Today is the last Sunday before Advent.
It’s traditionally called “Christ the King Sunday”
But that name pre-supposes that we have an understanding, or direct experience of what it means to be a King.
Our modern experience, however, leads very few of us to have any experience of life under kings.
Many of us, may think of kings as a charming vestige of a bygone era at best.
Or at worst, a damaging holdover of patriarchal oppression.
So what does it mean to celebrate “Christ the King Sunday?”
The Rev. Josh Bowron, a priest in North Carolina, proposed a helpful way to think about all of this, and it has to do with the theatre.
First, imagine a night out on the town.
Imagine going to a play.
It’s a one act play:
All the action, character development, and story happen in a few scenes.
It’s short and its satisfying.
Being a one act play,
Character and story must necessarily be brief and rather shallow.
A single theme might be explored,
But not much more than that.
Certainly nothing of real substance can be experienced, considered, and settled.
It was a nice night out.
And now, imagine another night out.
This night you go back to the theatre,
But this time there is a five-act play.
Actually, It’s Hamlet.
Being five acts,
All the characters have room to spread out.
They are living, breathing figures with motivations, pasts, and desires.
Multiple themes are explored.
Some of the most fundamental human concerns are introduced with wisdom and depth:
Obligation, doubt, death, family, and nation.
The action in this five-act play is complex;
There is even a play within a play that advances the story and gives us clarity around different character motivations.
This five-act play takes a lot longer,
But it REALLY is satisfying.
It seems to cover all of human existence.
The point here, is that our culture: the world:
Wants us to think that we live in a one-act play.
Depending on who you talk to,
That one act is material reality where there is nothing whatsoever except that which can be measured.
Others will tell you that this one-act play we are in is all about you:
All about your satisfaction and the attainment of something for yourself.
In this play, you will strive and strive,
Until one fateful day, you will arrive.
Another strong candidate for the one-act play of the world is a story about the accumulation of things.
Gather all you can --- you just have a few scenes in which to do it,
And at the end of the play, the one with the most toys wins.
Those are all rather boring plays. They are flat.
They don’t allow for any real growth.
Surely, there must be more.
And so enters the five-act play.
Theologian and priest Sam Wells, in his book “Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics,” says that we are in a five act play. Conveniently the five acts all start with “C”:
Creation, Covenant, Christ, Church, and Consummation.
Creation is, of course, the beginning of all things.
Here, we get a hint of Christ the King ad described in the Nicene Creed:
“Through him all things were made.”
Act two, Covenant, is where we learn that God has befriended a particular group of people, the Hebrew people,
Through whom God is made known.
God makes an agreement to never abandon them.
Act three is Christ,
The coming of God to be with us in the most intimate way imaginable.
In fact, it is BEYOND imagining that God would become a person.
In traditional five-act structures, this would be the climax:
The entire Christ event: Incarnation, teaching, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
Act four is the Church: God with us in the Holy Spirit, even now.
Finally, act five: consummation is when we look for the return of Christ to establish the everlasting kingdom.
This is the grand five-act play of God:
Creation, Covenant, Christ, Church and Consummation.
And this isn’t just regular theatre, where we merely sit and watch.
Instead, God has made this some sort of fancy participatory theatre.
God has actually set the stage for us in Creation,
And has been calling for us to get up at each act in Covenant, Christ, and Church.
We are onstage.
We are a part of the story.
Which play would you rather be in?
The one that barely scratches the surface,
Or the one that’s utterly epic: where the depths can never be fully plumbed?
Maybe you aren’t much of an actor.
So be it!
That is improvisational theatre. And the Holy Spirit will give you what you need to be in this play.
Christ the King.
Christ IS our King.
And Christ is also our five-act play.
Christ is not only that,
But he is also the lighting, the set, the whole entire theatre!
Christ is our source and our summit.
Christ is our destiny.
And this is, ultimately, what Christ the King Sunday is meant to remind us of:
That we are in a grand story:
And hopefully this wont be a spoiler:
We’re in a comedy.
(As in: a story with a happy ending.)
When you read God’s story,
Which is also our story,
Evil after evil is woven into a larger and larger tale,
And God makes good out of it all, every single time.
From the disobedience of Adam and Eve to the betrayal of Joseph’s brothers, to David’s lust, to Peter’s denial, all the way to the Cross:
God continuously redeems evil in the larger tapestry of good because we are in a grand comedic story.
At the beginning of the service,
We addressed our prayer to God, saying, “Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and lord of lords.”
This is a great comedy when, someday, God will be all in all.
You’ve heard the phrase: “All the world’s a stage.”
As Advent begins next week,
Let’s get on that stage and take our part in this amazing five-act comedy.
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.