In To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee gives us something to ponder:
“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”
Pastor Jeff’s sermon this Sunday, based on Matthew 25: 31-46 is titled “Sheep or Goat?” referencing the phrase, “… he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
But, what is the back story of this being called Christ the King Sunday in the liturgical calendar?
The last Sunday of the liturgical year is this one, called Christ the King. It’s odd-sounding to American ears, especially Protestant American ears. By definition, Americans do not think in terms of monarchy, and Protestants got their very name by protesting against monarchy/hierarchy telling us what and how to believe. So, why is Christ the King on our liturgical calendar? Even though it was created by a pope less than a hundred years ago, some Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists mark this date.
Here’s the back story.
Pope Pius XI , writing in the aftermath of World War I, noted that while there had been a cessation of hostilities, there was no true peace. He deplored the rise of class divisions and unbridled nationalism, and held that true peace can only be found under the Kingship of Christ as “Prince of Peace”. He further noted that Jesus’s kingship was given to him by the Father, and was not obtained by violence.
Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925. He connected the increasing denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism throughout much of Europe. At the time, many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ’s authority and existence, as well as the Church’s power to continue Christ’s authority.
The Christian world witnessed the rise of non-Christian (or nominally Christian) dictatorships in Europe, and Pius saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church. Respect for Christ and the Church was waning.
The “Great War” had left Europe in shambles and the governments that emerged from the rubble were increasingly secular. Those in society outwardly rejecting Christ’s laws had reached what Pius called a “majority.” Mankind was placing its hopes for the future in strong leaders instead of God. Pius instituted the feast of Christ the King in 1925 to remind Christians that their allegiance was to their spiritual ruler in heaven as opposed to earthly supremacy.
“Jesus knew the oppressive nature of secular kings, and in contrast to them, he connected his role as king to humble service, and commanded his followers to be servants as well. His teachings speak to us of love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. When we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but one willing to die for humanity and whose “loving-kindness endures forever.” Christ is the king that gives us true freedom, freedom in Him. ” (David Bennett of ChurchYear.Net)