Sunday is the feast day of Christ the King. The celebration is one of those special liturgical bridging days that connects one major season to another.
In this case, the end of the church year comes skidding to a halt as we conclude the long Pentecost season and move into Advent.
The celebration of Christ the King Sunday is a relative liturgical newcomer, having been introduced in 1925 by Pope Pius XI as an answer to the increasing secularism of “modern” society that was eating away at people’s faith.
Pius felt it was necessary “to remind the faithful that whatever political powers might hold sway, ultimately, it is Christ who is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’ ”
Even though he was pope and the spiritual leader of millions, he came up with a very practical, human way of conceiving God as King. From the beginning of recorded history, humans have tried to explain God in terms of our own experiences. We seem to have taken to heart the first Genesis creation story, “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).
So, forever humans have tried to perceive God with human characteristics: eyes, hand, feet, etc. There is a big word for this concept: anthropomorphism, which means “human form.”
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with our efforts to relate to God in this way, but there is some danger that, if in that relating, we might start to pull God to our ways instead of elevating ourselves to God’s ways.
Every generation has heard this siren call to recreate God in our image, and every generation eventually has realized what a wasted effort that has been.
True wisdom happens when we step back and acknowledge that we are the created and not the creator. Monty Python had it right: God is very, very big, and we are very, very small!
We cannot clearly understand God; that’s why that relationship is called faith, but one thing is perfectly clear: for incomprehensible reasons, God is in love with us and has chased us across thousands of years.
Christ the King Sunday, like all of the calendar bridging days, is an opportunity to pause and reflect on our own lives. This particular day invites us to truly acknowledge what we are and who we are. It invites us to reassess our priorities. It invites us to a mid-course correction in our lives.
Looking at God in Christ as “King” does fall short of the mark, but it’s about the best we can do. Being subjects of Christ the King shouldn’t be too hard. The King asks very little and even offers a promise: Seek first my Kingdom and my righteousness, and everything else will fall into place.
THE REV. JOE BOWDEN IS AN ASSISTING PRIEST AT CHURCH OF THE HOLY COMFORTER, AN EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN MARTINEZ.