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A sermon for Christ The King Sunday

A sermon for Christ The King Sunday.

Next week believe it or not is Advent Sunday heralding the four weeks of preparation  for the feast of Christ’s nativity.

There are several hymns to choose from for our advent worship – and one is by Charley Wesley with music by his brother John. “Lo, he comes with clouds descending”.

It is a hymn which I have always had a problem with – not the tune, but the words.  Mr Wesley must have had the text of today’s epistle in front of him when he wrote the hymn.

“Revelation 1:7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be.”

Hence in the hymn: Every eye shall now behold him, robed in dreadful majesty, we who set at naught and sold him, pierced and nailed him to the tree, deeply wailing, shall the true messiah see.

The Revelation text is a vision of the time when Christ would return to earth, all the nations of the earth, kings and princes would worship him, all worldly powers would be subject to him.  Wesley embellishes it  and says that when Jesus comes again, his ransomed worshippers would endlessly be worshipping his crucifixion scars, the whole world would be adoring him  on his eternal throne.

There is a lot of language here about power, about glory, about claiming the kingdom, about thrones, about people, nations  being under subjection to Jesus the King. It is very triumphalistic language from which I do not find much spiritual nourishment.

Even Victorian hymns which describe the risen Lord Jesus in heaven talk much about glory. “Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour” talks of all of heaven and earth with loud hosanna worshipping the lamb who died – risen, ascended, glorified.

Another Victorian writer, Caroline Noel, wrote  the hymn:  “At the name of Jesus” :

“At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, every tongue confess him King of Glory now. Truly this Lord Jesus, shall return again, with his Father’s glory, with his angel train. For all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow and our hearts confess him King of Glory now”

There are many, many images of God in the bible, and many images of Jesus both in the bible, in Christian theology and in our worship material and hymns.  I wonder how comfortably you sit with the image of Jesus as the King of Glory, with the vision of a whole world worshipping him, all powers in subjugation under him?

Maybe the Victorians liked it. Maybe to people from earlier generations when life was often very tough and there wasn’t much to rejoice about –  having a vision of heaven, of hope of a glorious second coming where the redeemed would be caught up in glory was very appealing. Hope always needs to be at the heart of Christian theology, and maybe for those in dire straights, under pressure and living on constant fear this vision of a glorious future gives comfort. So maybe I shouldn’t be too critical of type of theology

Christians are exposed to a variety of images that have been used to describe Jesus. For example, in various places in Scripture, Jesus is described as: the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of Man, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Bridegroom, the Door, the Vine, the Lamb of God, the Mediator, the Great High Priest, the Lord, the Resurrection and the Life, the Alpha and the Omega, the Word. In addition to all this, in today’s reading from Colossians, Paul describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” as “the head of the body, the church,” as “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,” and as “the fullness of God.” And, if all this weren’t enough, on this last Sunday after Pentecost, we are confronted with yet another image of Jesus: Jesus is a King. Today is “Christ the King Sunday.”

But essentially, what type of King do we have in Jesus?

These words from Philippians  can set the scene:

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (5:5-7a).

Jesus was a king who was different from the moment he was born. He never did conform to the pictures usually associated with kingship, with earthly glory and power.

He wasn’t born in a royal palace, or even into a royal family, but was born  to parents who were virtually peasants. But he didn’t even fit in with his family, for he did things which even they found difficult or embarrassing. At the age of twelve he remained behind in the temple in Jerusalem chatting to the rabbis, while his parents set off on the long journey home, assuming he was with them. And at one point in his ministry his family were so concerned about him that they besieged the house where he was staying in order to bring him home (Matt.12:46-50).

He was regarded as dangerously odd by the religious authorities. Jewish law had always taken into account the needs of the poor, and paid particular attention to widows and orphans. But Jesus took that much further than it had ever been taken before, and actually preached to poor people that the kingdom of God was for them, rather than for the rich.

This was not a kingdom that anybody recognised. Human beings recognise pomp and ceremony and wealth, with all the trappings that wealth can bring. Although we may grumble about the cost of the civil list, we still like to see our royals sumptuously dressed and sparkling with jewels. On the whole, we enjoy royal occasions with all the pageantry they offer. Even today, a royal kingdom which contains only the poor doesn’t sound like a particularly attractive place. It certainly wouldn’t appeal to the tourist industry.

