Posted by: smstrouse | November 24, 2012

Morphing Christ the King

It might seem to progressive Christians that a Sunday named ‘Christ the King’ is an archaic remnant of a bygone time.  Most sermons I remember began with the caveat: “Now I know we live in a democracy, so it might be hard to get the idea of being subject to a king, but . . . ”

Then we ran into the inclusive langauge issue and decided to call it the Reign of Christ in order to make the title gender-neutral.  And that’s where many churches have left it.  However – there are some, myself included, who insist on also doing away with the hierarchical language of kings (and queens).  Our old understanding of a God who is ‘up there’ somewhere reigning ‘over us’ has been giving way to the realization of the presence of God all around us.  There is no dualism of ‘above’ and ‘below.’  So for me, making the change to ‘Reign of Christ’ just didn’t cut it.

Now I know that some churches have done away with the problem entirely, recognizing simply that it’s the last Sunday of the church year.  But I don’t buy that either.  There’s more to this day than our changing human constructs; there is the more important word in the title: Christ.  The emphasis of the day on Christ as the Alpha and Omega, the culmination and fulfillment of all things, is a wondrous and worthy endeavor.  So at First United we made several attempts to come up with a better way of expressing this sublime mystery, morphing Christ, if you will.

Our first attempt didn’t go over; ‘The Feast of the Culmination of All Things in Christ” was way too wordy.  Then we tried “The Cosmic Christ.”  But some didn’t like the new age connotations. Then came “The Realm of Christ,” but it still implied a ruling hierarchy.  We finally settled on “The Feast of Christ, Anointed,” and have been using that for several years now.

I’m sure that many people will think this exercise  is just so much church silliness.  Others will be aghast at our heretical chutzpah. But I maintain that we are being faithful to the spirit of the day and the demands of the times to use language to convey the ancient and ever-relevant truths embedded in our tradition.  I’ve said it so many times before: language matters.  Church-goers may not even notice the evolving name of the day. But the message of inclusivity, our understanding of God not only above, but all around and within, is consistently conveyed in our liturgy, hymns, prayers – and even the title on the front of the bulletin.

It may morph some more, but rest assured our decisions are made with theological thoughtfulness and spiritual awareness.  It’s just what we are called – by the One who is the Alpha and Omega – to do.


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