Whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” What do we mean by this? What is God’s kingdom like? And, maybe more importantly, what does it mean to think of Christ, and to pray to Christ, as king? This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year. So, it’s worth asking, what sort of king is Christ?
All the parables of the kingdom are notorious for upending our expectations of what a kingdom of God might look like. They are very often busy reversing our expectations of power and wealth. After all, Christ is not the Prince of Raw Power or the Prince of Earthly Riches, but the Prince of Peace. Christ’s kingdom is not a reign of the ambitious or the power-hungry, but of the peaceable, the compassionate, and the just. Christ’s reign is not the rule of money or wealth, but of giving and giving and giving again to sustain those in need. In Christ’s kingdom lives are not lived to make wealth, but wealth is made to sustain lives worth living.
When I think of Christ the King, I think of a song by the evangelical song-writer Rich Mullins, who tragically died some years ago in a car crash. One of his last songs opens with the question, “Who’s that man?”
Who’s that man?
Says he’s a prophet
Well I wonder if he’s got something up his sleeve.
Where’s he from?
Who is his Daddy?
There’s rumors he even thinks himself a king.
Of a kingdom of paupers, simpletons, and rogues.
The whores all seem to love him
And the drunks propose a toast.
And they say, “Surely God is with us. Surely God is with us.
They say, “Surely God is with us, today.”
A Kingdom of paupers, simpletons, and rogues. Whores and drunks singing, “Surely, God is with us.” This is the kingdom of Christ. Not kingdom of the glamorous or the well-born, the powerful or the rich, not even a kingdom of the respectable. But a meeting-ground between God and those who know their need for God is the greatest.
This is what the Gospels describe. This is what we pray for. That Christ’s kingdom, in which the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given water, the naked are clothed, and, above all, in which the lonely enjoy the very friendship of Christ–this is what we pray for every week when we pray, “Thy kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven.”
As this pandemic lengthens, as our deep anxieties about our communities and our nation continue to lurk, and as we consider the work of our parish community and how Christ might be calling us to open wide our hands in generous pledging, let us cast our eyes on our King and set our sights on fostering his kingdom of paupers, simpletons, rogues. Let us hold fast this wonderful truth: that in Christ, in our worship and mutual care, in the mission of St. Mary’s, and in all that we undertake in our common life, Surely, God is with us, today!