And of course, the sort of preaching that constantly affirmed poor people and outcasts was likely to inflame the passions of the ordinary people, with the danger that they might rise up and attempt to bring in “their” kingdom by force. Hence the arrest of Jesus the leader.

The powers that be, both Jews and Romans, were utterly confused. They had heard Jesus referred to as a king, and they were anxious that he himself might attempt to usurp their own authority, just as all those years ago at the first Christmas, Herod had been terrified that a baby prince had been born who might threaten his own position and that of his family.

And so at Jesus’ trial, Pilate asked Jesus outright, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

By his reply, in which he talked about his kingdom, Jesus implicitly acknowledged that he was indeed a king, although he didn’t use those actual words. Only kings have kingdoms. At any event, Pilate was sufficiently convinced to allow the title, “King of the Jews” to be nailed at the head of the cross, even if it was intended to be ironic.

What are we to make of this strange kingdom where wealth in human terms is unknown and the king is a servant of all? It sounds very much like a contradiction in terms as after all “King” is opposite to “servant”,

How is possible to have a king who washes feet and who cares nothing for earthly power? And how is it possible to follow him?

Perhaps the secret lies in the crucifixion. For Jesus, only one thing mattered – to remain in the most intimate and perfect relationship with God. Against that, nothing else was important. He was prepared to give up his life, to die, rather than move apart from God. But it was through that death that Jesus really came into his  own. He discovered a new and different and glorious life, a kingdom life.

And that’s what he promised again and again for us, his followers. “Don’t worry about earthly power or wealth or anything else,” he urged. “Do as I have done. Be prepared to die, to let your safe and comfortable and secure life go, in order to stay close to me. Take up your cross and follow me, for those who lose their life will find it, while those who try to cling onto wealth and power and comfort and security and all those other very human things, will lose the only thing that matters – the kingdom.”

Today we celebrate the feast day of Christ the King. But during our celebrations, let’s not forget what sort of a king we’re celebrating.

Some hymn words might want us to focus on Jesus the King and ruler o all  sitting in heaven attended by angels and about to return to earth in power and glory.

Far better, I would humbly suggest, to focus on Jesus the servant of all, humble, yet hugely powerful in his humility and servant role.

We do well to remember that the King we follow is very much a servant king – a king with no wealth, no possessions, no human power. A King whose life on earth was lived in the love of his father God,who gave everything for us. A risen Lord Jesus whose spirit is everywhere, within us, around us, always there to nourish, guide and forgive us. He has royal authority over our hearts.

A king who came to earth with nothing born in a stable among animals. A king who died on a  cross. A  king who longs to reign in our hearts and bless us with his presence.


November 21, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Good sermon thanks I appreciate it

    Comment by christ Like | June 22, 2010 | Reply

  2. It was your quotation from Caroline Noel’s marvelous hymn that caught my attention today. But I was stunned that you would equivocate, and suggest that the title “King of glory” for Christ is some kind of Victorianism!

    He is given that title in a messianic Psalm (Ps. 24:7-10). Twice He is called “the Lord of glory” (I Cor. 2:8; Jas. 2:1),and His second coming is described as His “glorious appearing” (Tit. 2:13).

    Christ is slso called “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (I Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). One day, all will bow before Him. I’ll be there, and so will you.

    Comment by rcottrill | December 7, 2010 | Reply

    • Dear Mr Cotrill
      Im always pleased when someone comments on my blog, but you are being a bit hard on me!
      I only offer my homilies to the wider world hoping they may stimulate ideas, maybe help people with their sermon making and prompt questions.

      Of course I know that the concept of the Kingship of God is rooted in OT scripture and theology – GF Handel rather liked the imagery as well as he used some OT scripture in his Messiah – the marvellous Hallelujah Chrous and its King of Kings and Lord of Lord.

      I was merely saying that I sit more comfortably with the image of Christ as the humble servant king – it all depends how we see and understand Jesus in our lives I guess and we will all be different in this. Thank goodness for a rich variety of Christian theology, hymnody and spirituality.

      I hope you and yours have a lovely Christmas and greetings from the UK

      Comment by paxtonvic | December 14, 2010 | Reply

  3. Dear Annette,
    Very good and helpful ideas thanks. I am doing the sermon in a couple of weeks and seeing what others have written. Usually God gives me direct ideas but it is good to see others ideas. Ines

    Comment by Ines Manning | November 9, 2013 | Reply

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