We Christians say that we expect Christ to come back. We pray in the Lord’s own words every Sunday: Thy Kingdom come. Yet, I suspect that most of us approach that with a fairly dashed set of expectations about a better world that never quite comes. (We have been waiting for Christ’s second coming since St. Paul.) The present is not ok, it is not enough, and yet we seem fine with an imperfect world imperfectly lived. We say we are waiting for God to come again, but sometime I wonder. Are we really waiting for something more? Would we be happy – or inconvenienced – should Christ suddenly reappear in a spectacular fashion?
And then suppose Christ returned as King not to console us, but to confound and overturn the conservative control of the Church? Or to dethrone the Pope? Or to kick out the liberals? Or to point out that the Lutherans were right all along? What if He acted in a way that upsets our familiar and comfortable routines? Would we really welcome Christ as King on those terms?
We hear Jesus say in today’s Gospel: “My kingdom is NOT of this world” and, like Pilate, we breathe a sigh of relief as if somehow that lets us off the hook. Not so fast, my friends. Not so fast. For here is THE inconvenient truth – as often as we receive the Body of Christ and drink of his Blood, we pledge to work for and struggle to create the world that Jesus died to bring into being. Vatican II teaches us that the expectation of “a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one….” (“Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” No. 39).
So, what might it look like for us to work seriously for the return of the king? I came up with a quick list of three attitudes/approaches to life that somehow must change.
I, who at 55, have hardly known a time without war, either for the U.S. or for the world, have to believe that our attitude toward war and violence would have to change. Somehow, we would have to take seriously our Lord’s command in Matthew to “Love your enemies,” and in Luke, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you”, and in Mark, “to forgive anyone who harms us so that God might in turn forgive us.” Think of how different would our interactions with our families look if we let forgiveness have the first, middle and last word! Maybe I am naïve, but what would the world look like if the first plank in our foreign policy was based on forgiveness and the loving of our enemies? Maybe it sounds crazy, but 55 years of wars and violence have not produced peace. Maybe something as crazy as forgiving and loving our enemies might bring about something wonderful in our world.
2nd, if we took seriously the image from the Book of Revelation which tells us us that Christ has made us all into a kingdom of priests for God, then we have another task to do. Our roles as priest, me by ordination and you by baptism, call us to sanctify the world, to make it holy by our prayer and our actions. So the gifts that we bring to the altar are not just the gifts of bread and wine, but our acts of love, justice and compassion. These help to sanctify the world. To live creating the kingdom means we are to work with Christ to make holy this world, by our uniting our prayer and work with Jesus the high priest.
Finally, the vocabulary of best and strongest and mightiest would have no place in our hearts or our actions. Instead, we would see ourselves always as foot washers of the last and least and lost among us. No matter the color or gender or creed, all would be treated with respect and dignity. All would know the servant love modeled by Jesus at the last supper, now mirrored in our love.
I suspect there is much more that would have to happen in our hearts should Jesus return as king. The question is – Are you willing to live differently because Christ is King? And if your heart is unsure, then here is a little challenge. Read the entire front section of the Newspaper for a week, or watch the evening news for a week. Then, remembering all you read or saw, ask “Can I or the world afford for me not to live differently because Christ is King?”