I love Reign of Christ Sunday but sadly I believe those of us who do are few in number. Reign of Christ Sunday is the last Sunday in the Christian calendar. As such it is meant to be a fun celebratory wrap of the year past. It can be compared to the Jewish celebration of Simchat Torah (a yearly festival celebrating the completion of the reading of Torah. People dance in the synagogue carrying the holy book)
Reign of Christ used to be called “Christ the King Sunday” and therein may lay the problem. It may be too closely associated with a hierarchical notion of divinity with Jesus seated at the right hand of God the Father. That imagery doesn’t speak to many people today. I can’t say that it is particularly meaningful to me. But Reign of Christ Sunday can be so much more. I read somewhere recently this thought, “Jesus brings together opposites – divine/human, male/female, power/weakness.” This struck me as an important bit of theology for our time. We are living in such a divided society. The idea is that in the cross all are able to see their woundedness, their true identity and therefore all are reconciled. This is what I think we should be celebrating on Reign of Christ Sunday.
The gospel reading for this year’s Reign of Christ Sunday is particularly good. It is Matthew 25, the part in which Christ the king returns and judges the peoples (so far a very hierarchical sense of divinity) but he judges based on how the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned have been treated. The Christ says, “when you fed, welcomed, clothed, cared for, and visited these you did so for me.” (a very humble sense of divinity)
We used to sing stuff like, “Rejoice, the Lord is King” or “Crown Him with Many Crowns” on Christ the King Sunday. Now we sing things like, “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd”, a wonderful hymn by Sylvia Dunstan. It has lines like, “you Lord are both prince and slave… you who are both gift and cost… shining in eternal glory, beggared by a soldier’s toss.” It holds in tension the many views we have of Christ.
Next week we will start a new year, we will enter into Advent but for this week, “happy Reign of Christ Sunday.” May you revel in the tensions and paradoxes of the day. May you celebrate all the ways your faith has grown over the past year.