Sunday, November 15, 2015

A King for Today

It seems that the name by which it is known may help interpret the day. Is this coming Sunday known as Christ the King B? Or do you prefer Reign of Christ B? The first seems to focus on the person of Jesus, who as Christ will one day rule over this world - every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. The Reign of Christ seems to focus not just on who sits on that throne but what happens once he takes his place there.

But these two questions are only the tip of the iceberg when considering an image or images for this day and these scriptures (2 Samuel 23:1-7, Psalm 132:1-12, Revelation 1:4b-8 and John 18:33-37). Do we look for Christ descending in the clouds as in Revelation - usually accompanied by a precisely-arranged throng of saints, martyrs, apostles and angels? Do we prefer an enthroned Christ, sitting calmly, holding and wearing the regalia of his position as king? Depicted as a king that Pontius Pilate, who questioned Jesus about his kingship in John's gospel, would have understood. Though Jesus would look like any earthly king, we presume that he, unlike the Roman emperors of his day and many rulers since, would be dispensing justice.

But what of today? We may look at the reign of Christ and the return of Christ with different eyes in light of the events in Beirut, in Baghdad, in Paris and in places where killings and terror were carried out against individuals rather than groups large enough to make the news. The clouds and phalanxes of winged figures may not offer a vision that speaks to the kind of king we need today. Though not a specific depiction of this liturgical day, the icon (at right) titled "Christ of Maryknoll" by Brother Robert Lentz nevertheless offers us an image that impacts a view of Christ as king. It is a purposely ambiguous: is Christ inside the barbed wire or are we? Have we imprisoned Christ - who he is, what he calls us to do and to be? Have we tried to contain him, limit him behind "barbed wire?" Or perhaps we have imprisoned ourselves. Have we erected barriers that keep Christ out of our lives, our institutions, our business? Is Christ on the other side of the fence offering us freedom in his reign, if only there was no barbed wire between us?

Either way, the barbed wire is an obstacle. Perhaps it offers no real hindrance to Christ and his purpose, but it is an obstruction to us. It may be a parallel to Frederick Buechner's take on prayer. Keep praying, he says, "...not, one assumes, because you have to beat a path to God's door before God will open it, but because until you beat the path maybe there's no way of getting to your door. 'Ravish my heart,' John Donne wrote. But God will not usually ravish. He will only court." (Wishful Thinking) What if Christ cannot truly be king for us - much less the world - because the way to our door is blocked with obstacles of our own making?

Every eye will see him, Revelation promises. So though present in every time and place, weeping over every evil act of today, we know that Christ has not yet returned. Because we haven't seen. We still wait. We still need the reign of the Prince of Peace.

For Robert Lentz icons, see:

And where does this magnificent creature fit in? Check out the Art&Faith Matters Facebook page. Click here.

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