The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Peter Neilson
Sunday - 21 November 2021 - Christ the King Sunday
Gathering into the Presence of God
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Psalm 24:7
Dear friends in Crail and St Ayle,
Until relatively recently I seem to have been unaware of the designation of a particular Sunday as Christ the King Sunday. So, when I heard on the radio that it would be Christ the King Sunday this Sunday (21st), I decided that I must find out something about it.
The first Christ the King Sunday was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and was to be celebrated throughout the universal church. This feast day was a response to the increasing denial of Christ as king, and the rise of secularism throughout Europe. The feast was originally celebrated on the final day of October, the day before All Saints’ Day, but was moved to the last Sunday before Advent in 1969. It thus marks the end of the church’s liturgical year.
Next Sunday we will enter the season of Advent, the season of awaiting the coming of Christ as a baby in Bethlehem. Observing Christ the King Sunday at the end of the liturgical year celebrates and emphasizes the Kingship of Christ. The title is not that of an earthly king which so many Jews were expecting because they were awaiting someone to overthrow the Roman rule. This is the title of a spiritual king and on this day we recognize the higher authority of Christ.
As I love the Book of Psalms, I have chosen Psalm 132 for today’s Reflection, as it is one of the listed lectionary readings for this Sunday.
The Word of God: Psalm 132
1 Lord, remember David and all his self-denial.
2 He swore an oath to the Lord, he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
3 “I will not enter my house or go to my bed,
4 I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids,
5 till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
6 We heard it in Ephrathah, we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:[a]
7 “Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool, saying,
8 ‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.
9 May your priests be clothed with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy.’”
10 For the sake of your servant David, do not reject your anointed one.
11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants I will place on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.”
In the opening prayer by David, which Psalm 132 represents, there appears to be a close relationship between David and God. David asks the Lord to remember the hardships he, David, has endured, and we know that the road to the throne was not a particularly easy one for David. Despite those difficulties, there is an urgency in David to do something for the Lord, to build a temple in Jerusalem and to bring to it the Ark of the Covenant. This was to be an act of worship in righteousness and joy, as stated in verse 9. (Is there an urgency in our wish to serve God? And are our personal and corporate acts of worship full of righteousness and joy, I wonder?)
Righteousness is regarded as integral to justice in the Bible: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). In our world today we need to remember that to live righteously is to act justly to God’s people everywhere. Acts of justice to God’s creation are acts of worship to God.
But how does this Psalm relate to the theme of Christ the King Sunday? Verse 11 and 12 are the key verses in this regard, with God’s promise to David that one of his own descendants would be placed on his throne. Starting with Matthew’s Gospel, the New Testament is filled with confirmations of Jesus as descendant of David, in fulfilment of God’s promise. Matthew 1:1 provides the genealogy of Jesus “the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Luke 1:32 speaks about the kingship of Jesus, linking it to David as the ancestor of Jesus.
Jesus, although he did not live as the king that the Israelites were expecting, fulfilled the condition set in the psalm, to keep God’s covenant. The gospels are full of stories of Jesus’s drive for justice for the oppressed, restoration of dignity for the abused, and healing for the sick. Jesus, as king and saviour, fulfilled the prophesy in Isaiah 61. The challenge for us is how we might carry on the legacy that David longed for, a world of justice and righteousness in which Christ reigns as King.
Gracious God, we thank You for the gift of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ
In whom we live and move and have our being
We thank you for the gift of life, of family, of friends
For our church community and the many ways in which we connect with one another
For all these blessings, we give You thanks
We thank You for the embrace of Your love
For your unfailing faithfulness and kindness and your care, protection, and provision
For the continuous assurance That You are in control of this world
For all these blessings, we thank you, Oh Lord
Grant, O Lord, that what we have just read, we may believe in our hearts, and that what we believe in our hearts, we may practise in our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord.