This Sunday is officially called “The Last Sunday in the Season after Pentecost” but it also goes by “Christ the King Sunday.” It is a day we reflect on those words from Paul to the Philippians, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
As those of you who have been here for the past two and a half years know, we do not always focus on this part of Jesus’ character. Jesus’ stature changes over the course of the liturgical year.
As we trace the trajectory of the church year, Jesus has been growing. In Advent he is only a rumor. In Christmas he is a baby. In Epiphany he is a great teacher slowly revealing his cosmic significance. In Lent he becomes an enemy of the local religious authority and the state. During Holy Week he is a notorious death row criminal. In Easter he is the resurrected son of God.
Then as we work our way through this Season after Pentecost, we come to know him as the judge of souls. Today, on Christ the King Sunday, he has grown all the way into the King of the Universe, the Cosmic Ruler, the Eternal Judge of all creation.
Jesus got big!
Mary and Joseph’s boy from Nazareth has come a long way.
How did he become the King of the Universe?
I mean, he had some rather embarrassing missteps along the way.
He did not have a very impressive group of friends and followers.
Many were day laborers and the professionals he did have were less than desirable folks like tax collectors.
He had a lot of opportunity to work his way up the social ladder but often squandered opportunities to make powerful friends.
He once found himself in legal trouble, which itself is not unusual for leaders even in our time but failed to cooperate with the governor when he offered him some legal relief.
To put is simply he never did himself any favors.
Even at the end, when he was in serious trouble, he didn’t help himself.
It was rather pitiable, his life ended surrounded by criminals.
As we heard in the Gospel, multiple people pointed out that Jesus should save himself.
And yet, he didn’t.
He didn’t save himself.
He was never trying to save himself.
It may not make sense to us, especially looking at the models of leadership we have today but when given the chance to save himself, he didn’t.
He saved someone else.
He saved me and he saved you.
He saved the world.
He did it not by getting big but by getting small.
He came to this world not as a conquering God but as a baby conceived out of wedlock.
He conquered the most powerful forces this planet had not with armor and a sword but naked on the cross.
God exalted Jesus not for being a cutthroat politician or a powerful warrior but for laying down his life for the sins of the whole world.
Jesus is only big because he was willing to be small.
Jesus is King because he lived and died as slave.
We are not used to this kind of leadership.
We are used to giving power to the powerful not the weak.
We are used to giving our ears to the loud not the quiet.
We are used to giving our attention to the big not the small.
This is our Lord;
The one who makes himself small, even to the point of death, so that we might be saved from true smallness.
The smallness of hatred.
The smallness of jealousy.
The smallness of insecurity.
The smallness of death.
He shrunk so that we might grow.
Grow in faith that those who seem to be in control on Earth will always fade away.
Grow in hope that even a bandit crucified one day might be welcomed into paradise the next.
Grow in love that sacrifices everything not for the best of humanity but for the worst of us.
This is our King.
Not politicians, not generals, not even bishops and priests.
But Jesus Christ.
And he is coming.
Next week he will again be a rumor of return.
During Advent which starts next week Jesus will become small again.
Where will our attention be?
We will pay attention to the big spectacles of the day or the small moments of Christ’s grace?
Will we pay attention to loudest people on television or to God in silence?
Will we pay attention to the people who have power for years or to the man who has power forever?
It’s time to pay attention.
It’s time to pay allegiance;
Not to our country, not even to the Episcopal Church.
But to him who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him.
It’s clear this week that Christ is king.
It might not be so clear next week.
Will you remember him?
Because he will remember you.
Keep watch, friends.