Monday, November 19, 2007

Crown him with many crowns! (A lectionary post)

This coming Sunday is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time - thank GOD!!! - and as such, is celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King. I enjoy this Sunday, in part for the break from the godawful Ordinary Time lections, and also very much because we get to sing some awesome hymns. Our choir is singing a chorus from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, the Sing Unto God. I'm looking forward to it.

So. The readings for Sunday are:

Okay, so on reading those gospel options for this week, it's clear to me that I've never paid all that much attention to the lections on Christ the King Sunday. This is probably because I was sitting in my pew, happily earwormed with those awesome hymns. But if you've read this far, this probably isn't true for you, so I actually need to read through these and think about them a little.

It is intriguing to me that the two options for Sunday's gospel are the bookends of Jesus's last week in Jerusalem, his last week here with us, on earth. And it is yet more intriguing to me that each bookend is a story of triumph and honor and kingship, but in the slightly askew way that Jesus shows triumph and kingship. Here is Jesus, entering the city in a royal procession... on a clumsy donkey's colt. And here is Jesus, proclaimed as king... on a sign hanging over his head at his execution.

I remember in a fantasy novel I read some time back, a young prince of eight or nine trying to get his way in an argument with a headstrong young noble girl, and finally having to resort to saying, "Well, I'm the prince, so you have to do what I say!" His mother overheard this, and after the girl had gone, she said to him quietly, "A prince who has to remind others of his rank is not much of a prince at all." Jesus does not go around reminding us that he is a king. He knows who he is. Those who recognize this in him and do him honor are blessed by it. And those who mock him... well, they probably recognize it, too, but are frightened and threatened by it. They have to tear down Jesus's nobility, his honor, his triumph, his kingship, because they know they do not deserve it.

In 21st century America, we tend to not be very comfortable talking about submitting to kings. The last king we remember was the one we rebelled against, and we sent him packing back to England to leave us alone, thankyouverymuch. We can do just fine without a king. We can govern ourselves. We can take care of ourselves. We are free and independent and strong.

And yet, when I say these things to myself, I find a small, quiet voice inside me, calling out for a loving king to guide me. I know I can take care of myself and govern myself and be free and independent and strong, but it gets awfully tiring always having to do and be these things. The issue with human kings - or even elected rulers - is that we don't always know that they will be loving and kind and good. But we KNOW that God is good. We know that Jesus loves us perfectly, infinitely, far more than we can ever deserve or ask or imagine. And he is our king. Riding on a clumsy colt. Stripped naked and derided and mocked. Lying in cloths in his mother's arms, perfect and innocent and helpless. Speaking in the synagogue. Overturning tables and throwing the moneychangers out of the temple. Walking, always walking, all over Judea and helping and healing and teaching.

The epistle from Colossians this week is very moving to me. This reading opens with a beautiful prayer, and I would love to see this prayer set to music.

May you be made strong
with the strength that comes
from God's glorious power.

May you be prepared
to endure everything
with patience.

May you joyfully
give thanks to God
for God has enabled you
to walk with the saints
in light.

May you know you are rescued
from the powers of darkness
and given into the arms
of God's beloved son,
into the arms of the son
who has brought us redemption
freedom from our sins.

May you stand
faithful and confident
knowing that Jesus will remember you
and will bring you into
the light
of God's kingdom.

I don't have a whole lot more to say on these readings right now. But as I write these words, I pray this prayer for you, and as you read them, I hope that you feel the blessings of God upon you. God's kingdom has been opened for us, and when the saints come marching in, Jesus is at the head of the procession, guiding us and leading us into the Light.