‘All things were created through him and for him.Before anything was created, he existed,and he holds all things in unity’ (Colossians 1:16-17)
One popular topic of work-place small-talk, something almost as common as talking about the weather, is health and safety. Just one throwaway comment about it can spiral out of control into hours of discussions. This is probably because we feel that to some extent health and safety, much like the weather, regulates many aspects of our lives. In the summer of 2009 health and safety guidelines reached their highest peak, probably to date, when they succeeded in influencing even royal protocol. The traditional practice of walking backwards when leaving the Sovereign’s presence was abolished, so that attendants and guests would not injure themselves or inelegantly walk into pieces of furniture. But as it often happens, the change in protocol, disguised in the cloak of health and safety, reflected a particular creeping attitude towards the monarchy, and towards the fuss of ceremonies. For many people it seems that valuing traditional practices and honouring the role of the Sovereign is a thing of the past, and detrimental to progress.
Similarly, many Christians are not happy to talk about Jesus as King. Frequently these brothers and sisters are also not happy about ritual and would much prefer as free-for-all approach, but we’ll leave that to another time. In their minds kingship and monarchy are associated with too many bad events throughout history, and consequently they feel that describing Jesus as King, and particularly as the King of all creation, would be detrimental to the growth of Christianity especially among those who do not yet believe.
But regardless of these concerns, which tantamount to overprotective (if not completely wrong) theological health and safety, Jesus is Lord, and Jesus is King of all. He himself confirmed his royal status when at his Passion he spoke to Pilate about the nature of his kingdom (Cf. John 18:35-37); our first reading describes how David was anointed as king, thus providing a royal lineage for Jesus; and in our second reading we see how St Paul describes Jesus saying that ‘all things were created through him and for him. Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity’. If this is not a description of divine kingship, I don’t know what is.
Yet, to be fair to those who do not like the language of kingship applied to Jesus, there are a few considerations to bear in mind. I mentioned how Jesus speaks to Pilate about being a king, and he says this,
‘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’ (John 18:36).
Christ’s kingship means sovereign power over all creation, but it is unlike any other example of monarchical rule we can think of. For example, Christ’s kingship is self-sacrificing, not self-serving, as Jesus chose to reign first from the Cross, rather than from an earthly throne. His kingship is absolute, but it is not a dictatorship, as Jesus does not impose himself on others through force, but he waits outside the door of our hearts for us to acknowledge him as Lord and let him in. His kingship is open for us to share in it; it is not a jealously guarded treasure, as Jesus invites everyone to become part of his own body, the Church. But most importantly of all Christ’s kingship is spiritual rule, not a political regime; as his undiscussed sovereignty over all creation will be fully revealed only at the end of time.
So today, at the end of the Christian year, we celebrate and reaffirm our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and King; and after Communion we will consecrate our parish to him loving heart. But our belief in Jesus as King cannot be relegated just to this act of worship. Jesus must reign in us. He must reign in our minds and help us to increase our understanding of our faith; he must reign in our hearts to bring us the much needed peace and joy of knowing him; and he must reign in our bodies that whatever we do in this life may be to his glory and the advancement of his kingdom.