Solemnity of Christ the King – B • November 21, 2021 at St. Luke’s

It has been two years since Covid first appeared in the world. And it just seems to keep going, no matter what we do. I just read that in the last week, Michigan is now the top state in the nation for new Covid cases, and we here in Ottawa County are near the top in the state. I also read in the Wall Street Journal that in Germany, where cases are also spiking, 45% of the people in hospital with Covid have been fully vaccinated. These things led me to this question during my quarantine: what if there’s nothing we human beings can do to stop Covid? What if it’s just going to run its course? What if this is one problem that we can’t find a solution for? It seems that, no matter what has been done, it just keeps going. No matter what political party is in power, no matter what restrictions or regulations or mandates are put in place, it keeps going. Even in countries where the restrictions have been much, much greater than here, it just keeps circulating. We might think, if only we had done this, or if only we would do that, that would fix this thing. But what if that’s not the case?
So what should our response to all this be? Certainly we have prayed for this thing to come to an end. Since we first went into lockdown back in March 2020, I have prayed daily for an end to the pandemic. And yet it keeps going. What does this mean?
How many people have prayed and prayed for something or someone, maybe for years and years, and you didn’t get what you prayed for. You prayed for a family member, a friend, a loved one, or maybe yourself, who perhaps was sick with cancer or some other horrible illness, or who had an addiction to alcohol or drugs that was slowly taking their life. You asked God to heal that person, perform a miracle, save that person’s life. And yet the miracle didn’t happen. That person didn’t get better. If you’ve never been in that situation, there’s a good chance that at some point in life you will be.
Then what do we do? How do we react when we pray and pray for something, but don’t get it? We might think that God has abandoned us, or that he doesn’t care about us anymore, or that he doesn’t listen to our prayers. We might become angry with God. Our faith in Him might be shaken. We might even be tempted to despair. We night look for a scapegoat: a person or a group of people to blame. Or we might blame God.
I would answer that, when we are faced with a situation we can’t fix, a problem we can’t solve, and nothing we do seems to work, we have to remember: Jesus Christ is sovereign. Jesus Christ is still the King of the entire universe and of every single human being and living creature in it. He holds the world and its wonders in his loving hands. Even when we don’t seem to have reason for hope, God is still sovereign. That is what our faith is all about. And because we are people of faith, we have to remind ourselves that God is still with his world and that He has a much greater plan in mind than we can conceive of. We have to renew our hope that He has something so much greater in store for us than anything we will find in this life.
We have to remember that our faith is not a contractual agreement, as in: if I do this thing or pray this prayer this many times, than I can expect X kind of result. How often do we speak of prayer in terms of it “working” or “not working”? If we pray for something and we get it, we think of our prayer as having “worked”. The problem with this is, does that mean when we pray for something and don’t get it, our prayers didn’t “work”? That is not what being a Christian means. We pray to God because He is our Creator; He has given us everything, and we owe everything to Him. We pray to Him because he loves us even though we are sinners, and He wants to free us from our sins and make us more and more like Himself. And prayer is necessary for God to transform us.
And God knows better than we do what is best for us. We might think we know, but we often don’t. And there’s one prayer that, no matter what, God will never grant, no matter how much we pray for it: He will never spare us from death, not forever. Death seems like the worst thing that can happen to anyone, but it is not. The worst thing of course is damnation. And the second worst thing, if it were even possible, would be like it: living in this world forever. I think that would probably be a kind of hell. God permits that each one of us go through that experience of death – just as he himself went through it for our sake – because He knows that it is the necessary gateway to the next life, the true and complete and perfect life for which He created each one of us.
Jesus Christ is sovereign, even now in this troubled world with all its suffering and death. He was king even when he stood before Pilate, wearing a crown of thorns and covered in blood. But his glory, which was hidden under his suffering humanity, has still not yet been fully revealed. We will only see Him reigning in the fullness of his glory when we too have passed from this life to the next, and then He will invite us to share in his glory.
No matter what is going on in our lives, no matter what is going on in the world around us, Jesus Christ is our sovereign king. We give him praise and glory even now, with the humble human language that we have. And we renew our hope that one day we will behold him face to face in the fullness of his glory.