Highworth United Reformed Church

Here for you

24 November 2019

By the Revd Robert Jordan M.A.
Jeremiah 23:1-8;   Colossians 1:9-23   

                                                                   To be or not to be

The feast of Christ the King or Christ the King Sunday.   This is a relatively recent addition to the Western liturgical calendar,  having been instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI for the Roman Catholic Church.    The Anglican, Lutheran, and many other Protestant churches also celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.   Looking back,  the feast day was given not only because of the political battles between the Church and the States of Europe, but also because of the secularism born from the Great war and its horrors.   That is the history of the celebration of this Sunday,  but to us,  does it have a particular significance?   "The Kingdom of the Son"  says Colossians,  yet we are also lead to see Christ as the Shepherd in Jeremiah.   This led me to deep thought - To be or not to be - that continues to be the great question,  well worth exploring for a few moments.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks of the shepherds that have scattered the flock and not attended to them (the shepherd in the most negative way}, and then tells us of God who comes as the one who will gather the flock and bring them back to the fold (the model of the good shepherd).   Colossians talks to us of the image of the invisible God,  the fullness of God,  reconciling all things.    These are all images quite different from the iconography of "Christ the King" or "Christ the Shepherd".

When thinking about this - does the thought of "Christ the King" come across as helpful?  Do we find more comfort in Christ the Shepherd?   I suppose it all has to do with the context and our experiences.   Though I would like to propose that as this is the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year - next Sunday we begin a 'new year',  it should in a way sum up all we have learnt of Jesus and his life and ministry.

Through the Gospels Jesus often refers to himself with the "I am..." and then adds - the good shepherd;  the water of life;  the truth;  the way;  the life;  the gate;  the resurrection and life... but Jesus never speaks of himself as King,  and when the people come to him to try and make him king he walks away and takes refuge in prayer.   This is quite revealing of how Jesus sees himself.  When we speak of Jesus as King,  how are we seeing Jesus?   And what do we decide to 'not see of Jesus'?

To be or not to be:   "I have come to serve not to be served";   Jesus washes the disciples feet;,,Jesus calls himself the good shepherd.   And if we had read the Gospel for today {Luke 23:32ff) we would have heard of the cross,  the mocking of the soldiers,  and the sign on the cross  "this is the king of the Jews",  with all its irony.   And next Sunday we begin the journey of Advent which will find us all meeting at the stable where the birth of the Christ child takes place.   To me then, the challenge Jesus presents us with is not of being a king,  but rather of being the shepherd:  a loving, caring shepherd who has time for the sheep who have been wounded,  displaced,  rejected,  not loved.   He is the one who gives his life for the sheep.

I would then invite you all to approach faith via the way of the Shepherd,  who invites us to the table,  and shares with us,  and we with each other as well as with him.   Creating a new sense of belonging and of community.   Not an audience, but as the body we are part of.   It makes a huge difference to the way we share and grow together.   "The King of Love,  my Shepherd is... "our next hymn.   Amen.