Reflection (readings are below)
We need leaders who are just and compassionate and who stick to the ways of God – those whose aim is to be upright, to seek after righteousness. And we have the ultimate example in Jesus. Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King – the one who is the king of the kingdom of God. He is our king; he is the one above all to whom we owe our honour and allegiance. He is the one who will never stop caring for us.
Yet the gospel chosen for today is of the crucifixion, the suffering and death, of Jesus. That doesn’t sound like an apt reading to celebrate the highest of all kings? For Jesus’s friends and followers, that day, that hour, must have been the absolute low point of their existence. The day when all their hopes and dreams were dashed. Their leader had been arrested – trapped by his opponents, jeered at by his critics, brought to court and found guilty – a sentence approved of by the masses. His vision of a better world, a world of justice and peace, of inclusivity and divine compassion was surely now in ruins, lost for ever? And what was to be their future? Would they be hounded and rounded up by the mob? Would they be rejected by friends and family? Would they become vagrants trying to eke out a living on the margins of society? Were they overcome by shame and doubt, wondering why they had been taken in by Jesus’s words, wondering why they had not heeded the words of their religious leaders, their elders and betters? Perhaps it was one of those days when you think it can’t get any worse and it just does.
We are living after the event. We know that Jesus’s drawn out execution on the cross with its blood and pain, before a jeering crowd was not the end of the story. There were still some empty hours ahead, some dark times of waiting and not knowing, of uncertainty and fear, for the disciples. But they didn’t run away. They didn’t stop caring for Jesus. They kept on living taking each day as it came. They weren’t expecting a miracle but were waiting to do what had to be done to complete his funeral. And a miracle happened; an unbelievable miracle! Jesus rose from the dead and met them where they were. He comforted and commissioned them and then took on his new role as the ascended messiah, Christ the King!
Can we find hope in that story? Can we find that hope that the psalmist speaks of? The strength of faith to continue even when things get tough, when the future looks uncertain – doomed even – and to hold tight to get assurance that God will always be there for us? When we face an uncertain future in the face of the climate crisis, the intransigence of oil producers, the reluctance of rich nations to be neither penitent nor generous, the naive optimism of those who say the climate crisis isn’t really a problem.
Let us find hope, take strength, encourage one another and reaffirm once more our allegiance to Christ the King.
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
1 God is our refuge and strength, *
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, *
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;
3 Though its waters rage and foam, *
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.
4 The Lord of hosts is with us; *
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
5 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, *
the holy habitation of the Most High.
6 God is in the midst of her;
she shall not be overthrown; *
God shall help her at the break of day.
7 The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken; *
God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.
8 The Lord of hosts is with us; *
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
9 Come now and look upon the works of the Lord, *
what awesome things he has done on earth.
10 It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; *
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire.
11 “Be still, then, and know that I am God; *
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”
12 The Lord of hosts is with us; *
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”