Priests of the King

Last Pentecost

What do you want to be when you grow up? Occasionally a child will answer, “President of the United States.” Perhaps it’s better after all for children to stick to attainable futures as teachers, scientists, or firefighters. Yet, beginning at baptism a Christian learns to praise Jesus by saying, “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” All the baptized are ordained as priests, priests in a kingdom, in which Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 4:1b-8).

Perhaps we would rather be a firefighter after all. We would much rather let the ordained carry the title and responsibility of priesthood, to offer the sacrifice by which Jesus frees the sins of the world, to speak to the world for God, and to speak from the world to God. This vocation is that fulfilled in baptism, and like it or not, the Church and its members bear the weight of being a royal priesthood.

First reading and psalm: 2 Sam. 23:1-7
Ps. 132:1-13(14-19)

Alternate: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14Ps. 93
Rev. 1:4b-8John 18:33-37

The confrontation between Jesus and the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate is dramatic. Pilate was born into a family of hereditary knights, a military family. As prefect of Judaea, he represented the tyrannical Emperor Tiberius as commander of the Roman legions in the area, as administrator of the area, and with limited judicial power. He exemplified naked power, repression, and force.

Jesus too had a noble lineage, tracing his family tree to King David, the great Jewish hero. But he was born in a cave. His human father was a carpenter. True, the village carpenter was a valued and honored member of the village, as he made tools, furniture, the beams that held up roofs, doors, and window frames. Such utilitarian labor in no way compared with being a hereditary knight, let alone the representative of an emperor who claimed to be divine. Pilate asserted the power of perhaps the greatest empire the world had known.

Jesus says that his kingdom was from above. State and faith clash in these persons. Today Tiberius and his empire are long gone. Pilate lives on in the Creeds, but not as a man of power. Jesus lives. He is King of kings. His kingdom from above is to come but is foreshadowed in the Church as Christians serve God’s empire as a royal priesthood. The power of this kingdom is love, compassion, and mission. Through the Church and its members, God works his purpose out as year succeeds to year until the earth becomes full of the glory of God as Jesus returns to claim his own.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Look It Up
Read the lessons appointed for this day.

Think About It
Reflect on how you exercise your priestly ministry at home, at work, and to those in need.

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