Materials for Worship on Christ the King, 26th November 2023

Rachael writes: I heard a story this week about a church youth group. On this particular evening their leaders had planned a hunger feast for them. It’s an object lesson in fairness and equality, and really in economics. The young people were to be divided into four groups. The biggest group would sit on the floor around one bowl of rice. The next group, slightly smaller, would sit around a bowl of rice and beans. The third group, much smaller again, were each given their own bowls of rice and beans. And then one person would be given a seat of honour and large platter of meats, cheeses, fresh bread, little nibbles – like a sharing board at a fancy café. The young people were randomly assigned to each group by pulling names out of a hat and the girl given the place of honour was the girl that everyone picked on.

No matter how hard the leaders had tried to squash such behaviour, she was left out on purpose and made fun of for what she wore and how she talked. When she pulled out the card for this fabulous tray of food, the rest of the group were annoyed and grumbly. A couple of girls even pulled a leader aside and said “It’s not fair that she gets everything, she’s so weird”. Some were even heard to say that she didn’t deserve it but that it should surely go to the cool people. While the adults in the room whispered to each other that justice had finally been served.

 

But the girl, sitting by herself with this beautiful spread in front of her, had tears streaming down her face. “It’s not fair,” she said. “I don’t like it. It’s not fair that no one else gets this and they should”. The leader asked her what she would like to do and after thinking for a few minutes she got up from the table with her platter and began to go around the groups making each person a sandwich from her board of goodies. There was an awkward and uneasy silence as people began to eat. Finally one person asked the girl “Why did you do that? We’re kind of mean to you all the time. If I were you, I would have eaten it all myself”.

And in the most eloquent moment, the girl stood before them and said, “You’re right. You’re not very nice to me and sometimes that really hurts. But Jesus reminds me that we love each other all the time. It doesn’t help me to keep this for myself but I want you to be a part of this party with me. The pastor tells us that everyone is invited to communion and think this is the same thing. I know what it’s like to not be invited and don’t want anyone else to feel the same way. So, sandwiches for everyone! Because God loves me, and you.”

Out of the mouths of babes…

This young girl understands the heart of the Kingdom of God. She knows what it means to live under the reign of Christ, and to participate in the world with Christ as your King.

We adults can become so jaded. I remember being 17, 18, 19, and thinking that I was going to change the world. But we get worn down by the heaviness of responsibility, by the need to just get through the day, by the constant stories of injustice and inequality, so that we start to think that change will never happen. That there will always be those who share the bowl of rice at one end and those sitting with the platters of luxury at the other – and nothing will change that. This girl, however, first of all uses her own experience to shape her response and to lead her to compassion. It could, as one of the others said, have taken her to bitterness and selfishness but instead she is moved to empathy. Then she turns that heartbreak into action – radical, selfless, courageous, and risk-taking action.

Which is exactly what our passages today point us towards. It’s interesting to me that on Christ the King Sunday we’re not given a vision of Christ in glory reigning over us but of an upside-down, inside-out, transformative Kingdom. We are given somewhere to believe in.

I wonder if you’ve ever been to a place and thought “this must be what heaven is like”. Maybe it was sunshine and white sandy beaches. It might have been a particularly excellent meal. I can think of a few myself – one being a vista at the top of an Italian mountain that brought me to actual tears; another being the festival that we go to in the summer, Greenbelt.

There, sharing communion with 9,000 people from all walks of life and all kinds of church backgrounds, with the elderly and tiny babies, with goths and bishops, with people in wheelchairs and people bedecked in rainbows and glitter, I feel like I get a tiny glimpse of what heaven, of what the Kingdom, might be like. The festival’s tag line is “Somewhere to believe in” (I even have it on a t-shirt). And I think that we all need to know where we’re going, what we’re aiming for, and as good as Greenbelt might be, as beautiful as those mountains and beaches were, or delicious as that meal was, the descriptions in Ezekiel and Matthew are better. They tell us of a place where freaks are ushered in, the famished are lavished upon, the vulnerable and shamed are wrapped up in love, and the light goes to dwell with those in darkness.

I remember, as if it were yesterday, the first time I read this passage when I was fifteen. It transformed my understanding of what it means to follow Christ and it continues to challenge me that walking with Jesus isn’t about “nice” or “comfortable” or “gentle”, but about radical, counter-cultural, and courageous love. Love that is risky. Love that is action. Love that is faith, in word and deed.

Let me encourage you, fellow sheep of the fold, to keep going. To continue to see Christ in everyone you meet. To open your hearts, your homes, our church, to those on the margins and in need. To keep your compassion and your courage. Have in mind the somewhere we believe in and, by God’s grace, may we see glimpses of it in the here and now. Amen.