November 16, 2022, 8:00 AM

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:78-79 - Song of Zachariah (Canticle 16)

St. Francis would not have envisioned the kingly stature of the Christ. For St. Francis, the little Jesus, even with a small crown, would have been a stretch of the imagination. Simplicity ran through his utmost thoughts, and it was in an opposite direction from how the rest of the world thought.

Christ the King Sunday is celebrated this week on the last Sunday of the liturgical church year. Advent begins the new church year and starts the following week. While Anglican, Lutheran (ELCA), Roman Catholic, Moravian, and Reformed Churches all celebrate Christ the King Sunday, the designation of “Christ the King,” or “Feast of Christ the King,” are relatively new terms in the history of the church.

This special day was originally instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 after World War I where secular forces like kings seemed to hold all the power in the world. In his mind, the kingdoms that needed to be defeated included the growing idea of separation of church and state in the west, communism in Russia, and fascism in Italy and Spain. In order to re-establish a foothold over these “kingdoms,” Pope Pius XI elevated Christ (the real King) to center stage by proclaiming the celebration of an annual Christ the King Sunday.

While the emphasis was meant to uplift the importance of living in a new way - the Way of Christ - in a changing culture, churches today seem to have missed the key message embedded in this special Sunday. In recent years, I have noticed gold jewel-studded crowns placed on the top of crosses in the sanctuary, and hymns of praise sung such as, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” or “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” However, the Scripture readings for the day turn any sense of total celebration upside down.

While Zachariah proclaims that a way of peace will come through the tender compassion of God, the reading from the Epistle (Colossians 1:19-20) emphasizes that the God who makes peace does so through blood. The final reading in Luke (23:33-43) depicts the crucifixion of Jesus with two thieves hanging on either side of him.

So how does an image of Christ as the King with a gold crown become one of a suffering man with a crown of thorns? Herein, lies the core of Christianity.

Our hearts always want to do what is right, and then we are taken down a path that corrupts even our best, hard-fought efforts. We make ourselves the center of the story. Instead of always doing what is best for others, we end up doing just a little bit for ourselves. We try to justify what we have done. We then try to glorify our actions, falsely believing that God would approve. Who wouldn’t rather rally around Christ as a King with a gold crown than a suffering man with a crown of thorns? It’s much more exciting to catch the bling from the light of a gold crown.

The uneasy truth is that only in following the suffering man with a crown of thorns is there hope, salvation, and life. Anything else is nothing but bling.

May you be filled with Christ’s internal light this week, and not be swayed by the external bling of a golden crown (yours or others).

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John

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