Christ the King Sunday
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Matthew 25:31-46

Today in the liturgical calendar, we celebrate what is called “Christ the King Sunday” or the “Reign of Christ.”  It is a good Sunday just after Thanksgiving when most of us have spent time with at least some of those who matter most of all to us.

Today is a way of marking time between the end of the Christian year and the beginning of the new year which starts next Sunday with the first Sunday of Advent when we look ahead to the birth of Christ happening all over again – in the mangers, the nooks and crannies, and desolate places of our world and being.

Today is a transitional Sunday; sort of like New Year’s Eve in which we look back over the past twelve months at what we did and didn’t do; what lessons we have learned; how we have grown and matured as a Christian and as a human being.  We begin to reflect on those defining moments when we learned a new truth about ourselves or someone else; when we have made distinct decisions to be a better person; to act differently or to see the world in a new way; when we have worked with someone or some project that taught us something about ourselves or another; both good and not so good.  We look back and assess and reassess.

Like New Year’s Eve, we also look forward to the new time emerging.  We begin to gather newfound resolutions about our future or the future we are hoping for.  What are the needs surrounding ourselves?  What are the differences we can make?

It is a time in which we make ourselves ready for the possibility of Christ reigning over us and in us.  We ask:  What does it look like for me to give myself over to the reign of Christ in this day and time when so many forces are vying for that slot?  When so many forces vie for power, control, for attention, and for authority to sit on the throne of our lives.  When so many forces try to tell us who we are and what we are capable of; or not.  Forces that try to shape our moods and dispositions; our minds, our ego; our wounds.  Forces that try to control?

Do we not yearn for the kind of king, the kind of authority, the kind of leader that we can give ourselves to?  The kind of person or entity that can handle our trust?  The sort of authority who rules with compassion, generosity, civility, and the common good even when our own personal wants and wishes might have to become secondary; that this authority can still be trusted for the well-being of all.

Perhaps at least one of our greatest fears of all is that we might not have enough power.  We might not have enough power to have the kind of life we want; to do all the things we want; to be all that we can be and so we exert ourselves wherever and however we can.  And we have to learn a new way and how to use the power that we have.  For all of us have a certain measure of power.  It’s really how we use it that counts, is it not?  Yes, we all have some: the power to love, to heal, to make a difference.  We have the power to lay down our weapons and pick up peace and to work together.  We have the power to save the world if only we could let go of our fears, anxiety, ego, and perceived strength and use it for good.

Truth be told, I think there are ways to get just about anything we want from other people if we use our power well.  There is always the risk of being taken advantage of but most people I know can be persuaded to do all kinds of things if their good power is applied well.

Today, we have the audacity to invite God’s reign in our lives; God’s rule; God’s way.   And we say that Jesus can be trusted with power and authority over us.  We say, “Come Lord Jesus.  Come.  Come into my heart, come into my life.  Enter here and stay with me.  I submit my will to thine own.  Your agenda.”

In our Gospel lesson, Matthew tells us that:

…the Human One will come in his majesty and all his angels with him…All the nations will be gathered in front of him.  He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right side.  but the goats he will put on his left.  Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who will receive good thing from my Father.  Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began.  I was hungry and you gave me food to eat.  I was thirsty and you gave me drink.  I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear.  I was sick and you took care of me.  I was in prison and you visited me.[1]

And get this:  the faithful will be confused about it all.  They’ll turn to one another and they will ask themselves and the King: “When?  When did we see you hungry and feed you?  Thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you; naked and give you clothes to wear?”[2]

And Jesus will respond: “I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine; you have done it for me.”[3]

Jesus says “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”  The Shepherd and the sheep are one, did you get that?

Phrases like hungry and thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, in prison describe the most vulnerable of times.  They speak to our most basic human needs for food, drink, clothing, acceptance, companionship, healthcare, freedom. But they also speak to our emotional and spiritual starvation; our nakedness to truth, healing, and reconciliation; our lack of feeling whole – really whole.

For have we not all been a stranger at some point?  Have we not all been the new kid on the block, or in the club, or in the church?  Have we not all yearned to be received warmly and lavishly?  Have we not all been starving for a crumb of healing love?  Dying of thirst, our spirit parched from the brutality of life and the abuse of power and the fear that no one will believe us?  Have we not all been there?  Done that?

These words push us to see ourselves for who we are; and our vulnerabilities.  They speak of power and authority and how Jesus aligns himself so personally to all of us:  Those who feed and those who are hungry – physically; spiritually.  Those who clothed and also those who need to be clothed; those stark naked longing to be wrapped up in grace and mercy.    Those who are the stranger and those who welcome others in.

“When you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  What if the “least of these” were members of our very own family?  What if the hungry person was my son yearning to be loved? Or the child without any clothing was my grandchild? Or the stranger who is shut out was my sister?  Or the sick person in the nursing home my mother?  How would I respond?  How far would I go? Because in truth that is exactly who they are.

What are the issues of our time that are calling to us?   I submit that sometimes, we are sheep and sometimes we are goats going our own way; with too much on our own plate.  And that’s how it is isn’t it?  We have too much to go too far for others.    It is love that keeps drawing us back; pushing us forward.

Thanksgiving.  The reign of Christ.  Advent.  It seems to be the right order of things: reign over me, Lord Christ.  Rule and have dominion; glory and power.  Imperfect though it may be I pledge my allegiance to you and you alone.  Sit on the throne of our lives – and our own responsibilities.  We give thanks for who we are and for what we have.  And then, invite Christ’s reign.  Be born in us anew.


[1] Matthew 25:31-36

[2] Matthew 25:37-39 Paraphrase

[3] Matthew 25:40