Text: John 18:33-40: Contemporary Reading (included at the end of the sermon)
Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the season of Pentecost, the final Sunday of the church’s liturgical year. Next Sunday we begin Advent – a time of preparation and anticipation for the birth of the Christ child. But first, today, we pause to read from the gospel of John the prelude to Jesus’ crucifixion. I have always found this Sunday to be a bit jolting. Today we contemplate Jesus’ crucifixion as “King of the Jews” and next Sunday we enter the drama of birthing the baby Jesus.
Barbara Lundblad, one of the professors with whom I am doing an independent study at Union Seminary in New York, tells the story of one of her colleague’s memory of growing up in the South and attending church on this Sunday. She recalled how the service would begin with the minister shouting out, “Who is Jesus?” To which the choir would respond in voices loud and strong, “King of kings and Lord Almighty!” Then, she recalls, how little Miss Huff, in a voice so fragile and soft you could hardly hear, would sing her own answer, “Poor little Mary’s boy.” Back and forth they sang – KING OF KINGS…Poor little Mary’s boy. Barbara’s colleague noted, “It was the Black church doing theology.” Who is Jesus? “King of Kings” cannot be the answer without seeing “poor little Mary’s boy.”