November 24, 2019

Job Posting: King of the Universe
Christ the King Sunday
Pentecost 24, Proper 29, Year C
Becky Robbins-Penniman

Today is Christ the King Sunday, and it’s relatively new on our church calendar, less than 100 years old. In dog years, that’s 700 years ago. In church years, that’s day before yesterday. Its placement on the last Sunday of the church year is to emphasize that Jesus Christ is both the beginning and the end our hope: next Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, the season when we anticipate not only the birth of Jesus into human time, but the end of time itself, when, as our Creed puts it, Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

One of the problems for us Americans on Christ the King Sunday is that we know bupkis about kings. The last one we had to deal with was George III, with whom we went to war. Snide political jokes aside, the United States of America has been free of monarchs since 1783. So, here we citizens of a democracy are, in church, talking about the King of the Universe. Never mind that normal everyday peons like us don’t get to be king-makers, and never mind, either, that there isn’t a job opening for King of the Universe, if you had to write a job posting, a classified ad, for the position, what would you put in there as qualifications? Where would we start? What kind of monarch would we seek?

I’m not galloping off into politics; this is a theological question – perhaps the most important theological question we’ll ever answer. Because, as the Franciscans put It, “What you seek is what you are.” So, what do we seek in the King of the Universe? Our answer tells us who we are. Who are we? What kind of God do we think God should be? Because if God is our King and rules us, the kind of God we seek indicates what WE ourselves think WE should be.

To answer that, we need to be clear about what our desired goal is, what we hope the final culmination of all history will be. That will tell us what qualifications we need to put in our job posting. Remarkably, there are all kinds of possibilities that we can justify with this Bible passage or that one. In the Revelation to John, the end comes after an epic military battle, when scavenging birds gorge themselves on all human flesh. Is that what we want to put in the job posting? “Candidate must be able to slay the unworthy, the flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great. This ability to slay EVERYONE in one battle was the height of awesome power 2,000 years ago. Many religious people sought this power. Bishops had armies that rode out to slay enemies in God’s name; kings by the dozen claimed God’s sanction for wiping out enemy cities.

If what we seek is what we are, there is a pretty solid argument that humanity sought to be the ones capable of wiping out the flesh of all, AND we’ve achieved it; we now can do it with the push of a few buttons. It would all be over in less than a day. God is no more powerful at making the earth melt than we are. Since we can do that job ourselves, we don’t need a King of the Universe for that.

What do we need a King of the Universe for?
Remember, how we answer that is also saying what WE want to be…

Read the full sermon text HERE.

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