Christ the King
I spent three years and a lot of money at a good divinity school so I could fit theology into a system. I read a lot of books by dead white guys who tried to accomplish the same project. What is the system that makes sense of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?
This Sunday we recognize Christ as king. It is the end of the church year, bringing our story from Advent through Easter and all that ordinary time to a close. But there is nothing about the image of Christ as king that settles my stomach or makes sense of my expectations. Nothing about this coronation service feels like closure or victory.
If Jesus is a king, then his followers are fools. He has no army, no political alliances, no worldly power, no throne, no heir, his bloodline is marred with controversy. It is all wrong.
There is no way to make sense of Jesus’ kingship. It is all wrong, and cannot be made right. The cross is disgusting, vulgar, offensive. It makes my stomach turn and my heart sink. How is this good news? It interrupts my presumptions and my expectations. Even when I train my expectations on paradox and reversals, this rings too harsh. It is discordant and coarse. Too many jagged edges and unresolved tensions.
I have become quite skilled at building systems around my religious predispositions. But they keep falling apart in light of the cross and its implications.
The only way I have found to stay sane in the midst of Christianity’s central image is to live into its foolishness, and thereby my own.
I have sat through too many conversations and read too many books trying to make the gospel story respectable. It is always tempting to think that Jesus is just a buffed up and polished version of my aspirations. If only Jesus could get on the ballot or in the boardroom, then we would see how logical his social programs are, how sensible his strategic plan would be. Give Jesus 100 days in the seat of power, and watch all of the metrics shift toward peace and stability.
But I fear that the reign of Jesus is always meant to interrupt and disturb our categories. All of them. Mine just as much as the cocksure TV preacher. Yours just as much as Pope Francis.
Following King Jesus is not and will never be made credible. It will make you off-kilter. It will make you strange. A fool. This is why I keep a clown nose in my office. It interrupts and confronts me, reminds me that I am on a fool’s errand. Sometimes I will put it on and give it a honk, remember that my calling is to proclaim the reign of God in all its ridiculousness, and I laugh all the way to the pulpit.
(This reading of the kingship of Jesus is largely taken from Charles L. Campbell and Johan H. Chilliers, Preaching Fools, Baylor University Press, 2012)