“When the Son of Man comes in his Glory...”
“When the Son of Man comes in his Glory, and all the Angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory…” Amen.
Aged just four years my first memory of a news headline was of four women, faces draped in black, clustered together and united in grief. I was too young to appreciate the significant phrase ‘The King is dead long live the Queen’. I thought nothing of using coins with the King’s head and it was not long before I began to learn the value of them now with Queen Elizabeth’s portrait. For the nation it was just a few months wait between the dramatic newspaper headline and the street parties. For its children a gradual end to post war poverty and the beginning of a brave new world they, and me included, would grow into. Coincidentally the 1950’s was also the decade that introduced the celebration of Christ the King Sunday.
This Sunday we come to the end of our liturgical year. Next Sunday we begin a New Year in our Christian life and, just as we look for New Year’s resolutions on December 31st, so it is good this week to review and reflect on our journey in 2020. It is good to take stock, think about the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ incarnation, and to look for new meaning and purpose in our own journey of faith, a faith sorely challenged with the corona virus and all the subsequent regulations.
In their history they had been exiled over hundreds of years, the people longed for a return to Jerusalem. Jewish people must have wondered about the meaning and purpose of their special status as chosen by God. They remembered David who began life as a shepherd boy; he used his skill with a slingshot to kill Goliath and saved his nation. No surprise then, for a people whose financial stability was built on sheep, that “The Shepherd” became a metaphor for David their king, and later for Yahweh himself.
Ezekiel, some five centuries later, described God’s people as a wayward flock, and prophesied God would draw them back into the pasture prepared for them at the beginning; a land of milk and honey, a land of justice and peace. It would be a new King David, the shepherd, the Messiah, who would rule, anointed by God to save and care for the people. This time of exile could be described as their period of Advent, a time of waiting on God.
Throughout his ministry Jesus spoke about the Kingdom, on earth in the now, and also about God’s Kingdom in heaven and into the future. A kingdom presupposes a King and so Paul and the early church, that were steeped in tradition, were also familiar with several metaphors describing who Jesus was, Prophet, Shepherd, Servant, and King.
At his crucifixion, an inscription placed over Jesus on the cross read, “This is the king of the Jews” inferring ‘shepherd son of shepherd’. This was intended as an insult, but after the resurrection and ascension, it only highlighted Jesus’ authority to speak of judgement and justice in the kingdom of God. Jesus in our gospel reading this morning leaves us in no doubt about how we are to live and the consequences of choosing to put ourselves first.
In the Eucharist from the Book of Common Prayer, we offer our prayers acknowledging God’s Divine Majesty, beseeching him to save and defend all Christian Kings, Princes and Governors; and specially Elizabeth our Queen, that under her we may be godly and quietly governed. We also pray for all those in authority under her that they will minister justice in fairness and with equity. These prayers are a reminder that our Queen is anointed as ‘Defender of the faith and Supreme Governor of the Church’ with a vocation to rule with Christ at the centre of her life.
I wonder how many of us have been called to Jury service; it has been three times for me. As far as my limited knowledge of the law goes it seems to me that the duty of a jury is to try and discover truth from the evidence presented to them in court, and then for the judge to administer the Queen’s justice. This has been the basis of our legal system for a very long time, ‘twelve good men (or women) and true’ working together to look at the evidence presented from everyone involved, and come to a consensus. This is the meaning and purpose of the jury system.
A few years ago now at a fellowship meeting, the speaker invited us to share our favourite Carol and several of us chose “O come, O come Emmanuel”. No doubt we will be hearing it on TV or radio services very soon and it is worth taking a moment this morning to look at how it begins. Come Emmanuel, God with us and ransom, or in other words, pay the price due to redeem captive Israel and be our saviour. We might ask what is it Jesus saves us from and that seems to be from ourselves, our sinful human nature.
The gospel reading from Matthew highlights just what Jesus didn’t have in mind; withholding food, water and all of nature’s assets from the poor. Of standing by and watching the poor of the world die from diseases that can be cured. Ignoring the prisoner, entrapped by addiction, to greed, violence or substances? If we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus we must step up and love the unlovable, or we shall be judged as wanting in bringing in the kingdom of God.
At this celebration of Christ’s kingship, as we wait and reflect on the incarnation of Jesus, of his ministry’s purpose and meaning, we may begin to see that it was to bring us back into relationship with a God of love and about the love of our neighbour, and of truth and justice on earth; and also that the purpose and meaning of his death was to offer us eternal life.
Ezekiel, describing God’s people as a wayward flock, was describing us too. He prophesied God would draw us all back into the pasture prepared for us at the beginning; a land of milk and honey, a land of justice and peace, no less than God’s Kingdom both here and now and into eternity. The meaning and purpose of Jesus is pictured for us on the window above the West door, so as you return to your seat after communion, pause a moment and look up. See King Jesus enthroned in his glory.
The Rev’d Maureen Lunn, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 22/11/2020