As a college student I attended a very small Episcopal parish for a few months. One Sunday I was invited to stay for a meeting they were having with a Canon from the Bishop’s office. This congregation hadn’t had a resident priest in some time. They didn’t have enough money for a full-time priest and were looking for someone on a very part time basis. The Canon had come to help them find that priest.
She began by asking them to describe the kind of priest they were looking for. They listed their wants: good preaching, someone to bring harmony to their community, able to relate to all ages, someone to provide inspiring worship, and someone to help them grow in numbers.
After they had gone on for a while and there had been a few petty tangential disputes among them, the Canon replied, “So, what you’d like is for Jesus to be your quarter time priest?” At first there was silence, then some nervous laughter, and then verbal retorts. “No, that’s not what we mean.”
The Canon was making a point: you can’t get someone else to save you. And we need to keep our expectations in check.
Today we celebrate Jesus as our King. What do we expect from a King? What do we expect from Jesus?
Personally, I find that my expectations of Jesus are off base. I don’t want to struggle. I don’t want to wait. I want God to give me a guarantee that I am saved and whole. I want Jesus to do it all for me as long I do not need to surrender my will to have it go my way.
Being saved is not about being fixed. It is about being healed. The healing comes when I look below the surface of things. When we take a breath and respond instead of reacting. The healing comes when I learn to trust and give up some control.
That is what King Jesus did on the cross: he let go of his ego. He stopped living for now and started living for ever. That is how he inaugurated his kingdom.
In the Gospel today, our King comes face to face with Pilate. Pilate represents the rulers of this world in any time or place.
Jesus is revealing a truth to Pilate that he will never understand. To find life one must die to the self. This is anathema to Pilate’s and our worldview.
At Palm Sunday we read from Matthew chapter 21 wherein Jesus enters Jerusalem. He enters just as the Prophet Zechariah predicted. He comes riding on the colt of a donkey. He is at once triumphant and humble. He cuts off the chariots and war horses. His dominion of humble peace will reach to the ends of the earth.
Pilate represents a dominion that rules through intimidation and domination. That is what we are used because it is too often how we try to control one another.
Jesus reassures Pilate that he is no threat to the emperor’s power, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be using the same old methods of force and intimidation to keep me from being handed over to the authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
Christians have always had to navigate how to we remain loyal to Christ our King and be part of a society when the values of these two kingdoms come into conflict?
We will see this play out in a very obvious way as we enter the Season of Advent. The culture around us will be observing the rituals of a commercially created false Christmas. We will be entering into silence, darkness and anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ the King. We will be invited to participate in Christmas before it comes. How will we do this and remain faithful to our religious observance?
Over the years it has seemed to me that we Christians of the western traditions just are not as concerned about this as our Eastern Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim neighbors.
There is always something in the culture us pulling us away from our religious life. Where we choose to live and move and have our being depends on where our strongest allegiance lies.
Who do we serve? Do we follow the Church calendar or the secular one? Where is our religious observance on our list of priorities?
When we are ready to stop living for now and start living for ever then we will let go of serving the rulers of this world, looking for quick fixes and easy answers. We will surrender our hearts to Jesus our true King?
Jesus teaches us that the Kingdom of God is a state of being that is worth more than anything else we possess. We enter it when we find peace with God and one another. We enter it when we receive the body and blood of Christ. We come home to the Kingdom when we confess our sins and forgive those of others.
God’s Kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven. Which kingdom will we live in?