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Christ the King and the King of the Jews

My brother it turns out early next year is taking part in an amateur production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Now I hadn’t thought about that show for many years before he came to visit me recently but now I am looking forward to seeing him in it and some of the well known tunes are running through my head again. In the extract that we have just heard, where Jesus is brought in front of Pilate the cast have captured the tone of derisory mockery that we heard in our Gospel reading this morning.

“If you are the King of the Jews, then save yourself”

The contrast between this ugly jeering, the King we celebrate this morning and the poetry of Paul written only sixty years after the crucifixion is astonishing. Verses 15 to 20 of Paul’s letter to the Colossians have been described as a magnificent hymn of praise, indeed it may well have been a hymn that Paul has chosen to quote and if not that, then it is one of the most perfect listings of the characteristics of Christ as God to be found in a single passage of scripture. Each particular phrase is carefully worked to confirm the supremacy of Christ in every respect.

The passage opens “He is the image of the invisible God.” Paul is reaffirming that Jesus is no feeble copy or reproduction or imitation but he is the inner core, the essence of God: he is indistinguishable : in Jesus the very nature of God has been perfectly revealed. He was the firstborn of all creation - that is to say he was not created, he himself was the creator, in him all things in heaven and earth were created, things both visible and invisible. And in case we are still uncertain of what Paul is saying, he introduces a human scale metaphor. “He is the head of the body, the church.” As we know our heads rule, our heads have authority and control over the body our arms, our hands, our legs and feet and so Christ is likened to the head and the church to his body and naturally Jesus reigns over it.

So today as we reach the end of the church’s year it is right that we celebrate Jesus’ absolute dominion, to look again at the words of our opening Collect: “Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might reign over all things as Lord and King.” And of course that includes each one of us.

Staying with Collects for a moment the post communion collect that I shall use later in this service begins

“Stir up O Lord the wills of your faithful people,”

for as well as being the end of the church year we are too, looking forward, forward to the beginning of the cycle and the coming of Christmas: “Stir up Sunday” is traditionally the time to mix up the Christmas puddings and we will all no doubt be doing just that this afternoon once we get back from our walk. But in this season of preparation, planning for the celebration, of rehearsing for plays and musicals, of carol concerts and school events let us remember God’s purpose and especially today his kingship - not the worldly mocking kingship of Pilate, the soldiers and the criminal but the kingship that is the true fullness of God.

Amen

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