In recent months, the doctrine of Christ’s Lordship has frequently come to mind… especially as it was emphasized in a time when dictatorships were on the rise in Europe.
An example of this is seen in the Barmen Declaration, a document written in Germany in 1934 by Karl Barth, Hans Asmussen, and Thomas Breit. The Barmen Declaration refuted the teachings of the pro-Nazi “German Christian” movement, which glorified Hitler as a leader and justified his actions during his early rise to power.
“We reject the false doctrine that there could be areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ but to other lords… ‘Let us, however, speak the truth in love, and in every respect grow into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body is joined together.’ The Christian Church is the community of brethren in which, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ acts in the present as Lord. With both its faith and its obedience, with both its message and its order, it has to testify in the midst of the sinful world, as the Church of pardoned sinners, that it belongs to him alone and lives and may live by his comfort and under his direction alone, in expectation of his appearing.”
You see, many churches and Christian leaders at this time reemphasized Christ’s Lordship as a means to oppose such oppressive worldly governmental systems and to remind Christians that it is Jesus Christ – and no other worldly leader – who has authority. It is the Kingdom of God – and no other worldly government – that reigns over the heavens and the earth.
Yes, Jesus is indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords, whose reign does not only last four to eight years, but lasts for all eternity.
But our scriptures remind us that this King and Lord is not the kind of ruler our world expects, celebrates, or uplifts. And our Gospels show us that our King and Lord is not the kind of leader who would have won an election… or even a popular vote.
Rather, we see a different kind of king in which we are to follow.
We see a king who is wearing a crown of thorns rather than a crown of jewels and gold. We see a king who is stripped down to his skin, bullied and spit upon, beaten and mocked for proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is not just for those on top, but rather is a Kingdom for all.
We see a king who shows up in the midst of great suffering and fear. Who hangs on a cross between two criminals on death row – offering forgiveness and compassion to those who are most vulnerable and even to those who put him on the cross in the first place.
We see a king who chooses to save the entire world rather than to save himself.
With his arms outstretched, we hear him crying out to us: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
And in his final breaths, we hear him reminding us: “Who is the greatest of all? Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
You see, for the one who we proclaim is Lord, the way to greatness is not to be first, but rather it is to put others first. To put the well-being and basic needs of others in front of our own wants, our sense of security, our concerns of offending others or being rejected, and our temptation to want to get ahead.
Our Lord’s path is not about climbing the social ladder and befriending and caring for only those who have something to offer us. Rather, Jesus’ path to greatness is tearing down all walls that divide and welcoming and walking alongside those who suffer, including and especially those the world deems as the last and the least.
When we proclaim Jesus’ Lordship, we are boldly pledging our allegiance to Jesus Christ – and only Jesus Christ – in all areas of our lives, no matter how difficult this might be. We are choosing to follow Jesus toward the cross, where he – our loving God who is with us in the flesh – performed a radical act of love that did and continues to trump hate.
Yes, Christ is King of Kings and Lord of all! So let us boldly proclaim this as we follow him to the cross.
Rev. Emily Heitzman is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) pastor serving as the shared Pastor with Youth and Households at three ELCA congregations in the neighborhood of Edgewater in Chicago: Unity Lutheran, Ebenezer Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran. Some of her sermons and reflections can be found at Musings from a Bricolage.
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