Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24/ Psalm 100/ Matthew 25:31-46
What Kind of Reign?
King Arthur and His Round Table
When I was 17, I went to university to study French language and literature. That is when I studied the legend of King Arthur because there was an old French writer who collected King Arthur’s stories; that is how King Arthur’s legend became an important part of the history of the French literature, as well as of the English literature. I have a little embarrassing confession to make at this point; because of my studies of French literature, I thought King Arthur was French.
Anyway, the reason why I am starting today’s message with King Arthur is because of his famous round table. The Round Table of Arthur and his knights is a symbol of a non-authoritarian reign. We celebrate today as the Reign of Christ Sunday and our mind goes to God or Jesus ruling over us. But the question we should ask is, “What kind of a reign are we talking about?” Some rulers in history have been tyrants and some have been benevolent and just. So what kind of a reign is the reign of Christ?
God and Christ’s Reign
Today’s reading in the Book of Ezekiel teaches us about God as a ruler. What kind of a ruler? God is a shepherd, who takes care of the sheep, rescues them, strengthens the weak, and feeds them with justice. God is portrayed as a just and caring ruler. God wants the weak to be empowered and cared for.
Then what does our gospel parable say about Christ as a ruler? Today’s gospel parable depicts the judgment of the nations. According to this parable, we are judged by one major criterion. Did we feed the hungry? Did we practise hospitality to strangers? Did we clothe the naked? Did we take care of the sick? Jesus teaches us that whatever we did to “one of the least of these who are members of my family” is how we treat him.
God as a ruler wants to be a shepherd, who feeds us with justice and takes care of us. Christ as a ruler wants us to be good shepherds according to God’s will. Now, we can answer the question, “What kind of a reign is the Reign of Christ?” It is a reign in which the weak members are empowered and taken care of. It is not the survival of the fittest. Instead, it is a system in which we all help each other to walk together. When we walk together, the strong and the fit do not need help. It is the weak that need extra help.
It is the same with the reign of Christ. We focus on those who need extra help, the weak and marginalized. There are privileged people who wonder why there isn’t a Straight Pride Parade or White Lives Matter movement. It is because privileged people don’t need a special reminder that their existence is valid and should be respected. It is compatible with the reign of Christ to remind ourselves that black lives matter and that being queer is something to be proud of if that is what we are.
This is the God to whom we offer thanks and praise, and worship with gladness and joy. We do not worship a tyrant or a ruler of an oligarchy or an autocracy. We worship a ruler who chooses justice and empowerment for the marginalized, who wants us to do the same. The reign of Christ operates on the principles of compassionate love and justice for all. Justice for all means focusing on those without power and privilege. The Christian Church often talks about the heavenly banquet, and I imagine this banquet table to be round like King Arthur’s because, in Christ’s reign, we are all equal, no hierarchy, just siblings.
Being the Good Shepherds of Christ’s Reign
As well as being the Reign of Christ Sunday, today is also Children’s Sunday, and tomorrow is Transgender Day of Remembrance. We have special days and months such as Children’s Day, Transgender Day, Black Month, Indigenous Month, and Asian month because they are the “least of these who are members of my family” as Jesus put it.
As we listen to God’s call for us to be the good shepherds mentioned in Ezekiel, let us remember our children who are vulnerable to misguidance and abuse. Let us remember our transgender siblings who committed suicide, were murdered, or are daily living in fear of being targets of bigotry and hate crimes. Let us remember victims of domestic violence, not limited to women and children. Let us remember those who have to fear for their lives in war zones, and the civilians who were killed. Let us remember our racial minority siblings and the racism they experience daily. Let us be the good shepherds of Christ’s reign for our siblings, the members of God’s family who are considered “the least.” And with the Season of Advent and Christmas that are upon us, let us declare Christ’s reign of love and justice with our commitment to live as faithful disciples, to honour what Jesus stood for.