A sermon on The Reign of Christ preached by the Revd Dr Trevor Jamison at Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church, 26th November 2023
Watch the whole service on YouTube
‘Jesus is Your Best Mate.’ That was the title of a book I came across several years ago. Part of me wanted to give a thumbs up to the title, and to the sentiment behind it, though at the same time part of me was uneasy with it.
Yes, Jesus is our best mate. Through Jesus we are introduced to God and God’s will for this world: that it be a place of justice, joy and peace. Jesus is our best mate because he provides the way, the route by which we can be reconciled with God when we have wandered off far away from leading lives of justice, joy and peace. Through Jesus our relationship with God can be repaired.
Next Sunday, Advent begins. Increasingly our attention will turn towards Christmas. The media and big business are there ahead of us, of course, as the plethora of Christmas adverts testifies. Christmas movies have been going for months. Also, around here, some individuals can’t wait for Christmas. I have already seen a number of Christmas trees up in North Shields, their lights sparkling in the gloom and dark. And let’s not forget the Christmas tree and lights which are already up and running here in Northumberland Square.
As the church begins to focus more on Christmas we’ll be emphasising the incarnation; the coming of God in humankind; the arrival of God as a baby at Bethlehem. Quite correctly we’ll be celebrating the humanity of Jesus. Yet simply describing Jesus as our best mate, which is very human, doesn’t seem to cover it, at least not as far as I am concerned. There’s more to Jesus Christ than his being our very human best mate.
This Sunday is celebrated in many churches with the title, ‘The Reign of Christ,’ or as, ‘Christ the King Sunday.’ Collectively, we take a day, a moment, before we plunge into Advent and Christmas. In that moment we contemplate and celebrate the majesty of Jesus. Yes, Jesus is a human being, someone of whom the language of ‘best mate’ seems fitting. Yet Jesus is also ‘King’ – not only our mate but our monarch.
Hence today’s Bible reading from Paul’s Letter to the Christian congregation in Ephesus. In the passage which Gill read to us we hear of Jesus Christ who is ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come’ (21); we hear about Jesus Christ who is the one who has been made ‘head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.’ (22, 23)
How does Jesus Christ end up as monarch, as king, as Lord over everything? It’s a work of God, and it begins with resurrection. Yes, before we get to look forward to Christmas we need to look back to Easter. Paul draws the attention of the Ephesian Christians (and us) to the power of God, the maker of the universe, the sustainer of creation. Paul wants to ground our hope for life in ‘the immeasurable greatness of his [God’s] power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.’ (19)
And where do we see God’s power at work? In the raising Jesus from the dead: ‘God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead,’ writes Paul,’ and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.’ (20) Jesus was raised to life at Easter, then in time ‘ascended’, returned to heaven from which he came, where with God (as God) he is in position of power. Hence the reference to being seated at the ‘right hand’ of God. God’s power is at work, making Jesus Christ all powerful, appointing Jesus to reign over all things.
And it is a case of ‘all things.’ Sometimes we talk about Jesus as reigning within our lives, and there is profound truth in that. But there is more to the reign of Jesus Christ than the authority he has in individual human lives of people like you and me. Paul writes of Jesus as having authority ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.’ (21) That’s an authority over all political authorities; above all social and economic systems; authority that stretches even beyond the human context and into the rest of the living, interrelated, systems of the world; into its environment, its ecology.
And within all of that Paul singles out the Church, for as he writes, God has ‘has put all things under his [i.e. Jesus’s] feet and has made him the head over all things for the church.’ (22) Now I have any number of bees in my bonnet. One of them is about hearing someone being described or referred to as head of a Christian church. The “someone” is usually a clergyman. That description usually has me muttering, saying or shouting, “they aren’t head of the church, only Jesus is the head of the church.”
It is Jesus who has the ultimate authority around here. In this congregation Elders, Minister, and other leaders – none of them, none of us, is the head of this church. Only Jesus Christ is the head of this church, which is really good news. First, that means you are not depending on the Elders, Ministers and other church leaders here to be the head of the church to which you belong. If you do, at some point you will be disappointed. Instead, focus on Jesus as head of the church, upon doing what Jesus says and what Jesus wants.
And that also applies to how we see the world. Don’t give ultimate, complete authority to a political leader, to an economic whizz kid, or a convincing social influencer. All may have their valuable place, their useful role, but it is Jesus Christ who demands our ultimate loyalty.
This means acknowledging our loyalty to the reign of Christ, which is a rule of justice, peace, and joy. God, in Jesus Christ, wants all to receive justice – legally, socially, economically, in every sphere of life. God, in Jesus Christ, demands that we live in peace – individually, communally, and in relations between nations. God, in Jesus Christ, wills that everyone experience lives that are joyful. This what the reign of Christ looks like. He is the one to whom we are called to be loyal; the one who calls us to work that his kingdom may come on earth as it does in heaven.
So today, on this Christ the King Sunday, may God give us hearts and minds that are loyal to our heavenly monarch and friend, Jesus Christ. May each and all find a place within his kingdom; his reign in the church and upon earth. Amen.