Our world faced turbulent times in the 1920’s. Secularism was on the rise, dangerous dictatorships were emerging in Europe, respect and reverence for the Church was waning and Christians were being told to “compartmentalize” their religion and give their highest allegiance to the government. In the midst of this unrest, in 1925, Pope Pius declared Christ the King Sunday to be celebrated on the last Sunday in October. He wanted a re-focus by all the world to honor and respect Christ as King.
Pope Pius wrote: “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. …If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be a stable peace and tranquility, for there will be no longer any cause of discontent.
The date selected for celebration of Christ the King competed with the Lutheran Reformation Sunday, a day when many Protestants celebrated a thinly veiled contempt for Roman Catholics. The rise of Ecumenism in the 50s allowed Christians to set aside divisions and prejudices, remembering Jesus’ prayer “that they all may be one.” In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the feast day to the last Sunday before Advent. Soon after, Protestants began observing and celebrating Christ the King Sunday on that same last Sunday before Advent.
We observe Christ the King Sunday at Lutheran Church of the Master in two days. We honor and follow a king, not one in the ruthless style of Caesar or Pilate, nor a king grounded in values of coercion, imperialism, violence and oppression. The one we claim as our King models loving hospitality, embracing all, no exceptions. Our King rules with mercy, forgiveness and compassion.
In the realm of our King, the greatest is the one who serves, the strongest uses no coercion, citizenship papers vest each of us with the responsibility to embrace and witness to the values by which our King Jesus lived. In the realm of our King, we care for one another, we replace retribution with forgiveness, all of creation rests in our safekeeping, given over to faithful stewardship. With Christ as King, we behold a “world … charged with the grandeur of God” (Gerald Manley Hopkins).
“And after our praying, we are called to witness: to witness to the One who demonstrated power through weakness, who manifested strength through vulnerability, who established justice through mercy, and who built the kingdom of God by embracing a confused, chaotic, and violent world, taking its pain into his own body, dying the death it sought, and rising again to remind us that light is stronger than darkness, love is stronger than hate, and that with God, all good things are possible.” – David Lose