Many preachers in America this week are preparing sermons about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and gratitude to God are a worthy subject on any Sunday, and maybe the wise preacher would stick to that topic, especially on a Sunday when her or his church is already thinking in such terms. Rarely has anyone called me wise, so I’m preaching on a different subject: our allegiance to Christ above all.
The reason I’m preaching on this topic is because I generally follow what’s called the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of texts for each Sunday. In Christian denominations with more of a hierarchy than ours, clergy are required to preach on a lectionary text each week. In churches with more freedom, like ours, clergy can preach on whatever scripture passage they feel led by God to use. I know preachers who like the lectionary and ones who don’t. I tend to preach from it, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t pick as wide of a variety texts to preach on. Besides, the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ has always pursued unity among the various Christian denominations, and there is something to be said for different brands of Christians focusing on similar scripture passages each week.
Each worship or liturgical year according to the lectionary ends on the last Sunday before Advent, the season of four Sundays prior to Christmas. This way over 12 months, the church moves from looking forward to the birth of Christ through the life and ministry of Christ to focusing on the eternal reign of Christ before starting all over again. This does mean, however, that the preacher is talking about how Christ is above all things in the universe at a time of year when the congregation is busy thinking about the coming week full of Thanksgiving get-togethers, Black Friday shopping and getting out Christmas decorations.
Yet, people being too busy (clergy included) to think much about Christ’s ultimate place in the cosmos is not a new phenomenon. From Jesus’ inauspicious birth in a stable in Bethlehem to his disgraceful death as an executed criminal, most people were too busy to pay him much mind. It’s not just this time of year that is filled with too much activity for us to think much about Christ’s place in our lives; it is every week all year long. We are always busy.
The gospel texts for this Sunday each year illustrate the point of how difficult it is for human beings to consider the Kingdom of God Christ taught and lived out. This year it’s Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the Son of Man judging the sheep and the goats. Next year it’s John 18:33-37 where Pilate asks Jesus if he is “King of the Jews?” and “What is truth?” In two years, it is Luke 23:33-43 where the crowd mocks Jesus on the cross, saying “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself!” In each, Jesus Christ is not recognized for the ultimate power he truly is.
Christ the King Sunday was first established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He created it to remind the faithful that Christ was greater than the ideologies of his day competing for dominance: secular capitalism in the West, communism in the East and Fascism in Italy, Spain and soon to be in Germany. Protestants adopted it after Vatican II. It reminds us today that what our world mistakes for greatness today has little to do with the Christ who appears to us as “the least of these.”
We have just gone through a bitter presidential election with many Christians equating Christianity with one party. It is good for us to remember Christ cannot be reduced to a single political platform or issue. We struggle to juggle the demands of our economy, our families, our workplaces, and our society’s values. It is good for us to remember Christ as worthy of our devotion above all these. We tremble before the threat of a pandemic this holiday season. It is good for us to remember that Christ holds power greater than life and death and remains our ultimate security. Our culture worships celebrity, wealth and influence while ignoring the plight of the powerless, poor and marginalized. So it is good for us to worship Christ who comes to us as a helpless and poor infant, a convicted criminal and disguised as people who are sick and in prison and in need of food, water, and clothing.
My mind and yours may be on the busyness of the season and the discomforts of the pandemic on Sunday but let us strive together to remember Christ is greater than all these things.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
6601 Northwest 72nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64151 | 816-741-1851