Toorak Uniting Church

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Christ as King

Colossians 1:11 20
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
21 November 2004

Today is Christ the King, a relatively young special Sunday on the Christian Calendar, instated as recently as 1925 by the pope as a stand against growing fascist movements in Europe. It was a demonstrative move that said: Whatever the rest of the world says or does, for us it is still Christ that is and ever will be the King of our lives.

Thinking about Jesus and what it means when we celebrate this Sunday and say Christ is King, or ruler of our lives, my thoughts went to the images we see of Christ around us, here in our Church.
First of all, of course, there are the beautiful stained glass windows. Colourful, expressive pictures of a Christ which are admittedly rather 19th century, but at the same time seek to convey some of the essence of what we hear in the gospel stories that Christ is, or should be in our lives.

I’d like to look at the ones on this side of the Church this morning to see what they have to tell us about the Christ who we profess to be, on this Sunday, the King or ruler of our lives.

There is the image of Mary, holding the child on her lap, showing it to the Magi who have come to bring it their gifts and their homage, kneeling before it with reverence. It’s a story full of wonder we will once again hear in a couple of weeks when we celebrate Christmas. The story that somehow God came to earth in this child and that the kings of the earth recognized and acknowledged this from the start.
There is another image of Christ with his mother though, the statue of the Madonna and child a bit hidden at the side of the west chapel. There we see Christ at his most vulnerable: hidden in the folds of the robes of his mother, being cared for, looked after, needing protection, and the safety of a mother’s embrace to help him grow up to what he is later to be.

Next to the window with the picture of the baby Jesus there is the window that shows Jesus washing the feet of his friends at the last supper. He who is the King of the Universe acting like a servant. Serving his friends at a moment where death already looms darkly on the horizon and the fear and anxiety of Gethsemane cast their shadows in front. That last supper heavy with the expectation of what is to come, but Jesus putting himself and his own suffering aside for the moment, serving his friends. Putting himself last and in the lowest place in their company.

Then, on the other side, there is the picture of Mary recognizing Jesus in the garden after the resurrection and on the other window Jesus as he appears to her.
An image about how the power of God’s love and light penetrates any darkness and overcomes it. Mary thought all was lost. Death after all had always been the last and irreversible end of everything. It was very difficult to imagine that there could be anything after that.
And there is Christ, in the early morning light, greeting her with the power of new and different life.

Last but not least here, behind me, is the picture of the good shepherd. Jesus as the shepherd who guides his sheep and cares for them. Carrying them in his arms, looking for them when they get lost. With in the bottom left hand corner the daughter of Jairis who is brought back from death indicating that Christ’s power to love and care reaches beyond the boundaries of death.

When we look at what Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians he echoes those stories, those basic images of our faith in more formal and philosophical language. Probably using a hymn that already existed to express what Christ was for him, and what he thinks Christ should be for his friends in Colossai.

May you be made strong he says, may Christ empower you through what you have received from him. He rescued you from the power of darkness. God is prepared to stay with us in our suffering till the very end, that he showed in going to the cross and suffering death in Jesus Christ. And after that he made it clear through the resurrection that even where we make a mess of things God’s love will hold life together.

What God is, his fullness of being, was shown in Jesus Christ says Paul. Revealing God not as a powerful ruler who can crush an enemy in an instant. But as a compassionate, loving, merciful God who finds his deepest expression where people are vulnerable, where people serve and are being served, a God who goes into the deepest darkness ahead of us to show us the way to light and life on the other side. A God whose care and nurturing and guidance even extends to those who are, in human eyes, beyond help.

When Paul says all things are created through Christ and in Christ what he means is nothing else than that anything that God has made is full of the same presence we saw in Christ. Everything that we see from the start filled with the purpose of life such as was revealed in Christ. Anything that can ever be of any importance and duration bearing that same image of Christ.

In Christ we see God, as vulnerable as a child can be, in Christ we see God, serving others before attending to his own needs, in Christ we see God, coming back from the darkness of death to offer forgiveness, redemption and the light of a love and compassion that won’t be extinguished by any power of darkness.

We are surrounded by powerful images that tell the story of that Christ in a nutshell: A God come to earth, fragile, serving, caring, strong enough to conquer death.

The church, according to Paul the place where people are prepared to let that vulnerable, servant, shepherd King rule their lives. And that is what we confirm and celebrate on this Sunday. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2004

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