Sermon for Sunday 21 November 2021
Christ the King 2021
There was once a priest suspected of having an affair with his housekeeper. So the bishop decided he would pay this priest a little visit to work out whether the rumours were true. He turned up one Sunday and celebrated the parish mass, and was invited to the vicarage afterwards for lunch.
The parish priest wanting to make a good impression, decided he would get out the best silver cutlery for the occasion. The lunch went fine and the bishop left, but as the house keeper was doing the washing up, she noticed there was one set of cutlery missing. There could only be one explanation, they thought: the bishop must have pinched it.
So the vicar wrote to his bishop and very tactfully asked if the bishop had just happened entirely by accident to have taken the silver with him when he left. This letter was in no sense intended to point the finger of suspicion, wrote the priest, but it would be good to recover the silver.
The bishop replied my return of post. “Thank you for your letter,” wrote the bishop to his priest. “Neither do I wish to point the finger of suspicion, but if you were sleeping in your own bed at night, you’d know where I’d hidden the silver.”
Secrets. We all have them. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are the focus of great guilt and shame. Some are the cause of pride and joy. Some secrets find us out. Some secrets people take to the grave.
Today in the feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the biggest secret at the heart of human existence.
That secret, that mystery is this. The Christ who lived on earth, was born in a stable, and whose life seemed to end in ignominious defeat on the cross, is actually the universal ruler of all things and all times, and all places. The one who died a criminal’s death rose from the dead, and is seated in glory at the right hand of the Father. Not only is he a king, but one day he will judge all people. Every person who has ever lived will have to account for their actions before him.
So the funny thing about this secret, this mystery, is that eventually it will find us all out. In the life of heaven, we will all be caught up in that divine paradox that the one we worship as a King reigns from a manger and a cross.
So what does this mystery tell us about our lives as Christians? It tells us something very important. Until that time when all people acknowledge Christ as King on the Last Day, there’s one group of individuals he left behind who have to be the signs of Christ’s kingship on earth – and that’s us. We have to be the clues that point to that mystery. We have to let the secret of Christ’s kingship slip through our actions and words.
We have to make it clear that no matter how powerful, or persuasive or compelling the powers and rulers of this world are, as Christians, we have only one King who commands our complete obedience, and that is Christ.
Being a Christian is about showing through our life our allegiance to Christ the universal King.
How many people, for example, imagine money might be a King, only to discover it does not have the power to solve all life’s ills.
How many of us thought we were the all-powerful guarantors of our own health and well being, only to be shown by the present pandemic the fragility of human life and our vulnerability to illness? We have all been guilty of that to some degree.
How often are we tempted to imagine ambition and success at work is the thing that commands our obedience? Clergy are not immune to that one!
How often do we hear of people who have been seduced by the power of violence as knife crime consumes many communities here in London?
In all these situations and in many others, Christ calls us to speak and to act so as to let slip this mystery that he is the only King, the only authority, whose rule will last to eternity. Trusting in anything else other than him will lead to ruin and despair. And the secret we need to let others into is that he is a King whose rule is not one of oppression or violence, but of love, peace and of freedom.
Fr Peter Anthony