Christ the King, Year C
The Rev. Amy Morehous
November 24, 2013
“And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely
and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”
― Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
I’m going to begin with a story. And some of you are going to recognize that story somewhere in the middle. It’s a story many of us have heard, or told, many times over.
The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him "wild thing!" and Max said, "I'll eat you up!"
So he was sent to bed without eating anything.
That very night in Max's room a forest grew.
And grew and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around.
And an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max.
And he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks
And almost over a year to where the wild things are!
And when he came to the place where the wild things are they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.
'Til Max said "Be Still!" And tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once. And they were frightened. And called him the most wild thing of all. And made him King of All Wild Things.
I know most of you know that story. The story of Max, the King of all wild things, is 50 years old this weekend. For half a century, parents and children have told Maurice Sendak's story, and pretended, and imagined, and dreamed and returned home together.
We've loved Max so, through all these years, because we know Max. We are Max. We yearn for all the same things. To be the King. The Boss. The one who makes all the rules. To imagine wild things, and voyage to amazing places. We each know, deep in our hearts, that we would make terrific kings of all wild things. And we all yearn, deeply and passionately, to know there is a home to which we can return when we need to be fed.
For a while, we all want to be The One in charge. The Man. She Who Must Be Obeyed. We like to know who's first. Who does the most. Who has the most. Who is the most.
Max becomes king of all the wild things. He revels in the wild rumpus. And for a bit, that satisfies. But it does not last.
"Now stop," Max said.
And sent the wild things off to bed without their supper.
And Max the King of all wild things was lonely, and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.
Then all around from far away across the world, he smelled good things to eat.
So he gave up being king of where the wild things are.
Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye,
And sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room, where he found his supper waiting for him. And it was still hot.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. The end of the liturgical year. Christ's kingship is hard for us to understand. Our idea of a King is shaped so much by the world around us. By thinking that we can be in charge of our own wild rumpus.
But today, the Gospel gives us a completely different picture of a King.
Today we are reminded that that same King we affirm as the King of all things is also the one who is crucified. A King who suffers. A King who dies on the cross.
Was this the King you were looking for, today, on this Christ the King Sunday? A first century Hebrew? Crucified. Suffering. Mocked.
A king whose last acts before his death were ones of forgiveness and mercy - acts we too often take as weakness, but in fact, are the most profound strength.
Here is Christ the King, living the end of his human life, giving us his last words. Words of forgiveness. Words of mercy. Forgiveness and mercy take boldness. They take bravery. Forgiving someone else makes you the bigger person, not the smaller. Christ is perfect, yes, and we are not, but in his perfection he is showing us the way in which we, too, can change, can grow.
Too often, if we stand in church, and say we want to grow, we're talking of size. But, there's other growth that Christ points us to, today. Yes, I think if we practice the things he's demonstrating, we grow stronger as a congregation. We can grow closer to God. We can grow closer to one another. We can grow in knowledge and love of Christ As we do, we multiply the forgiveness and mercy we have to give away. In one of those amazing paradoxes, giving it away means you have more, not less. The more you forgive, the more your capacity for forgiveness.
And why on earth would we want to do that? Why would we want to swim against the cultural tide, and practice mercy and forgiveness?
Because Christ is King. Because God has come to his people and set them free. Because the King of All Things, the firstborn of creation, in whom all things hang together, came down to walk among us and to extend love and mercy and forgiveness to us. To us. In turn, in our amazement and our thanksgiving, we extend the same mercy and forgiveness to those around us.
If Christ truly is King, then it must be true that we are not. Have you crucified Christ the King? Does he hold first place in your life? In your heart? The good news is that if you have let other things crowd him out, even when you didn't know what you were doing, you will be forgiven. We all will be. No matter what we have done, no matter where we have been, what we have done with our life, Christ offers us forgiveness. In the confession today, on this last Sunday of the year, confess those things that weigh on your heart and let them go. All the things that compete to be crowned King of your life. Turn them over, lift them up to God, and ask freely for the forgiveness for which you thirst, and the strength you need to live into this free, forgiven life.
One of our deepest, darkest fears is that there is no place for us, that we will somehow be left out. But Christ promises a place in the eternal kingdom. God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the beloved Son in whom we have redemption. Our place is already there, prepared for us. When we get there, the person who loves us best of all will be there, and our dinner will still be hot.
But the amazing thing is that we do not have to wait 'til we sail our boats over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night. We can participate in that kingdom here and now, in relationship with one other. We can be in relationship with Christ right now. With each neighbor we meet, each coworker, each person in line in the grocery store. With each interaction we have with someone else, we can show them a glimpse of the kingdom of God. So much of this world pushes us to put the unimportant first. To put ourselves first. To put fear first. Or greed. Don't let the culture of fear, and anger and impatience get in the way of living free lives, lives of mercy. Lives of forgiveness.
Like the Colossians, together we, too, will be made strong with all the strength that comes from Christ. Strong in endurance. Strong in mercy. Strong in forgiveness.
Today is the end. But because we believe in the reign of Christ as King over all, we know that in the end is the beginning. Now is that time - time to step into the boat, stretch out our hands and freely accept the strength and forgiveness and mercy which flow directly from the throne of the King. Time to take Christ's mercy and forgiveness out into a world in need. Today is the end...but something new is just around the corner, just about to dawn.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the
shadow of death,*
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.