what do you think of? One of the British monarchs of our history lessons? One of the King Henrys? One of the King Edwards? Or King George VI? Or one who might be our future king: Charles, William or another George? Or do you think of Elvis –“the King” – or Martin Luther King…or even Burger King; king size; or a type of penguin?

Let’s be honest – looking for one meaning of the term “king” in 21st century is impossible. It usually suggests an association with the biggest, the best, the most powerful, with authority of some kind. So what kind of king is Christ, and how does he exercise his authority?

First, we need to recognize that the idea of kingship was central to Christ’s mission. Matthew, Mark, and Luke speak with one voice in telling us that at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus announced that the “kingdom of God” was drawing near. But Jesus upended and undermined the whole concept of kingship. This world’s kingdoms are about power and prestige; Jesus was about service and humility. The rulers of this world are about – at best, control, and governing; at worst – coercion and violence.

Jesus’ ministry was characterized by peace and reconciliation. Kings are surrounded by courtiers, advisors, bodyguards; Jesus chose the lowly and rejected; the weak and vulnerable, as his companions.

Jesus answered, when asked if he was a king, “My kingdom is not from this world.” An earthly kingdom is about establishing identity and protecting boundaries; it is about power and control. Jesus rules over a kingdom which defies understanding: Jesus rules over a kingdom with no borders to protect, no soldiers to defend it and no weapons to deploy. It is a kingdom of subversion; Jesus is the king, who bends over and washes feet; the one who rules is the one who serves.
As a pilgrim people, we are the servants of God and our calling is to make Christ King of our hearts and to bring in his kingdom. As we are told in today’s Gospel reading, when Jesus was nailed to that “old rugged cross” he was nailed between two criminals – one of them was moved to respond to the example of sacrifice and forgiveness revealed in Jesus and when he asked, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom”, he was rewarded: Jesus replied, “In truth, today I tell you that you will be with me in paradise”. The other dismissed Jesus, because Jesus could not give the unrepentant thief what he wanted: an instant end to his suffering. When we find ourselves overwhelmed by suffering in this world, let us use our cross like the repentant thief to give glory to God and make his kingdom come.
It was back in the 1920s, to counter a sense of growing secularism, Pope Pius XI declared that there should be a celebration of the reign of Christ marked by a special occasion set aside proclaiming Christ as King. Anglicans followed suit, declaring that the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, the last Sunday of the season of Pentecost and of the liturgical year, would be celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King. So what does all this tell us about ourselves, or about the Christ we celebrate as King on this day?

Once upon a time, Christ might have been hailed as king in the midst of a people who understood kingship, and particularly Christ’s kingship over them. But we no longer understand kings. We need a corrective to our consumer culture that puts us at the centre of the universe, whatever our name. And today’s lesson from the Epistle to the Colossians offers a balance:

“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

That’s the point of the Feast of Christ the King is to remind us that it is Christ – the image of the invisible God – who reigns in our hearts and in our lives.

From next Sunday – Advent Sunday, the Bishops of the Church in Wales have stated that it is now church law in the Church in Wales, that all Baptised people are welcome to receive Holy Communion no matter what their age. The sacrament of Baptism is the how we become full members of the church, and as full members of the Body of Christ, that means having a sacramental relationship with the Jesus, the king of love in our hearts and lives.

No longer is Confirmation the ticket to receiving communion as a kind of rite of passage. Confirmation is best as a way of proclaiming a mature statement about leading the life of a disciple of Christ. As Anglicans, we believe most strongly that we are part of a Eucharistic community. Eucharistia – a community which gives thanks. Jesus commanded us to break bread, pour wine and remember him.

In celebrating and receiving Holy Communion, we are not just remembering something that once happened to Jesus – no, in celebrating and receiving Holy Communion, we make present and make real and make active that moment when Christ opened his arms upon the Cross so that we might be saved by God’s transforming and resurrection love. We are in fact accepting the reign of Christ as king of our lives.

