I had the privilege of taking the service on 24th November in 2013 which was Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in Ordinary Time before Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year. This article is based on that sermon.
I thought that this celebration must date from the Middle Ages, but discovered recently Pope Pius XI added it in 1925. He intended it as a day to celebrate and remember Christ’s kingship over all creation, as well as remind us that all humankind must submit to Christ’s rule. For many, the images of kings and kingdoms conjure up thoughts of tyrants, for some living under autocratic regimes life is one of repression and fear. The kingship of God through his son Jesus takes on a very different form than does the kingship of any earthly ruler. Psalm 46 helps us to appreciate some of the ways in which God’s rule is so different:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The psalmist tells us of the places where God can be found, and will be praised. He tells us that wherever we are, God is with us and that God is our fortress in times of trouble.
Remembering that God is there, that God is our King is for many of us a daily challenge. Many people spend a good deal of their working life away from their home, with little routine, and often moving from hotel to hotel as they live their lives on the move and out of a suitcase. Many are also on the move but are far less fortunate, living in temporary accommodation or even sofa surfing with friends with no permanent home.
For those living out of a suitcase, or in temporary accommodation it’s a challenge to try to find space in their daily life for God. The traveller has to squeeze God in between the appointments, laptop, files, reading for meetings, the spare shirt, and quite often there doesn’t seem to be much space for him, either in the suitcase or in the working day. When travelling we might try to kid ourselves that with our smart phone we have the entire bible, so have remembered him, and found space for God. Many living in temporary accommodation rarely have the stability or resources to be able to set aside a regular time for God. Other pressures often overwhelm and crowd God out. Travelling and living out of a suitcase rarely has a routine and is full of distractions, many entirely understandable and legitimate.
Finding time for God to be your King, setting aside time to pray, being in solitude with God is so much easier when you are in one place, day in day out, life has a routine, you can see around you what God has done for you. We all need encouragement, we need prompts, reminders that God is our King. For those living on the edge such reminders can be their life blood. A cross, quotes on fridge magnets, pictures, photographs, books – we can set aside a special place and a special time to be with our `God and King.
But if it’s a different hotel room every night or a friends sofa that’s your home, then it’s not impossible but it’s certainly more difficult to find time to be with our God. A warm meal, a smile, a few pounds or a new coat given with a few words of encouragement become reminders that God loves you and is your King. Discipleship is only possible when we have support and encouragement, and are surrounded by reminders of Gods love. I have no doubt that Paul and the disciples needed reminders that Jesus had died for them, the Holy Spirit was with them and God was their King.
Prayer cards, postcards, fridge magnets with quotes may seem trivial but each can help remind who is King in our life. Many of us still have prayer cards given to us in our student days. the ichthus or Christian fish symbol was once commonly given as a lapel pin during outreach events. Daily devotions, podcasts, Christian screen savers, apps and setting alarms to remind you to pray, or to read the bible are some of the many ways which can help us to appreciate God as our King. Food parcels, hot meals, essential toiletries are more tangible reminders for those living on the edge that God is King.
The psalmist says “ come and see what the Lord has done”, but whether it’s because we are travelling or our life has no routine, few of us are discipled enough to set aside the time, unless we give ourselves or are given reminders.
Wherever you are, whenever you travel, and whatever you are doing always make sure you have something to remind yourself that God is always with you. And perhaps carry a spare so you can remind a friend.
The reminder that I carry is a card with the prayer of St Richard, former bishop of Chichester. It helps me remember that God is my King, and remember my time worshiping in the cathedral.
Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.