Christ the King or Reign of Christ?

You did it! You survived another church year. Today is Christ the King Sunday. It’s a new holiday in the church calendar, established less than 100 years ago. In 1925, Pope Pius XI established this day to encourage Roman Catholics to recognize Christ’s authority in our lives. Christ the King was originally scheduled for the last Sunday in October (which might have been a way to push back against Lutherans and their Reformation Sunday) but was moved to the last Sunday in the church year in 1970. Many different protestant churches (including Lutherans) adopted this feast day because its central question is important for all Christians. We know Jesus is important and we commit ourselves to follow him. We celebrate his presence in our lives and sing hymns calling him the “king of kings.” Jesus matters – but does our everyday life act like he does?

Over the last few decades, a debate about name of this Sunday has emerged. Should we call this Sunday Christ the King when the word “king” is so problematic? There are plenty of kings in scripture that give the word “king” a bad name. In 1 Samuel 8, the prophet Samuel describes what kings actually do. They value power more than anything. They want to keep everything for themselves. They oppress the poor, fight wars, and bring ruin to entire communities. They demand the obedience of others while filling their bank accounts with other people’s wealth. Kings in scripture are not a good thing. Even the kings we celebrate (like King David), have immense personality flaws that lead to their downfall and destruction. All of us think we know what a good king looks like. They are full of power and majesty. They are wise, caring, and give hope to others. They live lives worthy of being in a Disney animated film. And they are a king that looks nothing like Jesus did when, broken and battered, he died on the Cross.

I still call today Christ the King Sunday because that’s a name other people use. But, in my own devotion, I prefer to call today: “Reign of Christ Sunday.” Because that’s what we’re really celebrating. We are, through out baptism, called to live as if Jesus really matters. We are to recognize his love for us and love others just as much. We are to celebrate service rather than power and to always cling to hope. We are to live as if Christ truly rules over our lives because, through the Cross, we know he already does.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for Christ the King Sunday, 11/26/2017.