We have learned to embrace God as all-loving, all-caring, and all-forgiving. On this Christ the King Sunday we might imagine God as a the ultimate benevolent rulerâone who takes care of his subjects and provides a peaceful, safe, and satisfying environment. Wouldnât we be pleased with a ruler who welcomes everyone, outcasts and all, who tended to the needs of those who are most vulnerable, and who healed the sick? Wouldnât we love to have a king who takes care of all this for us?
Yet such is not the image we have before us today. The Christ as King that we experience in todayâs Gospel reading is one who doesnât do everything for us but gives the work back to the people. Further, what we see is a king who is willing to judge his subjects by how well they do the work he gives them to do.
Jesus does this through a parable about a godly requirement that we engage in ministry to the oppressed and under-served of our time. Through it, we are reminded that his is a Gospel of love, justice, and mercy offered to us as a discipline for our lives.
Jesus is clear that if we are to accept him as Lord and King of our lives, we have to make his way the purpose of our livesâthat we will do the work of tending to the needs of others. In the most precise terms, he outlines what is expected from those who hope to share in his heavenly reign.
The choice between the two ways that Christ offers his followers is what will separate us from permanently living within or without the kingâs presence. Those who would walk in his way, do the work he has given us to do, will choose to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, cloth the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. The un-faithful, who do not connect with the values of this godly kingdom, will choose to ignore the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison.
The faithful will see everyone as a brother or sister in Christ and will respond to the need to care for all God's children. The un-faithful will keep to themselves and cling to what they have, remaining safe from the risk of contamination by the vulnerable and unwashed. The faithful will enter the realm of this ruler, and the unfaithful will be cast into utter punishment.
The rewards are great for connection with the kingâfor those who do so will, by embracing this kingly purpose, receive power and meaning in their lives. They will walk their days with a savior king who transforms them again and again into a people who take joy in helping others. They will delight in working to change oppressive systems and human structures that fail to serve the needy and work against relieving troubled lives and broken sprits.
On the other hand, the all-too human and natural choice of ignoring this power and failing to use what we have been given for the sake of others will deny us the joy and meaning that one can find in the godly kingdom.
God's call is for us to take the resources he has given us and use them for the good of the weak and powerless. Godâs judgment is reserved for those of us who do not use it for such good, who fail to find their purpose in profoundness of giving in love without condition.
It is not easy to accept a parable of judgment such as the one we consider today. It is necessary, though, for us to understand the truth of its meaning. Today, Jesus teaches us that when we stand before God, we will not be asked how well we worshiped in church, but how our worship transformed us into people who actively cared for those in need.
The focus of Christ the King Sunday makes us mindful to stand before God by making a positive, unqualified, declaration of faith that Jesus Christ is the kingâthe supreme ruler of our livesâthe one to whom we stand and sit and walk and act in obedience. Let our prayer this day be that we may have the courage and the commitment to become more and more a part of the reign of God described in todayâs parable.