Christ the King C, November 20, 2016
I hope you know the C.S. Lewis series called The Chronicles of Narnia, and especially the first book in the series: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
If you haven’t read the book, then perhaps you’ve seen the movie of the same name that was made several years ago, which is very faithful to the book.
In any case, if you consider yourself an Episcopalian—or indeed if you’re a Christian of whatever variety—you should read the Narnia books.
They’re very entertaining, but—more than that—they’re an allegory for understanding the world from a Christian perspective.
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, Lewis gives us an imaginative picture of life in the “real” world:
The Kingdom of Narnia has fallen under the power of the White Witch, who rules it with a heavy hand.
The Witch rules as queen, but everyone knows she is not the legitimate monarch.
She rules by virtue of her evil magic, and all the creatures of Narnia live in fear of her.
Even the land itself, and its climate, have succumbed to the Witch’s spell.
For “in Narnia, it is always winter, but never Christmas!”
Narnia is a land of little freedom and little joy.
But there is hope.
Even the evil Queen cannot eliminate hope.
There is an ancient prophecy that some day the rightful King will return.
On that day, the curse of the White Witch will be un-done.
The land and its inhabitants will be set free, and life will be joyful once again.
All will be well—when the rightful King is restored to his throne!
As I said, Lewis is deliberately creating an allegory: an imaginative way of understanding what has gone wrong in our world—and what it will take to set it right.
The world as we know it scarcely shows any evidence of being ruled by a benevolent power.
It is true that from time-to-time we encounter situations where good triumphs over evil, and right prevails over wrong.
Sometimes, justice is actually done.
And every day there are countless individual acts of goodness and kindness and generosity and forgiveness.
Thank God for the good that there is!
But just as often, the opposite occurs.
The forces of evil and corruption and selfishness and cruelty—along with widespread indifference to injustice and suffering—are evident all around us.
Everywhere there are “wars and rumors of wars.”
Crime rules the streets of our cities, while incompetence rules the halls of government.
Even the forces of Nature seem to turn against us, as tragedy and disaster claim millions of lives.
The evening news reveals a world that—as a whole—resembles Lewis’ Narnia.
There is little freedom and little joy,
and most of the world’s people live in fear.
It’s as if the good world that God created has fallen under an evil spell.
And that—of course—is precisely what Christianity says.
The world has fallen under an evil spell!
The Rightful King no longer rules His domain.
His throne has been usurped by an imposter.
His people are under the evil thumb of Sin, Death, and the Devil.
Even the goodness of the natural world has been affected.
That is what Christianity says has gone wrong.
But there is hope!
Hope that—by God’s grace—springs eternal in the human heart.
And there are ancient prophecies that feed our hope.
Scripture promises that some day the Rightful King will return.
On that day, the curse will be un-done.
All creation will be redeemed and set free.
Life will be joyful once again.
The burden of sin will be removed.
Satan will be banished from his place of power.
And the “last enemy to be destroyed will be death.”
All will be well—when the Rightful King is restored to His throne!
Today is the “Last Sunday after Pentecost”—the last Sunday of the Church Year.
And the Church Year goes out, not with a whimper, but with a bang!
Today is a celebration day, the “Festival of Christ the King.”
The collect of the day calls Christ “the King of Kings and Lord of Lords,”
under whose “most gracious rule” the “peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin,” are destined to be “set free and brought together.”
We acknowledge as we say this prayer that the day of unity and freedom is not now.
It has not yet arrived, but is still to come.
It is the day promised in today’s reading from the Prophet Jeremiah, when the “Righteous Branch” of David will finally “reign as King.”
On that day he will finally bring “justice and righteousness” to the land, and all God’s people will be “saved.”
It is the day all humanity hopes for, when finally all will be well.
But this begs the question of what we should do until that day comes.
In 1939, during the darkest days of World War II, the German Luftwaffe was bombing the city of London every night and every day.
The carnage and destruction was horrific, and the effect upon British morale was devastating.
The Royal Ministry of Information was charged with the task of creating a slogan that would galvanize the will to resist, and give the people hope.
A number of different posters were proposed to be placed in the subways and other public places.
The one they finally settled on was a stroke of quintessentially British genius.
On the background of the British flag, with a silhouette of the king’s crown above, were the following words:
“Keep calm and carry on.”
“Keep calm and carry on.”
That says it all in a nutshell!
That is what Christians must do while waiting for the return of our King!
We can “keep calm and carry on” because we can trust God.
Today’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus was crucified, his enemies mocked Him and taunted Him.
They said “if you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”
But Jesus chose not to show His power in that way.
He chose instead to bear the suffering they inflicted on Him, and to die on a cross.
The King chose not to save Himself,
but to save us instead!
His prayer of “Father, forgive them,” was fulfilled for us by His death.
And His promise of “Paradise” will be fulfilled for all creation upon His return.
All will be well—when the Rightful King is restored to His throne.
Until that day, we are His witnesses and His servants in this troubled world.
He has commanded us to serve Him by serving the “least” of his brothers and sisters.
He has warned us not to be overcome by the evil in the world, but to “overcome evil with good.”
He has taught us to “pray always, and not to lose heart.”
And now—as we await his return—may Christ the King grant us the grace to “Keep calm and carry on.”
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