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PostScript: What kind of king?

Christ is king, and that means we are called to build a different kind of world (John 18.33-37).

 

Context

  • There was great anxiety when it was thought that the new chief of Interpol could be a Russian senior security official, and western governments were challenging this. In the end, the South Korean candidate was elected.

 

Reflection

The theme and readings for Sunday remind us that the ascended Christ became king of all the earth, and that all thrones, dominions, rulers and powers (Col 1.16) are subject to him. That makes a huge difference for our world! The only constancy is the rule of Christ, which is an ‘everlasting dominion’ (Daniel 7.14). Earthly rulers come and go: presidents and prime ministers, monarchs and ministers are ousted and toppled. Empires flourish and then fade. Change never stops. Political relationships are always in flux. Membership of the EU which helped to define the UK since 1973 will no longer be a reality, it seems, and this will change our place in the world and our understanding of who we are as a nation.

The kingship of Christ doesn’t mean that Christ controls the details of our politics. In the Gospel reading, Jesus makes a clear separation between his kingdom and the politics of the Roman Empire. This doesn’t mean that worldly politics doesn’t matter; Jesus is saying that his kingship doesn’t work like human systems. The way we vote, the people we put in charge of us – these things do matter; they make a difference to the political culture, and that has an impact on each one of us. Hence the arguments about the new president of Interpol, who could profoundly influence the treatment of international criminals. Christ does care about the impact of our politics on others.

Christ doesn’t do kingship in the way of the world. In Christ’s kingdom we find a concern for truth. In the next verse after Sunday’s Gospel reading, Pilate asks ‘What is truth?’, which is very much a current question in contemporary culture, where truth often appears to have been so distorted, for example in the arguments for and against Brexit.

The ultimate truth is about who Christ is, and the readings point to this: Christ loves us, Christ frees us from sin, Christ is constant, there from beginning to end, all power rests in him, Christ is judge, Christ is king in glory. More generally, the Gospels show how the life of Christ demonstrates leadership in service of others, the servant king.                    

When we recognise Christ as king, we hold our own power and all human power more lightly. The buck does not ultimately stop with our human leaders. The way we exercise power matters.

And we all exercise power to some degree, even if we are not rulers. In our own worlds we have influence, whether in places of work or churches or community groups or families. The way we live, the way we treat others matters. In our relationships with others, where Christ is king, we treat people with respect and kindness.

There is an opportunity here for a preacher to dream what the world would be like if we took Christ’s kingship seriously, in relation to this town, or this church, or this neighbourhood. What signs of flourishing would you expect to see?

 

Prayer

A set of intercessions that can incorporate many voices – i.e. different people reading the indented lines. It could be a way of giving more people confidence to take part in public prayer.

Use a standard response in between each section – e.g.:
Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Christ our king, reign in the church.
    Help us to proclaim your good news.
    Help us to live generously in love.
    Help us to welcome all who turn to you.
That we may truly be your body in this place.

Christ our king, reign in our world.
    Help our governments to pursue policies of peace.
    Enable our institutions to support the common good.
    Empower our citizens to fight for a better world.
That we may help to build your kingdom here on earth.

Christ our king, reign in our communities.
    Be with our local councillors in their leadership and decision-making.
    May our schools do well so that all children can thrive.
    Help us to support those who are struggling in our neighbourhoods.
That everyone may flourish in our town/village/community.

Christ our king, reign in our minds and bodies.
    Bring healing to those who are ill.
    Comfort those who are distressed.
    Give wisdom and knowledge to doctors, nurses and therapists.
That we may live well and care for each other.

Christ our king, reign in eternity.
    Give rest and peace to those who have died.
    Comfort those who are grieving.
And bring us to your eternal kingdom.


Questions

  • What kind of king is Christ?
  • What difference does it make to our world when Christ is in charge?
  • What good examples do you see in the world today where people, organisations or countries have used power and influence to benefit others? These don’t have to be big projects.

 

All-age activity

Give everyone a small piece of paper with a crown drawn o printed on it (do an internet search for a free clipart crown image). Invite people to write or draw something that characterises Christ’s kingdom – e.g. complete with the phrase: ‘In Christ’s kingdom there is…’ (peace, love, kindness, honesty, truth, room for everybody, welcome, etc.). Gather the crowns (e.g. at the offertory) and have someone ready to display them on a board so that everyone can see them later.

 

Young people

Look for signs of God’s kingdom. As a group, you may already know of things that are happening that help to make the world or your town or your school a better place. You might find references on social media or even newspapers if you do old technology. The projects could be about:

  • Caring for the environment or for animals.
  • Making the world fairer.
  • Helping people who need extra assistance.
  • Challenging racism, sexism and any other ‘-ism’.
  • Befriending strangers.

For example, in my own area, a new project is starting up to stop period poverty in schools, as part of a national project

 

Meg Gilley is an Anglican parish priest serving in Gateshead.

 

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