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Jeremiah 23.1-6Colossians 1.11-20Luke 23.33-43

The feast of Christ the King, coming as it does, right at the end of the church year, is a feast full of paradox.Next week advent will begin – we will look ahead to the humble birth of Christ as a homeless refugee baby, the beginnings of our salvation story. The shops of course would have us leap ahead not just to advent, to that season of waiting, of preparation, but to Christmas itself. In fact they have been working on that since about September!But today, this feast at the end of the liturgical year, gives us opportunity to reflect on the kingship of Christ, and what it has meant to us to be people of his kingdom over the past twelve months. We do so aware that Jesus is a different kind of king, with a different kind of kingdom

This king came not to be served, but to serve; this is a king whose kingdom is drastically different from the earthly kingdoms with which we are more familiar; a king whose power is made perfect in his weakness; a king who mingles with the meek and parties with the poor; a king who models for us what it means to live as citizens of a different kind of kingdom, often in ways which disturb and challenge us. Because, if we’re honest, most of us would rather be disciples, followers, of a king with the trappings of royalty which are more familiar – prestige, palaces, power. That kind of king, that kind of kingdom, is a little more comfortable.

The kingdom of God is a multi-layered theme which permeates the whole of scripture. The Old Testament is full of stories of kings – good kings, bad kings; kings who reigned for many years; kings who were toppled from their throne in days; kings who led their subjects wisely, kings who were corrupt and conniving; kings who tried to follow God’s ways with varying degrees of commitment, and kings who set themselves up in opposition to God’s rule. King David, appointed by God, a king to be shepherd over God’s people – a king who did a better job of shepherding than many of the others, but still fell short in his kingly function.He was, after all, human. Human and flawed like the rest of us.

Then comes the New Testament, the dawn of a new age, the age of the kingdom of God, which Jesus inaugurates. Jesus talked all the time about the kingdom of God.He told parables, stories, painted word pictures to show what it was like – a mustard seed, seeds sown on different ground, yeast, a pearl, treasure – so many different things. He also said it was here, it was coming soon, it was near, we should pray for it to come. All a bit confusing and contradictory. Is it here, or not, this kingdom of God? Good question? And the answer is, well yes, and no!It’s both here, and not yet here. It’s a different kind of kingdom, for which different rules of time and space apply.

When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God being near, he was signalling that his arrival was significant. His kingship, in a sense, was only fully ratified when God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. It was as Jesus conquered death and his earthly mission was accomplished that he became king of kings. And yet he was who he was from the beginning of all time, and what he is, was, and will be, stands in the age to come as well, whatever that may be!A different kind of king. A different kind of kingdom.

So it’s different because it’s a heavenly realm kingdom, not bound by time and space.It’s different because it’s the kingdom of God. It’s different because it’s a supernaturally charged kingdom in which miracles happen, and in which we live for eternity.It’s different because its king is the son of God. The son of God!No ordinary, earthly king. The king of kings.

These are all huge, mind blowing and complex differences.Spiritual concepts which stretch us, rightly, beyond our human limitations. A different king of king, a different kind of kingdom.

But as we reflect on the kingship of Christ, we see a more earthbound, a more practical difference inherent in this kind of king, in this kind of kingdom. A difference which perhaps challenges us more, in its sheer simplicity.

Jesus teaches that the citizens of his kingdom are those who feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit those in prison, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger. These are not the things you expect princes and princesses to do, day in, day out, and the kinds of people he is associating himself with, are not those who normally would be associated with a king.Jesus is a different kind of king. A king who mingles with the meek and parties with the poor; a king who models for us what it means to live as citizens of this different kind of kingdom in a way which is mysterious, which begs further exploration, perhaps a change of attitude.

Asking for God’s kingdom to come, as we do whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer, is asking perhaps for a kingdom to come where different rules apply, where the powerless are empowered, the sick healed, the lonely invited into community, the captives set free ……. And not sometime in the future, but now, on earth as it is in heaven. Because the kingdom of God isn’t just about the future.For Christians eternity began the moment we acknowledged Jesus. The kingdom of God is now.

That’s why we are called, as Christians in the Diocese of Worcester, to be Kingdom People. Not because it’s a catchy phrase to put on our websites and publicity, but because it’s core to being Christian. If we are here to worship Christ, the king of kings, then as his people, citizens of his kingdom, we live with the ‘different kind of kingdom’ values.We have, in effect, dual citizenship.

The values of love, compassion, justice and freedom, when lived out wholeheartedly, bring the kingdom of God into the now, rather than the not yet. These are the values which signpost to others that there is more, there is something of eternal significance to be engaged with, there is a parallel way of regarding life, the universe and everything which has timeless, eternal significance. To join in the adventure of living as kingdom people, citizens of a different kind of kingdom, with a different kind of king, is something I pray for, for all in this diocese.

This Sunday is often referred to as ‘stir up Sunday’, not as some would think, to do with making Christmas puds, but because in the post communion prayer we ask God to sir us up to bring forth the fruit of good works. Let’s allow ourselves to be stirred up by the challenges of living in a different kind of kingdom, thankful for the selfless and sacrificial love of our different kind of king.

Questions:

  • What does it mean for you to have dual citizenship in the kingdom of heaven?
  • What can we learn about our kingdom values of love, compassion, justice and freedom from the way Jesus inhabits his kingship?