Homily preached by the Reverend Nicholas Lang
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The Last Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King – November 21, 2010
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King and the end of the church year. I think we don’t need so much to focus on the concept of “kingship” but rather to ask the important question of what kind of kingdom we are invited into as the people of God? We find three key characteristics of that kingdom in the Gospel: Radical welcome, reconciliation, and forgiveness. We find a dying Jesus in pain and humiliation welcoming a convicted felon into Paradise. And we find him offering him the precious gifts of reconciliation and forgiveness—so sparse in today’s world.
The kingdom of God is the one place where this happens and it is the church to which Jesus has entrusted these gifts and commissioned us to bring them to a broken world. Every time we walk back to gather around the baptismal font and to welcome a new member of Christ’s Church, we renew our covenant with God and with one another.
We promise to be the instruments of God’s healing grace, of God’s power of reconciliation, bearers of the blessing of forgiveness. We also promise that, in good and in bad times, we will support one another and walk with one another the faith journey on which we have embarked.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov once told this story: “There was once a prince who took ill and decided he was a turkey. Stripping off his clothes, he crouched naked under the royal table, refusing to eat anything but crumbs that had fallen to the ground. Many doctors were called to examine him, but none could help.
One day a wise man came to the king and said, “Let me live in your home that I might befriend your son. Be patient and I will make him well again.” Immediately, the wise man approached the royal table, stripped off his clothes, and sat down next to the prince. “Who are you?” demanded the king’s son. “I am your friend, a turkey like yourself,” the man replied. “I thought you might be lonely and decided to come and live with you for a while.”
As the weeks passed the “turkeys” grew accustomed to each other and soon became good friends. They ate crumbs, drank from tin plates, and discussed the advantages of being domesticated birds rather than humans.
One night, when the royal family was having dinner, the wise man signaled to the king, whose servants brought two silk robes and cautiously placed them under the table. The sage quickly donned one of the robes, and before the prince could utter a word, announced, “There are some dumb turkeys who are so insecure that they believe putting on a silk robe might endanger their identity.” The prince thought for a moment, nodded his head, and began to clothe himself.
A few days later, the wise man again signaled the king. Broiled beef, potatoes, and fresh green vegetables were placed on the floor near the sage. Looking quite pleased about the display, the wise man began to eat the food and exclaimed, “Absolutely delicious! It’s good to be a turkey sophisticated enough to enjoy the food of humans.” The prince readily agreed and hungrily shared the meal. Eventually, the wise man called for some silverware and asked to be served from the palace’s best china. “After all,” he explained to the prince, “why shouldn’t intelligent turkeys want the best for themselves?”
Finally, after many months, the sage came and sat at the table. While eating and drinking with the royal family, he called down to the prince and said, “Come, join me. The food is the same but the chairs make an appreciable difference. Besides, we turkeys have a lot to offer. Why should we restrict ourselves by remaining aloof? Certainly our ideas can benefit the minds of men.” The king’s son came up and sat at the table. It was only a matter of time until he was cured.
On this Christ the King Sunday, the Jesus we find on the cross is not the deluded prince who was brought back to a life of normalcy, nor the king who helped facilitate the process, but the wise man who humbled himself and, in sharing another’s condition and plight, became the bridge to healing and wholeness—to redemption.
This is the kind of “king” we honor today and this is the life and ethos of his kingdom—a place where we share one another’s struggle and condition and, by our willingness to welcome, stay in conversation, come to God’s table together with all our differences, become the instruments of each other’s healing and life transformation.