“Reign of Christ: Present Tense” 

Scripture:  Colossians 1:11-20

Christ the King

During the Children’s Moment, we shared some of the many names for Christ that appear in scripture and in our own experience of Jesus Christ.  It is important for us to acknowledge and appreciate the great variety of ways that exist for us to understand and encounter Christ in our lives.  None of us experiences Christ in exactly the same way, and I think that our experience and the names that we use varies from moment to moment as Christ touches our lives in new ways.

This morning, we focus on a particular title for Jesus Christ.  This morning, the Church celebrates Reign of Christ Sunday, so we are invited to explore one specific title for Christ:  King.

I have to admit that Christ the King is a title that I tend to struggle to connect with.  I think there are a couple of different reasons that I find the image of Christ the King challenging:

1.     Most obviously, I have no personal experience with earthly kings.  The title of “King” is a foreign term and difficult for me – and I imagine most of you – to relate to.  I’ve never really experienced a king with any real power.  In fact, even in the monarchy that we are most familiar with - the British Monarchy – those of us born after 1952 have never really experienced a ruling King during our lifetime.

2.     Which brings me to the second reason I struggle with the image of Christ the King:  It’s a very gendered term.  It brings with it a sense of masculinity, power, and force.  Much damage has been done to women by the use of overly masculine language in reference to God and Christ.

3.     And, third, the image of Christ the King requires me to give up some of my own power over my life and give it to Christ.  I rather enjoy feeling like I’m in control and like I have the ultimate power over my life, and it makes me uncomfortable to have to acknowledge that Christ should have sovereignty in my life.

Despite those difficulties, the fact remains that Christ the King is a title that we encounter repeatedly throughout scripture, and it contributes to the fullness of understanding available to us.  And so Christ the King is a name that I want to claim and proclaim insofar as it reveals to us the identity of Christ and our relationship with him.

To The Text!

Our reading from Colossians this morning is one of those places where images of royalty are used to refer to Christ’s relationship to humanity.  The author writes, “[God has] rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”[1]  He goes on, likely quoting a hymn that was familiar to his audience as he declares Christ’s sovereignty over all of creation:

The Son is the image of the invisible God,

            the one who is first over all creation,

Because all things were created by him:

            both in the heavens and on the earth,

            the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.

            Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities,

            all things were created through him and for him.

He existed before all things,

            and all things are held together in him.[2]

Present Tense

]The first thing I notice in that the author is clear that the Reign of Christ is a present reality.  It is not something that happened once in the past, nor is it strictly something that is promised to us in the future.  This makes no mention of what God will do, but rather, what God already has done for us in Christ.

            There is a tendency for us to think of the Kingdom of God as something that is primarily future oriented.  It is something we have to look forward to – after we die and are resurrected, or perhaps when Christ returns at the end of the world.  But when we take this passage seriously – that “[God has] rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” – we must acknowledge that we are being called to engage in the work of the Kingdom here and now.

            Isn’t that one of the biggest reasons we struggle with the image of Christ the King?  Doesn’t it make you a bit uncomfortable to think that this Kingdom of God thing – that God is serious about it?  That it’s not some utopian vision for a world of the future or some realm that is wholly separate from the world that we occupy here and now?  When we acknowledge Christ as our King, we have to be willing to accept the answer to our prayer when we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Envisioning the Kingdom

            So, what exactly does the Kingdom of God look like, anyway?  Let’s name some of the characteristics of the citizens of God’s Kingdom.  [Invite congregation to share]  A few of these characteristics include:

· Putting God First
· Love
· Equality
· Forgiveness
· Serving Others
· Justice for the poor & oppressed
· Peace
· Mercy
· Humility
· Inclusiveness

The Kingd
om of God looks a lot different from the status quo of our culture, which we are often tempted to accept as “good enough.”  The world that we see every day is still far from the Kingdom that Christ has envisioned and promised.  Proclaiming that Christ is King means that living as citizens of the Kingdom is not optional.  These characteristics are not a hope, they are not a wish, they are not an ideal – they are an expectation, and we should settle for nothing less.

When we become fully focused on the Kingdom, suddenly we realize that it’s not enough for us to just give a can of vegetables to a family in need.  It’s not enough for us to write a check to UMCOR to help with the relief effort in the Philippines.  It's not enough for us to sit in our pews on Sunday mornings and talk about how things can be different.  We have to go out into the world and model the transformation that we proclaim.  It's not enough for us to be content with being a part of an institutional Church that proclaims to be a Church of "Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors," but does not truly express openness to everybody.  When Christ is King, we cannot stand silent to the issues of justice and equality that surround us.

It’s not enough for us to stop anywhere short of seeing God’s Kingdom on Earth – to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom requires us to radically change our priorities – no longer serving ourselves, but serving our King.

Conclusion

What does it mean for your life that Christ Is King?  What would it mean for your life for you to fully engage as a citizen of God’s Kingdom?

Since this is our New Year’s Eve Sunday, I invite you all to make a New Year’s Resolution.  Each pew has a stack of paper strips.  For your New Year’s Resolution, I challenge you to commit to making some sort of change to the way you live in response to your understanding of Christ as King.  How will you live differently as you respond to Christ your King?



[1] Colossians 1:13 (CEB)

[2] Colossians 1:15-17 (CEB)

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