21st November 2021: Feast of Christ the King
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne,
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
1 The Lord is King;
he has put on splendid apparel; *
the Lord has put on his apparel
and girded himself with strength.
2 He has made the whole world so sure *
that it cannot be moved;
3 Ever since the world began, your throne has been established; *
you are from everlasting.
4 The waters have lifted up, O Lord,
the waters have lifted up their voice; *
the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.
5 Mightier than the sound of many waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea, *
mightier is the Lord who dwells on high.
6 Your testimonies are very sure, *
and holiness adorns your house, O Lord,
for ever and for evermore.
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Today is the feast of Christ the King, and our readings have the theme of dominion and kingdom.
In science the world of living organisms is divided into five kingdoms using a system devised by Carl Linnaeus. These are the kingdoms of animals (all multicellular creatures), plants, fungi, protists (Amoeba, Chlorella and Plasmodium) and prokaryotes (bacteria, blue-green algae). The classification system then recognises that each kingdom can be further subdivided. The kingdom of animals subdivides into phylum one of which – Chordata – includes all creatures with back bones. Phylum can then be subdivided into classes. Chordata for example has the subdivision of mammals. And so on.
This plurality of Kingdoms and subdivisions overlap and co-exist and are dependent on each other for survival. In today’s readings we hear of the kingdoms of heaven and of earth, and it would seem that they too incorporate differences and interdependencies. Earth is not separate from heaven, but through the presence and involvement of God are interdependent – this seems to me to be what John is grappling with as he records this speech between Pilate and Jesus.
In the Psalm we hear how the Lord – God – is king. God’s kingdom is what God has created and the strength of God’s dominion, power, rule, comes from the firmness, the immovability of the earth – and yet even the strength God has created there cannot over come God. God is more than strength. Divine dominion comes from the excellence of God’s truth and holiness. The response of the earth (here it is specifically the waves) is to lift up its voice – presumably in joy and praise and admiration and honour.
From the reading from the Book of Daniel we learn that the difference between God’s dominion and that of earthly dominions, is that whilst the latter may pass away, the former will not. This is echoed at the end of the passage from Revelation: for God is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega.
The Book of Daniel presents the kingdom, the realm of God as a place of hierarchy. There are many – lesser – thrones and the one throne of God. This heavenly throne is at the centre from which flows fire – a divine emanation – and around the oneness of God are thousands upon thousands of those who serve, and even more thousands of thousands who attend/ worship God. These thousands are dwellers of the heavenly realm. It is in this place, this court that we see the one, like a human, to whom all power and dominion in earth – the place of peoples, nations and languages – is given. For us as Christian readers, this is Jesus, the anointed one, who is bringing together the dominions of earth and heaven. This relationship between the kingdoms and heaven and earth and the intertwining role of Jesus is also being explored in today’s reading from Revelation.
It is good for us to be reminded that we are not the rulers of any of the kingdoms whether of earth or heaven. Rather we need to be ones who serve and and worship God.