The Feast of Christ the King

Luke 23:33-43

Today marks the end of our Church Year—the last Sunday of Pentecost. Next Sunday we begin again with the season of Advent, and a different set of readings. The last Sunday of Pentecost is always designated as Christ the King, so we might expect the Gospel to contain themes of Christ’s power and glory; to be given images of Jesus’ supremacy perhaps as depicted in the Ascension, or to be reminded that he is seated at the right hand of God the Father/Mother and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and that his kingdom will have no end.  (Sound familiar?)

Instead, we are given an excerpt from Luke’s Passion narrative. In today’s Gospel reading, our King’s royal procession is a death march to the Cross; his subjects do not bend the knee, but rather scoff and mock him. His throne is not a seat of glory but rather a shameful instrument of torture and death. Nothing about this feels particularly regal and we very well might ask, This is a King?

As many of you know I grew up in Canada. The Queen is on our money and growing up I remember royal portraits on our walls as well as on our tea mugs. The doings of the royal family made it regularly into our newspapers and magazines. My grandmothers had stories and loved to share their opinions about various members of the royal family. I’m familiar with that kind of royalty. But our Lord Jesus did not come to be another monarch in our lives. He came to challenge the very fabric of our reality and expectations. He came to redefine life itself.

I heard someone recently say that the Christian life could be summed up in two words—death and resurrection. The end of one thing and the beginning of another, like perhaps the ending of Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. My favorite theologian called Jesus the King of Second Chances and today’s Gospel has some really wonderful examples of that. There’s Jesus who looks out over all the people—the ones who have falsely accused him of being a criminal, the ones who hammered nails into his flesh, and the ones that just stood by and watched—and he asks God to forgive them. Forgiveness is probably the primary way we give and receive second chances. After all it’s Christ’s forgiveness that ushers us into eternal life through his death.

Then there’s the promise Jesus made to the 2nd thief—that he would be with Jesus that day in Paradise. Wow, talk about 2nd chances! He was not condemned by Jesus for his crimes, and he would get to know the unfettered love and unveiled presence of Jesus that very day. He was about to have an experience of God’s glory that the disciples themselves could only have begun to imagine. And let us not forget Barabbas who was released by Pontius Pilate in place of Jesus, which is a very literal second chance.

So who is this King? –
Well, he’s the one that with his last dying breath speaks compassionate words of hope to the hopeless.
He’s the one that promises a reward to the undeserving simply because he is asked, and that’s shear grace. The same grace that is extended to us when we do something we wish we hadn’t; or neglected to do something we should have done.
It’s the forgiveness that is offered us when we say and do the wrong things; when we wish we’d apologized or showed up or been braver.
It’s the hope we are given for restored relationships and the promise of healing for the things broken beyond our ability to fix.
It’s the mercy that refuses to let us be defined by our mistakes and regrets.
What else can we call all these things but second chances?
Every day we are given another opportunity to experience grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Every moment is another chance to live the lives we were born to live and to be the people we are born to be.

This week when I was on retreat in Cape Cod and surrounded by the beauty of the ocean and beaches and sky, I had no difficulty seeing Jesus as King. My eyes were overwhelmed with the beauty of God’s creation and all I wanted to do was worship. Things happened, things others might call coincidences, that reminded me that God really does have me in Her sights and that I am completely and thoroughly loved. Then I came home.

For those of you who know me well this will not come as a surprise, but I am not any holier than you are. There are a myriad number of things I would like to have second chances for—and that’s usually in one day! I struggle with regrets and disappointments too. I often wish I were a stronger person and a better priest.

But here’s the thing—we have a King whose modus operandi is to restore all things; a King through whom and for whom everything was created; a King who is completely invested in reconciling to himself all things; and whose tender compassion shines down upon us in our darkness, guiding us into the way of peace. These are not my words. They are all taken from today’s Propers and Lectionary.

So, my sisters and brothers, I would like to quote my favorite theologian one more time and inform you that “it is my duty and delight to declare to you by royal fiat and divine command, that Christ the King has granted to each of us a Second Chance and sends us out from worship, free to live into that new reality, repairing relationships that need repair, amending our speech and actions, giving what we have and are in joy, and living without the burden of regret.” [1]

All hail our Glorious King; Thanks be to God!

1. David Lose, The King of Second Chances,