Christ the King Sunday has long been my least favorite day in the church year. To begin with, most of us haven’t had any experiences with kings aside from characters in fairy tales or movies. I don’t like to think of the Messiah as being comparable to, say the King of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Even the king as royal figurehead is a fading image, given the 64-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Only three countries in the world are still governed by absolute monarchies. Unless you are preaching to a congregation in Saudi Arabia, in my opinion, it is very difficult to reclaim the image of a king for modern society.

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More importantly, I take issue with Christ the King Sunday because the masculinity of Jesus is often celebrated on other days of the year. Rarely have I worshiped in any denomination, in any geographic location, where Jesus was not referred to as brother, son, or king at least once. What does it say to women and girls that their savior is male? How can this theological belief influence their relationships with the men in their lives? What influence might the image of Jesus as a powerful man have over those who are being abused by the powerful men in their lives? We are not doing girls and women any favors by celebrating the traditional male roles that Jesus can fill. Perhaps if we also celebrated “Christ the Mother Hen Sunday” I would feel less frustrated about the celebration of Jesus as king on the Sunday before Advent every year.

Having said all that, I know that many churches around the world, including mine, will be honoring Christ as king this coming Sunday. Renaming this day to Reign of Christ Sunday is one way to soften the imagery of the day and make it more inclusive. Yet, given the political turmoil in many of our communities, it may not be any more helpful to see Jesus as a generic ruler than it is to see him as a king. Those of us in the United States are preparing for the presidency of a man who won the second-highest number of votes. Around the world, there have been breaking of past alliances and outright insults of people from other countries, not to mention countless ongoing conflicts and the refugee crisis. Celebrating the rule of Jesus seems both more necessary in today’s political climate, and more difficult because of the lack of appropriate people with whom to compare him.

A popular theme of Reign of Christ Sunday has been that Jesus is not your typical king – he rules out of humility rather than power. This is obvious in Year C because the story of Jesus’ crucifixion is assigned for this day. In a time when so many are disenchanted with their political leaders, Jesus’ self-sacrifice can provide a more genuine example of leadership. This might be a meaningful approach to the day for this year. The rest of the RCL readings provide additional images and ideas for describing who Jesus is, as a ruler and a savior.

November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. You might consider adding a prayer for transgender folks, or even naming those who have died in the past year. You can find an updated list of those who have been killed on this page. One idea I have heard to repurpose this day in honor of transgender folks who have died is to celebrate Christ the Queen Sunday. What might that look like? Appropriating another’s language and culture is never appropriate, but if this image would work in your context, it is something that you might consider.

Blessings to you in your reading, writing, worship prep, and pastoral duties this week. Please share your questions and ideas below!


canoeistpastor is Katya Ouchakof, co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, occasional hospital chaplain, freelance writer, professional canoeing instructor, and Star Wars enthusiast. She blogs occasionally at Provocative Proclamations.


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21 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Who Reigns? Edition

  1. I resonate so with your post and “Christ the King”. My congregation would not be a place where we could explore Christ the Queen, but I will be thinking about that! My colleague and I have been saying kin-dom in the Lord’s Prayer for the last couple of years; finally, one person asked about it, today! So….sharing about that theology is something that I will be exploring this Sunday.

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    1. Kin-dom is certainly a meaningful step for those of us who notice the difference, and a minor difference for people who aren’t paying close attention – a good start to a long-term process of opening up. Glad your congregation is taking baby steps!

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    1. “What we think will be catastrophic isn’t – certainly the Gospel for our churches! Even if it doesn’t feel that way post-election. Thanks for sharing this link.

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  2. I’ve never really gotten or understood Christ the King Sunday very well and have tended to avoid it. This year, I’m going with the Jeremiah passage…not sure what I’m saying about that yet. But proclaiming Christ as King means that nothing else and no one else can claim our ultimate loyalty and devotion. That seems important right now.

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    1. Oh, and for fellow PC(USA)ers, I’m going to use an excerpt from the Barmen Declaration (8.13-8.15) as an affirmation of faith and speak to it somehow in the sermon.

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  3. My three churches have folks who travel for Thanksgiving [to see the grand-kiddies], so we have Thanksgiving Sunday. I like it much more than Kings/Monarchs etc.

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    1. Thanksgiving! Hard to believe it’s here already! Hoping that you find meaningful words for that celebration. Which Bible readings are you using?

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  4. Sermon is ‘Deconstructing Christ’, or ‘Constructing Jesus’. I like the first better…and inmlight of this past week, I want to delve into what the Realm of God is, or what we believe it would look like.

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    1. “Deconstructing Christ” could tie in to “not one stone left on another” from last week’s readings. Focusing on the realm of God sounds like a thoughtful and timely approach.

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  5. I’m not really a fan of Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. We are also having a Trans Day of Remembrance service in the evening so that won’t be a big part of the morning worship. We observe Thanksgiving Sunday and this year I’m focusing on Psalm 46 and choosing gratitude and love over fear. Here are some of my early musings (even though they are a bit late this week): https://rachaelkeefe.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/fear-is-not-the-answer/

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your story – a beautiful reflection! Blessings on your service of thanksgiving, choosing gratitude over fear. What a timely message.

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  6. Celebrating Thanksgiving here, but still having trouble finding words. I actually have most of a sermon but realize that it doesn’t really speak to the lectionary for the day … just to some thoughts about the first Thanksgivng and how pilgrims are and arent’ good models for us in our current climate. Not sure that is going to cut it 😦

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