When we gather Sunday by Sunday at the table of the Lord, we come – not because we must, but because we may – we come young and old; we come fragile and hurting; we come as individuals loved and blessed by God’s love – and together, receiving the bread which is broken and shared between us, God’s kingdom is RE-MEMBERed: it is put back together again. By being a Eucharistic people, we re-form and re-build the kingdom of God – the kingdom of healing and love by inviting Christ to reign in our hearts and in our lives. Amen.

Civic Service of Remembrance

Fr David McGladdery, November 13 2016

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-11)
The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

“Blest are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…blest are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

This year, you have probably heard and seen that The Royal British Legion wants us to “Rethink Remembrance”. That means recognise and remember the sacrifices made by today’s generation as well as the generations of the two world wars of the last century.

When I was a boy – in the naval section of the CCF – Remembrance was about the sacrifices of our fathers’, uncles’, and grandfathers’ generation, who lost their lives in war.
Today, there is no one left alive who fought in the Great War – over 100 years ago. You have to be in your 90s now to have fought in the Second World War. But the Royal British Legion are right – it is necessary to Rethink Remembrance. But, sadly, that is not hard to do. In my life time – since 1962: 2,374 British service men and women have lost their lives in wars and conflict. 2,145 British civilians have been killed in war and conflict in that period. That is a total of 4,519 people whose lives were cut short by being killed as a result of hostilities. 4,519 families, whose lives were wrecked for ever by the pain of war in the last 50 years. Most of those deaths occurred during the Falklands War, The war in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Northern Ireland and this continued “war on terror”.

I want to suggest that on this Remembrance Sunday, we don’t just rethink Remembrance – but we rethink our way of living as communities of human beings.

This last twelve months have seen so much anger unleashed in our society in the United Kingdom and in the United States – our special friends and allies. We have witnessed two appalling campaigns leading to a national referendum and a presidential election on either side of the Atlantic, which were shocking in the levels of anger, racism and general unkindness unleashed. Politicians and would-be politicians, of all types and creeds, have disappointed us with disturbing pronouncements that have been taken up by the press and fired up the passions of people on the streets and in crowds. We have witnessed the cold-blooded murder of an MP; a disturbing rise in the number of reported hate crimes. I know an Italian and an Asian woman who have had shouted to their faces: “We voted for Brexit! Why are you still here?” I know of mothers of young children who are scared for the future world into which their children will grow.

In my parents’ early years – in 1931 and 1934 – the German people voted Adolf Hitler to power as a protest. The day the result of the recent American presidential election was announced – 9th November – was the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass – when members of the German Nazi party destroyed Jewish businesses, homes and lives. On 9th November, 2016, there were protests about the election result in major American cities; sadly, there was also some mob violence.

Service personnel and civilians do not die because of political or religious policies and creeds. They die when politics and religion are used as weapons to beat and control; they die when people stop caring. They die, when protest is encouraged and factions develop. They die when people no longer feel respected and listened to and valued. They die when people forget that we are all part of one human family with needs and cares. As individuals, we are responsible for caring for one another, building community; creating peace and social stability.

Do you remember, where we first learnt to live with other people? In Infants’ School. We learnt values:
Share everything.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t hit people.
Play fair. Don’t tell lies and tales.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

We learned those values as children, and those were lessons for life. Our Gospel reading, this morning is the blueprint for the rethinking of living given by Jesus, whose mission was to reconcile; to heal and to include all who felt rejected, injured, despised, not listened to, not valued.

The eight Beatitudes in Matthew (Beatitudes means ‘beautiful thoughts’) can be arranged into two categories. The first reflect a longing for a deeper relationship with God and with one another (blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn). The second group reveal the transformation of our lives as fruits of that relationship (blessed are the pure of heart, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted). The first group brings us into closer relationship with God which results in the transformation of our lives as described in the second group.

So let’s “Rethink Remembrance”. Remembrance is about much more than remembering – it is not about history it is not about looking back; it is about feeling the pain and suffering which has been dealt to others – holding them before God, along with ourselves, and pleading for the grace to make amends – by pledging to work for peace and the healing of humanity. Remembrance is prayer.
“Blest are those who mourn, for they will be comforted… blest are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”​
God bless you. God love you. God help you to reach out in love to your fellow citizens.