I've taken a different approach to choosing organ voluntaries to this year's Christ the King Sunday. In the past I have been tempted to play things like William Walton's Crown Imperial and various and sundry coronation marches and trumpet tunes and whatnot.
This year, I have a growing sense that Jesus is already "king" in a lot of peoples' minds: king of success, king of hate and cultural insensitivity (examples abound, and I'd rather not link to any), king of the box office, and king of the White House (after he was already king of Texas?).
I think all of these approaches miss what is meant by Jesus' kingship. So does Jenee Woodard:
For me, the scriptures chosen for these Christ the King / Reign of Christ Sundays really deconstructs the whole "King"/imperial domination thing, perhaps even among those whose celebration are [sic] done in all sincerity. When we call JESUS king, are we saying that Jesus has the "properties" of a King, or that JESUS as king points toward a whole different understanding of reality.
I should add that I recently saw a movie about a king who had a lot of personal problems while womanizing, growing obese and inadvertently beginning Anglicanism.
With these things in mind, I've focused in on some aspects of the readings and am playing Samuel Barber's "Wondrous Love" variations. I find the last variation especially haunting and relevant to a renewed understanding of kingship.
The second thief in this weeks Gospel reading asks: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke 23:42)
When we step back and remember with that thief that Jesus' kingdom is not this world, then it is irresponsible for us to try to make him king of this world.
It is irresponsible to dictate this weird concept of a world-king-Jesus to others. It is especially irresponsible when our government has this concept. His kingship is not one of violence, war or "crusades," but it is one of love, humility, and sacrifice.
Jesus is only king as the crucified. He's the counter-king; a subversive monarch. His power lies in sacrifice. This is what the second theif understood on the cross. Jesus' finding power in relinquishing power (sacrifice) doesn't make any sense; it's a paradox. Jesus' "Wondrous Love" is responsible for his kingship: he bore "the dreadful curse for my soul."
Underneath all the cacophonous trumpeting of the world, it's hard to hear this:
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, I'll sing on;
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on.
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I'll sing on, I'll sing on;
And through eternity, I'll sing on.
-The final verse of "Wondrous Love:"
Here's to a quieter, more introspective Christ the King Sunday.
Update: After looking at the hymns again I've decided to add Ralph Vaughan Williams Prelude on "Hyfrydol" as the concluding voluntary. So, take everything I was saying above with a grain of salt, I guess.
Tangent: This was my tactic for literature organization in childhood. Take that library science majors!
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