|To contact us:
Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA 19014
26 Pentecost - Proper 29
November 25, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
|667 Mount Road, Aston, PA 19014 610-459-2013
|Small Parish - Big Heart - Inclusive
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called that! In the Book of Common Prayer, the day is simply listed as “Proper 29,” with no
“name” attached, at all – so “Last Sunday After Pentecost” is just an informal term for the
day! It has another informal name, as well, though. In the Roman Catholic Calendar, today
is the day of devotion called the Sunday of Christ the King, and although we don’t
officially call it that – yet – our lessons for this day are essentially the same as those of
the Roman observance, ending our year with this story of Jesus, hanging upon the cross
that declared his kingship – and with the official change to the Revised Common
Lectionary, next week, in future years the changeover will be complete, and for us, too,
this will be “The Last Sunday after Epiphany: Christ the King”!
And yet it seems to me a bit odd to think that the belated establishment of a day of
devotion to “Christ the King” has come at a time when the very term “king” has
increasingly become an anachronism in our thought and language. Looking around today’
s world it is becoming difficult to find any real kings! Oh, there are certainly some around
who hold the title; there are kings of Spain and Sweden, of Thailand and Cambodia, of
Belgium and of Morocco, and there will, sooner or later, be a king of England!
But except for a Couple of kings of some Very minor states spread here and there in
Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, None of today’s kings really exemplify what the word
“King” used to signify! Rather, they’re all “constitutional monarchs”, whose major
functions are ceremonial, who are subject to the law just like anyone else, and whose
governments are actually run by elected parliaments of one kind or another, complete
with prime ministers and cabinets and such! So our young folk and even ourselves have
no present knowledge of real “kings” in this world.
Pontius Pilate certainly didn’t have this modern type of king in mind when he ordered that
sign hung above Jesus’ head! The kings of the ancient world were a different breed of
cat: absolute monarchs, they were, with absolute power – the power of life and death
over their subjects.
In Biblical times, a king was someone who could order all the children in a certain region
who were less than two years old to be killed – as Herod did. In Biblical times, a king was
someone who could order that a thriving city like Jerusalem should be destroyed, and it’s
people put to the sword, for their rebellion – as the Roman Emperor, Vespasian, did in 70
A.D., through his son, Titus.
None of us have any real experience of this kind of king!
So we need, periodically, to remind ourselves of what these ancient kings were like, if we’
re to understand what Jesus was walking away from at the end of his life – and if we’re to
understand Pilate’s confusion about Jesus! “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate had
asked, in John’s Gospel, when Jesus had been brought before him. He needed to know,
because no king could be allowed to claim independent authority within the realm of the
Roman Emperor – the Ultimate king!
And Jesus answered him, “My kingdom is not from this world. If it were, my followers
would fight! But my kingdom is not from here!”
And when Pilate tried once more, “So you are a king?”, Jesus answered, “For this I was
born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to
the truth listens to my voice!”
For most of us, I’m afraid that’s a little noticed remark – but in fact this is the key
assertion in John’s Gospel – and the reason Jesus uses the word truth 37 times: Jesus’
claim is that God Is truth; that Jesus came to show us the God of truth: to embody him to
us – to embody truth to us; that Jesus’ Kingship consisted precisely in his embodiment of
It was not the truth that consists of facts or data or information or propositions. John
disposes of those notions when he has Pilate ask – in perhaps the most famous question
in all of Scripture: “what is truth?”
The Truth Jesus speaks of – God’s truth – is, rather, God’s steadfastness, God’s
dependability, God’s faithfulness!
And Jesus, far from being the kind of king Pilate fears, far from claiming to be a king of
the people of this world, is the King of Truth! The King sent by the God of Truth to
proclaim, and to shine forth in this world, the steadfast love of God. Thus Jesus does
what he does so often: turns the world’s definitions on their heads and introduces new
No wonder Pilate was confused and exasperated! No wonder the onlookers at the cross
scoffed at the inscription above his head proclaiming him king! No wonder the soldiers
mocked this “King” they could never understand! No wonder the criminal hanged with
him couldn’t understand why he didn’t have his followers save them from the cross!
Christ came proclaiming that God is true! He did not come to proclaim that God exists;
Jesus wouldn’t waste his time or his breath with that! But, rather, that God is faithful to
us. God is true as a lover is true, and he calls us to be true to God in the same way –
faithful to God, as God is to us: dependable and real in our relationship to God, as God is
In the early centuries of the faith, new Christians were anointed at baptism much as we,
today, have finally resumed anointing at Baptism. But in some areas, they anointed with
different words: instead of “you are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own,
forever,” they used the words, “I anoint you priest, prophet and king.”
The words are testimony that we are anointed, at Baptism, into Christ’s prophetic
ministry, into Christ’s Priesthood, and into Christ’s Kingship! Where these words were
used even women were anointed kings, at Baptism, the same as the men (which, fact, by
the way, certainly ought to put an end to any lingering controversy, for those who have
ears to hear!) – the point being that we are to be like Christ in testifying to the truth! If
Christ is the King of Truth, because he testifies to God’s truth, then we kings are called
to testify the same! Testifying to Truth – not to facts, or knowledge, or to information, or
to ideas, or to beliefs – but to the steadfast Love of God is the royal activity we’re called
to and baptized into.
The truth we are called to, as kings following our Lord’s Kingship, is not a truth of words,
at all, but a way of being in relationship: persons as steadfast in loving God as God is
steadfast in loving us, but even more importantly, as steadfast in loving one another as
God is steadfast in loving us! – a way of living and loving that is true to the beloved.
Indeed, it is a truth that cannot even really be spoken; the truth St. Francis of Assisi was
pointing to when he admonished his followers: “Always preach the Gospel; if necessary,
Real truth is not spoken: it’s shown! Real truth is not told: it’s lived!
What a better world this would be if we would just set aside the ideas, the notions, the
beliefs, the tenets – put aside the words! – that so often seem to do more to separate us
than to unite us, and simply turned our efforts to being true to our Beloved – to being
true to the God who is both Truth and Love, and being true to God’s beloved, to one
another – and just, for a change, let it go at that, for all the world to see!
In the name of the King. Amen.