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Of Joys and Sorrows
Solemnity of Christ King of the Universe
In his recently published memoir,  Ai Wei Wei, a Chinese multi-media artist and human rights activist, writes about how his progressive minded and artistically gifted grandfather and father endured the punishments of Chinese dictators. Wei Wei himself suffered similar indignations and intimidations as the government sought to “remodel” free thinkers, artists, writers and others who opposed authoritarian control.
I started thinking about the freedoms enjoyed in this country. Most people, with determination and a bit of luck, can still pursue the careers and lifestyles they envision for themselves and their families. I am also aware of those who have no opportunities for advancements; whose rights are snuffed out by the whim of insensitive and self serving government leaders. What does God have to do with these problems?
Today, for many Christians, is the liturgical commemoration of Christ as King of the Universe, whose dominion is eternal. (Daniel 7:13-14) Christian doctrine asserts that Christ is the sovereign over all earthly matters. Today’s feast marks the conclusion of a liturgical year and sets the cyclical stage for Jesus of Nazareth entering world history. In our faith-filled imaginations Christ is called prophet, healer, peace activist, king, and savior “whose decrees are worthy of trust indeed.” (Psalm 93:1, 1-2,5)
In commenting on the gospel for today (John 18:33b-37), Samuel Cruz,  remarks: “This passage … shows how the powerful do not like it when they do not control the discourse … just as the powerful elites are accustomed to determining/controlling the ideology and the discourse in our day.”
In this context it is discouraging to think that the time honored liberties enjoyed in the United States and rooted in democracy are slowly crumbling due to an endangered election system coupled with the self-serving agendas and ideals of an elite class of politicians, wealthy individuals and corporations.
The global trend toward dictatorial government leaders is frightening. Those countries, where a single person or political party, has absolute power include Belarus, China, Nicaragua, Syria, Turkey, and Russia just to name a few. In some places dictators act like religious leaders while the religious leaders act like politicians.
One cannot, therefore, avoid thinking about any institution, especially religious ones, where a privileged class monitors the spiritual and secular lives of the memberships. If equal rights for all human beings is the objective in society then hierarchical and patriarchal forms of governance have to give way to leadership roles that include all people regardless of race, gender identity, class or wealth. This act of justice, established by the Sovereign Christ, is a law based on love of neighbor.
Francis, the bishop of Rome, is right to initiate a world-wide synod calling for bishops to listen to the members of their churches, their joys and hopes, their griefs and anxieties. These words are found at the beginning of the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World where it also states that respect and love for humanity is expressed “by engaging with it in conversation about these various problems.” (No. 3)
Professor Cruz continues to comment on what Jesus meant when he said to Pilate his “kingdom was not of this world.” Cruz wrote: “The values of Jesus’ kingdom are so vastly different from those of this world that often we Christians fail to understand them. The church, which purports to—and should—represent Jesus’ kingdom, is here to serve in humility rather than to seek earthly power.”
According to a new study  congregations that work for justice and peace are more proactive in the public square when they are exhorted to do so from the pulpit. South African Methodist bishop Peter Storey, in an interview on the role of Christians in the world, recently remarked: “The church is only the church when it is engaging the world. The rest of the time it’s just getting dressed for the job.”
We find our place in the cosmic enterprise, where the Creator and Sovereign God continues to move about, by carrying “forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit … Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served.” (John 18:37; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45) 
Ai Wei Wei wrote about the joys and sorrows of being a Chinese artist and social activist. Jesus of Nazareth said that his followers’ lives would also be filled with difficulties and delights. It is up to us who practice a religious tradition to join others who hold similar values to find ways to assist those who have no power to determine their destinies. It may be for us both a costly act of discipleship and a worthwhile one.
1. Ai Wei Wei. 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir. Trans. Allan H. Barr, New York: Crown, 2021
2. Cruz is Associate Professor of Church and Society at Union Seminary in New York City,
3. Race and the Power of Sermons on American Politics by R. Khari Brown, Ronald E. Brown, and James S. Jackson. Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press, 2021
4. Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, No. 3.
11/21/2021 08:39:19 pm
Thank you for your reflection on "Christ the King" I just heard John Haught on a Center for Christogenesis webinar and science is teaching us "we are in the story of the evolution of humanity, it is far from over"
11/21/2021 10:58:58 pm
Nice to hear your voice again. I loved the quote from Storey: “The church is only the church when it is engaging the world. The rest of the time it’s just getting dressed for the job.”
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