“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—“
The poem, recited by Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Lewis Carroll’s classic, Through the Looking Glass, has been the subject of great speculation ranging from religious allegory to those who thin Carroll never intended anything but a nonsensical ditty. I have tended to think it was about the clash between the aristocracy and the working class but no one knows what Carroll intended.
It has been a time of tumult since the election. Some feel empowered, others are dismayed, and there has been an increase in violence and hate-crimes. And so we come to the end of the church year with “Christ the King.” Much of Luke’s gospel takes place on the journey to Jerusalem and as Jesus and his follower entered the city, he began to speak in ominous tones, even to predicting the destruction of the temple (something that took place several years before the gospel was written).
This week we come to the climax of the story, and while the culture has already moved to the Christmas season, the church year ends with Jesus on a cross. Not exactly where we expect to find a king is it? We have become somewhat detached from the concept of a king, so much so that this last Sunday of the church year is also called “Reign of Christ” although I am not sure that makes it any clearer.
In Jesus’ time, Kings were first of all conquerors. The used military might to capture, subdue, control and maintain. First century Jerusalem certainly knew about kings. Ramses, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander Caesar. These were the kings known to Jesus and his ancestors. They were first of all conquerors and then often builders of monuments to their greatness.
And yet, this is the very ting that makes the Christian story so incredible. Jesus enters the city encouraging the people to not put their faith in the institutions (the temple and the empire) or the people who stand behind them and profit from them (the Scribes, Pharisees and military masters). Even after those very institutions and people put an end to him, he reigns as king. His kingdom is not about conquest and monuments; it is about service, sacrifice and compassion.
Here is the last verse of the poem, A Better Resurrection by 19th century English poet, Christina Rosetti:
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perished thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.