Preaching "Reign of Christ" Sunday as a Progressive Christian

“Reign of Christ” Sunday (also known as “Christ the King”) is the final week in the Christian liturgical calendar. The cycle of lectionary readings begins again the next week with the first Sunday of Advent, which is “New Year’s Day” according to Christian sacred time. For anyone interested in becoming more attuned to the rhythms of the Christian liturgical seasons, I recommend the increasingly-popular Christian Seasons Calendar produced as an annual project of a church in Canada.

When I reflect on the themes of Reign of Christ Sunday, the image that always comes to mind is the classic Eastern Orthodox icon of Christ the Pantocrator. I first saw this 7th-century icon at Mt. Saint Catherine’s Monastery as an undergraduate on a travel study to the Middle East, and I was immediately struck by the haunting left eye of the image. The word “Pantocrator” is often translated as “All-powerful,” and prayerfully meditating on this icon could prompt a powerful Reign of Christ sermon. If you are unfamiliar with the practice of praying through visual art, Tim Mooney has written an excellent article on “Praying with Art – Visio Divina.” Essentially, the process is a visual equivalent to the text-based process of lectio divina.

From an interfaith angle, Progressive Christian congregations who have relationships with local Jewish congregations could learn how to celebrate a more joyful and embodied Reign of Christ Sunday by attending a Simchat Torah service. Simchat Torah literally means “Rejoicing with the Torah” and includes joyous dancing and singing to celebrate the completion of the annual cycle of Torah reading.

Finally, as a progressive Christian reflecting on the themes of the “Reign of Christ” and the upcoming themes of Christ’s (first and second) coming during Advent, I will conclude with a quote adapted from John Dominic Crossan’s book God and Empire:

The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen soon, violently, or literally. The Second Coming of Christ is what will happen when we Christians finally accept that the First Coming was the Only Coming and start to cooperate with its divine presence.

In other words, on Reign of Christ Sunday, we are invited to remember that the “Kingdom of God” or “Reign of God” — to which Jesus constantly pointed — is as fully available now and always as it was 2,000 years ago. The question that remains each Reign of Christ Sunday is whether we will choose to live as if the one who reigns is not Caesar, but God.

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