Depending on when you purchased your 1979 Book of Common Prayer, you might be surprised to realize that the commonly used name for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany (or the Sunday next before Advent), Christ the King, does not actually appear in your book. If you bought your BCP prior to 2009, there is no reference to Christ the King Day, though since the Collect for Proper 29 was stolen from the Roman Catholic Missal, it does carry strong King of kings language (Hatchett, 195).
The move to call the day Christ the King Sunday comes with General Convention’s adoption of the Revised Common Lectionary, and while some are opposed to the idea of the day taking a name that is otherwise foreign to the Book of Common Prayer, and despite my strong reservations about the ongoing Roman Catholic creep in The Episcopal Church, I am beyond fine with appropriating this particular name because I think it invites us to ponder some of the language that gets used around the person of Jesus. Words like kingdom, reign, Lord, and of course, King.
For more than 800 years, the Pope, after his election, was crowned with a triple tiara, symbolizing, among other things, his status as the Vicar of Christ, who is seated as King of heaven, earth, and hell. Despite the less than stellar Photoshop job above, Benedict never wore the triple tiara, as it fell out of use after the Second Vatican Council. Still, like Christ the King Sunday, the triple tiara serves a symbol that we might want to consider as we talk about Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and King.
Like Pilate in Sunday’s Gospel lesson, we are stuck with the political understandings of this world. Unlike Pilate, as Americans 239 years removed for a Monarch, we can barely begin to imagine what it means to make Jesus King of the Jews, let alone King of our Lives. How do we handle the bold claims that we make in the Collect for the day? What do we mean when, almost every week, we claim that Jesus lives and reigns in hypostatic union with the Trinity for ever and ever? Kingship is tough for us to handle, it is highly counter-cultural, which is all the more reason to call this Sunday, Christ the King and honestly engage what that means for us and for our lives.