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Christ the King (Proper 29), Cycle A

Sunday between November 20 and November 26 inclusive

The symbolic images of “shepherd” and of “king” are predominant in these texts. In the texts that are from the Israelite Scriptures it is, of course, the Lord who is “like a shepherd” and “like a king.” In the Newer Testament texts, it is Jesus raised from the dead as Lord and Christ who is “like a shepherd” and “like a king.” The symbolic image of “shepherd” connotes tenderness, caring, love, and immanence. The symbolic image of “king” connotes power, strength, force, and transcendence. Both the Lord God of Israel and Jesus as Lord and Son of God are perceived as having the characteristics of an ideal shepherd and an ideal king.

The Christ the King emphasis at the conclusion of the Church Year is basically doctrinal. It has its greatest affinity within our Church Year calendar with Trinity Sunday. It marks the culmination each year of the process of theological development through which Jesus the man became and becomes in the piety of his followers Christ the King. The process of theological development attributes to Jesus as Risen Lord and Christ the same attributes Israelites and Jews attribute to the Lord God. Within the texts selected for this occasion, this includes the role of gentle shepherd who is also sovereign over all. This should be our emphasis on this occasion as well.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
In sharp contrast to the shepherds who have been feeding themselves instead of the sheep (Ezekiel 34:1-10), it is said in these texts that the Lord will rescue the sheep from the selfish, uncaring shepherds and will gather the sheep together that have been scattered abroad. The Lord will bring these sheep once again into their own land, and will make it possible for them to graze on the hills of Israel once more, and will let them rest there. The Lord will seek out the lost, bring back the ones who have strayed, bind up the ones who are crippled, and strengthen the weak.

Within the Ezekiel traditions, these texts are obviously references to the late exilic and early restoration periods of Israelite history. For us as Christians, these texts also depict the activities of Jesus as Lord and Christ.

Psalm 100
Calling upon people in all lands of the earth to sing praises to the Lord, the writer of this psalm follows a series of psalms (93. 95-99) celebrating the Lord as King of all and describes those who serve the Lord as the Lord’s people, the sheep of the Lord’s pasture.

Psalm 95:1-7a
The reason for including this Community Hymn of Praise on this occasion is easily seen in 95:3, “For the Lord is a great God, and a great king above all gods,” and in 95:7, “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.”

Ephesians 1:15-23
For the writer of this Pauline epistle later designated as “to the Ephesians,” Jesus as the Risen Christ is as we might say today, “the bottom line.” In the midst of the carefully constructed literary edifice, the one sentence in Greek that extends to twelve verses in Ephesians 1:3-14, we read in verses 8b-10a, “In a way that surpasses all human wisdom and understanding, God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will, according to God’s desire to show favor, which God put into effect in Christ as a plan of salvation for the fullness of time that all things should be summed up in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” This line of thought is continued in Ephesians 1:20-23, in which the writer referred to the power of God’s might “which God put into effect in Christ when God raised Christ from the dead and placed him at God’s ‘right hand’ in the heavens far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And God subjected all things under Christ’s feet, and gave him preeminence over all things in the Church, which is Christ’s body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (my translation in The New Testament: A New Translation and Redaction [Lima, Ohio: Fairway Press, 2001]). This writer provided for us much of the theological reflection that we shall want to use in our Christ the King worship service this year.

Matthew 25:31-46
Matthew 25:31-46 provides for us a Matthean perspective of futuristic expectation for our Christ the King celebration. It is an indication that there was emphasis within the Matthean segment of the “mainline” followers of Jesus late during the first century on the importance of right living, of concern for one’s neighbor, and of loving one’s neighbor as one loved one’s self. These “mainline” followers of Jesus believed that only those who were doing these things would enter with Jesus into eternal life.

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen