November 20, 2022
The Last Sunday After Pentecost
“The Feast of Christ the King”
November 20, 2022
The Rev. R. Allan McCaslin
Readings: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Canticle 4 (Luke 1:68-79); Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43
This Last Sunday in the Season of Pentecost is known as The Feast of Christ the King. It
coincides with the end of the Christian Calendar Year and is a reminder that the Season of Advent –
those four weeks of inward reflection and preparation in order to greet and fully embrace the Christ
child at Bethlehem – his first advent - is right around the corner. Yet, there is more to this feast day.
This morning, Christians throughout the world will celebrate and affirm Jesus Christ as King of Kings
and Lord of Lords as we proclaim together Christ’s sovereign rule over all creation right now just as
we also await his second coming in glory – an event yet to come, a day yet to be physically realized
in all its fullness.
Thus, the focus of this day is typically on that which might be, that which is yet to come, that which
is hoped for, and that which we long for – God’s coming kingdom of justice, mercy, bountiful
forgiveness, and grace. God’s kingdom where all people forever live together in unity with God and
one another in and through Jesus Christ, the risen and ascended Lord. And that focus, that longing,
has merit. Nevertheless, the Feast of Christ the King is more than a celebration of our future. It is a
poignant reminder that having been redeemed and marked as Christ’s own in baptism, we are
already citizens of God’s kingdom. And, beloved, demonstrating that citizenship, showing our loyalty
to God above all others, requires the constant renewal of our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit so
that we uphold God’s ways and values in all things and everything we say and do. And that is always
a challenge because upholding God’s ways and values is always a choice.
The Prophet Jeremiah scolded the Kings of Israel and Judah because they chose to lead their
people into unjust and unrighteous acts. In Hebrew tradition, Kings were likened to Shepherds
(Ezekiel 34) charged with caring for their flocks – their people – and when we say, “caring for their
people”, we mean feeding and nurturing them, and keeping them safe. In Jeremiah’s time, kings
had enacted policies that perverted any sense of justice and equity. Their actions set God’s people
against one another. Set them against one another so deeply and violently that their once united
kingdom had separated into two warring factions: Judah and Israel. And both kingdoms despised
and blamed the other for every calamity. In today’s Old Testament reading, Jeremiah says God has
had enough of Kings who ignore their role as Shepherds. God has decided to intervene and raise up
a King who will “execute justice and righteousness” so that the land will be united and saved.
Fittingly, this King will come through David’s lineage because David was called the “Shepherd King”.
And Jesus, known as “the Son of David”, ushered in that kingdom: a kingdom different from any
other before it: a kingdom that welcomes all who believe and commit to live their lives according to
God’s ways and values. It is the Kingdom of God. Jeremiah describes this kingdom as a true
paradise where all are welcome and redeemed by God’s own self, the Messiah, who will usher in that
kingdom forever. Jeremiah urges God’s people to watch for that coming Messiah and kingdom – and
to never lose hope.
About 500 years or so later, Zechariah appears in scripture. He has watched and waited for the
coming of that promised Messiah and kingdom of God and watched for it faithfully. In today’s
Canticle, he proclaims his overflowing joy at the birth of his son John who will be known as “the
Baptizer.” He knows that John is not the Messiah, but rather, the prophet who will point us and the
entire world to Christ. So, he affirms, “… my child will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give
God’s people - all God’s people - knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” Zechariah
knows salvation is imminent. He knows that God has acted! “He has come to his people and set us
free!” Zechariah says. The kingdom of God is, indeed, at hand.
Throughout the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus urged his hearers to watch for and seek God’s
kingdom: a kingdom he described as being “like a mustard seed that grows,” “like a pearl of great
price worth seeking.” The words watching and seeking echo throughout Luke. We might recall that
upon visiting the tomb on that first Easter morning, the Magdalene and her companions were asked,
“What are you looking for? Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.”
And with those words the world was forever changed. God’s Kingdom has come. And yet, over two
thousand years later, this Feast Day of Christ the King asks us to ponder what difference this
kingdom really makes in how we choose to live our lives now.
Like many of you, I was surprised when I saw that our Gospel lesson this morning is not focused
on the glorious and triumphant resurrection or the transfiguration or the ascension of Christ, nor is it
about his promise to return. Instead, our lesson focuses on the reason for Jesus’ first Advent, his
first Coming: the crucifixion – the redemption of the world. Luke understood that Jesus Christ’s
greatest glory was revealed in his darkest moment – the hour of his death – a death that was unjust
and yet, necessary for our salvation. As St. Paul says in today’s reading from his letter to the
Colossians, “For in (Jesus Christ) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God
was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace
through the blood of his cross”. The Cross is Jesus’ greatest glory because, in the face of horrific
cruelty at the hands of his executioners, he showed the whole world the very depths of God’s
sacrificial and redeeming love for all creation.
See, in the midst of a stunned crowd, scoffing leaders and mocking soldiers, Jesus’ love for God and
neighbor remained unshaken. He forgave and asked God to forgive his tormentors. And in a
remarkable moment there at Calvary a criminal crucified next to him pleaded, “Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.” You know, throughout biblical history thousands before him and
countless thousands since have uttered that same plea. Joseph, Moses, Hannah, Nehemiah, Job, the
Psalmist, and Jeremiah, called out for God to “remember” them. Jesus heard that plea, that prayer
and replied, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus, who began his ministry proclaiming that
the Kingdom of God is near now ends his ministry offering assurance to a penitent sinner that
salvation is now: Today, God’s promises have been fulfilled: The Kingdom of God is here; here to be
lived right now.
And therein lies the challenge for us on this Feast of Christ the King, 2022. See, all too often,
Christians have understood this feast solely in terms of our future alone. So much so, many of our
sisters and brothers spend their days gazing up into heaven looking for signs of Christ’s return, or
predicting when that day might be, or when God’s physical kingdom might just happen to come into
being not today, but in the future. And all the while the world around them and us continues its
descent into a hell of its own creation, its own choosing.
In his book, God’s Empire 1 , John Dominic Crossen writes, “The Second coming of Christ is what
will happen when Christians finally … cooperate fully with Christ’s divine presence revealed at his
First coming.” Crossen urges the realization that God’s kingdom to which Jesus constantly pointed is
fully available now and always. The question is whether or not we are committed to choose to live as
if our King is Caesar, or God. And if our King is God incarnate, Jesus Christ, then we must live as he
taught us to live and choose to love God with all our heart, soul, body, mind and strength, and
choose to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The Feast of Christ the King, for all its promises and hope, stands as a reminder that following Jesus
is hard work and takes the full dedication, full focus, of our hearts and minds. It is a reminder that
God’s people are called every day to make those words “thy kingdom come” more than a prayer: We
are called to make that kingdom a reality right now. And that kingdom can only come into being if it
dwells so deeply within us that it transforms everything about who we are and how we choose to
“One of the criminals … said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’” Beloved,
the Kingdom of God is here, it is now. May God grant us the grace to not only see it and choose it,
but embrace and live it. For only in so choosing and living, will the promised joy and fullness of this
Feast of Christ the King unfold in us, in our homes, our communities, our nation and the world. By
God’s grace may that kingdom with all its justice, mercy, love, and welcome be known to us and in
us and, most of all, through us now and always. Amen.
1 With apologies to Crossen, my research notes do not include the page and text information for the quote cited above.