Christ is the King, O friends rejoice!
Brothers and sisters with one voice.
Let all men know he is your choice.
These words of Bishop George Bell seem an appropriate place to begin this sermon thinking about Christ the King.
And I want to explore a little what that choice might look like for us and its consequences for how we see the world around us. Particularly in these days following those horrific terrorist attacks in Paris nine days ago.
The readings this morning offer us;
Firstly a vision of the Messiah King in the Old Testament as Daniel dreams of the future.
And secondly an encounter with that king who is before Pilate a short time before his death.
In that memorable scene, Pilate is trying to work out who is this man before him. He asks legitimate questions. The answers though are frustrating for Jesus speaks elusively of kingdoms ‘not of this world’ and that he is here to ‘testify to the truth’.
A bewildered Pilate ends the reading by almost inevitably asking ‘what is truth?’
We human beings seem to be seduced by what I want to call easy absolute truth. Truth which tells you how to live. This narrow understanding of truth can justify great evil. The terrorists in Paris for example believe they have the truth.
So it’s interesting, to return to the Gospel, that when Jesus is confronted with questions about his identity and of his kingdom, questions to establish absolute truth and also to fulfil his calling to be the Messiah and save the people of Israel from those nasty Romans, he resists.
He doesn’t retreat into absolutes and remains elusive not denying his identity but instead inviting a response.
Perhaps he is inviting Pilate and consequently us, to see truth as something more than just facts and rules, instead being something we experience and grow into as it is revealed to us a little at a time.
And so to return to George Bell’s words, when we say that Jesus is our choice, we are not talking about building our lives in response to a divine command machine telling us what to do but are instead trying to describe a relationship.
A relationship in which we are invited to grow in his truth as we journey with him, fashioned by his abiding presence in this world he came to save.
And that saving work began when the word was made flesh and dwelt among us, as a baby. This incarnation which we celebrate in a few weeks’ time was for all people and for all time. For those who recognise it and for those who don’t.
The eternal God bound himself to this stuff of flesh and bone and said it matters. This truth shapes how we see the world. Consequently when human life is treated with such disregard as it was that Friday then we the foundations of our society are shaken.
In contrast the truth on which the terrorists have built their lives, truth fashioned by absolutes and certainty has so distorted their view of the world that they are blind, they cannot see the God who reveals himself in a weak and vulnerable child.
Shakespeare’s Othello knew something about the seductive power of truth to distort and disfigure.
As someone who didn’t do ‘A’ Levels and who feels great gaps in his learning, I’m very glad to be able to share something of Jacob’s journey through sixth form. One of his set texts for English is Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
Othello’s great flaw is that he has to know the truth, not knowing it drives him mad and to despair, indeed it motivates him to kill Desdemona, she whom he loves. In his pursuit for absolute truth he destroys that which gives him life and love.
For me there are parallels here with those religious ideologies who claim to know God’s will in absolute terms, by doing that they kill the God in whose name they act.
We are right to be anxious about I.S, about the evil they seek to impose. We are right to feel angry that they do these acts of terror in the name of God.
The truth as they see it, justifies great evil.
In contrast the truth as we know it, revealed in a baby, invites us into relationship built on love.
So if we look at our readings again for today whilst I do believe Daniel’s words that ‘his dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.’ Christ is the king.
However these words though are held alongside the incarnation and all that follows it, when God in Christ lays that power aside and ‘empties himself taking the form of a servant’ as St. Paul put it for when he took our human flesh and revealed his glory through it, he transformed it and how we understand the nature of God forever.
So as we celebrate the sovereignty of Christ this day and at the end of our liturgy are sent out into a world that sometimes looks so bewildering and almost overwhelmed by evil, we trust in his love as we seek to grow as his followers through the choices we make every day.
Part of that following is, I think, to resist that desire for certainty and absolute truth, ideologies which divide and separate. Seeking instead that which binds together and unites.
And though that might bring questions and uncertainties, our relationship with the Jesus whom we meet in the Gospels is I think one in which we are invited to think and grow and learn as we follow his way of love.
This Jesus elusive and engaging, mysterious and captivating, the one who has hold of us and will not let us go he is our choice.