In many of our Anglican parishes we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King today (some celebrate at the end of November, following the new Roman rite from 1970.) Today kingship is one more form of authority frowned upon. And yet, as Bob Dylan sang in 1979, in “Gotta Serve Somebody”:
“You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
Dylan recognized that we all must make this choice whether we admit to it or not. Many make the choice by default.
Today many serve themselves, their own passions, their own wills, their possessions. As Christians we recognize we can choose whom we serve. For all must recognize an authority, whether they realize this or not. Christians have the blessed fortune to serve Christ the King, the God of ultimate love, the Creator of the world and the Creator of each one of us.
To recognize that we must choose whom or what we serve releases us from many worries. For when we choose our King, we choose the path on which we are to walk – His path – and the rest falls into place.
But the Devil lurks like a lion, ready to pounce, ready to tempt and distract. He desires our allegiance. Will we serve him?
We live in a world today that observes a darker and lower allegiance, a power that feeds on us, on our needs and desires, destroying us with lies. We are told that we do not need a king. We do not need authorities that tell us how to live. We are told to seek our own desires and be ruled by them. We are told to feel good, to follow whatever “makes you happy.”
And yet as Christians we know happiness can only come from the King who created us. Happiness can only come when we become what He designed us to be.
The mob violence in our burning cities, the gender confusion that mutilates children, the desire to throw out rules of behavior and live as we wish, the genocide of the unborn – all of these trends in our world today enslave those who claim truth is relative, goodness is relative, all perspectives are relative.
As Christians we know that Christ the King gives mankind ways to live since the world began. These ways, encoded in the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the law of love, of faith, hope, and charity, we know informed the founding of our nation. Now, as our people depart from allegiance to Christ the King and His law of love, our nation and world fragment into millions of identities, devolving into tribal wars, and sinking into the abyss of chaos.
As Christians we know this world is only the beginning of something far better, more beautiful, more glorious to come, a nurturing time in which we grow fuller, more complete, whole. As T.S. Eliot wrote in “Four Quartets, The Dry Salvages”:
“These are only hints and guesses,/ Hints followed by guesses;/ And the rest is prayer, observance, discipline, /Thought and action. /The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, /Is Incarnation.”
We are part of this Incarnation, for we are made in the divine image, in the flesh, incarnate. We have choices. We can choose to create or we can choose to destroy. We can hide our light or we can shine our light. We can seek our Creator and listen to His voice, those hints followed by guesses. We can observe His law of love and discipline our souls and bodies with prayer, thought, and action. For today we see through a window dimly but tomorrow will clearly, having grown into our fullness.
We gotta serve somebody. If not Christ the King, then who knows what dark forces (including our own egos and passions) will command our path in this life.
It is easy to listen to the wrong powers that be. It is easy to choose ease and self and even withdrawal into hidden corners. It is not always clear which choice to make in a given moment. And so we pray. We immerse ourselves in the gifts half understood – scripture and sacrament and song. We keep Sundays holy. We honor our parents (and other authorities). We try not to lie, kill, covet, cheat. We repent and are washed cleaned by the blood of the Lamb.
And the hint half guessed is Christ the King himself. The hint half guessed is the Incarnation of our Creator who lived among us, died, and rose to life. The hint half guessed is all there before us – in the glory of song and the poetry of prayer and the humility of dependence upon our God of love, our heavenly Father.
For in the end, we need not worry. We are care-less, free of care. We fight the good fight, run the race. At the end of the day, we place our cares and worries at the feet of the King. We place our sufferings in his hands. And it is through these wounds that we climb the ladder to Heaven. It is through these wounds that we are welcomed by His side. It is through these wounds that His hand finds ours, pulls us up, and enfolds us in his arms.
For we have chosen whom we will serve – the God of all Creation, the God of Love, Christ the King.