Our Kingdoms Fall (A Sermon for Christ The King Sunday, Year B 2021)
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church (Keller, Texas)
November 21, 2021
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time, isn’t it? Food, changing seasons, and awkward conversations with relatives!
I tend to have awkward conversations a lot, usually when I’m wearing my collar in public. Maybe that’s why I don’t wear my collar too often…
There’s two types of conversations that happen occasionally, that are on pretty opposite sides of each other.
First, I’ll be at some kind of city-wide church event. It’s happened in Houston and South Carolina, and it happened just last week here in town. I’ll introduce myself as an Episcopal priest, and someone tends to say something like, “Are you one of those liberal clergy?”
Or there’s the conversations I have with folks inside the Episcopal world. Usually when I’m at a conference or something, and I’ll introduce myself as a Texan. The next question is often something like, “Texas? You’re not some crazy conservative are you?”
Sometimes they’re joking. But sometimes they’re serious.
And I’ve heard comments like these often enough, from all sides, that I learned they aren’t really talking about me. These folks’ concern isn’t really with me.
Instead, what I think these folks really want to know is whether I will challenge their beliefs, values, and opinions.
Will I upset the status quo of their kingdoms?
Those questions and concerns are at the core of Pilate’s encounter with Jesus in today’s gospel. “Are you the King of the Jews?” he asks. But what he really wants to know is if Jesus is a threat to his identity, his power, his rule.
He wants to know if Jesus is a threat to his kingdom.
Whether spoken or unspoken, conscious or unconscious, these concerns get triggered every time we encounter another person, a new culture, a different idea or belief, a new decision or event that might affect us.
We…or at least I… don’t typically want someone messing with our self-identity, our values, our beliefs, and our opinions. Like Pilate, we want to know what we have to do in order to defend our kingdoms.
We don’t like it when someone questions our understanding of God, ourselves, others, or the world. And we certainly don’t want someone taking away our power, our privilege, our control, or our comfort.
We’ve worked hard to build our kingdoms and we don’t want someone coming along and making changes.
Yet Sunday after Sunday, that is exactly what we ask for.
We gather together every week and pray, “thy kingdom come” – thy kingdom in which God rules; thy kingdom in which Jesus Christ is King…
thy kingdom of love and compassion…
thy kingdom of mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation…
thy kingdom of justice and concern for the poor…
thy kingdom of humility, surrender, and self-giving…
thy kingdom of peace and holiness.
Thy kingdom, come.
Christ’s kingdom, come.
When we pray that prayer, we are asking for change – that this world, our lives, and our relationships might be different.
And if we truly mean “thy kingdom come” then what we’re also saying is that our kingdoms must go.
Our kingdoms of power, domination, and greed must go.
Our kingdoms of violence and oppression must go.
Our kingdoms of fear, prejudice, and resentment must go.
Our kingdoms of judgment and labeling must go.
Our kingdoms of individualism and indifference must go.
The reign of Christ the King forces us…no, the reign of Christ the King frees us…to step outside the status quo and live into a different kingdom – the Kingdom of God.
If Christ is our king, then we are free to truly see each other…
If Christ is our king, then we are free to truly hear each other…
If Christ is our king, then we are free to truly love each other.
If we truly mean that prayer – “thy kingdom come” – then we must live, speak, and behave in a way that is consistent with that prayer.
Think about that in a few moments when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Think about that as we are sent from this place today, to love and serve our Lord. Think about that as we help to bring about God’s kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.