In the midst of everything else that is changing in my life: a new church in a new town and all that goes with that, this month I also received news that my favorite magazine, Mental Floss, is ending its print run. With that in mind, I have been savoring the final print edition; reading the articles with great care. One that is particularly interesting, that I will try to link to when it becomes available is the story of the powerful role of dance in the monarchy of Louis XIV.
Despite becoming king at age 4, Louis XIV was a strong ruler. He clamped down on the central authority of monarchy that he believed was given by God. One way of holding down the ruling class was to bring them all to Versailles where they were forced to learn intricate dance routines to be offered at the King’s whim. Even his official portrait hid his rotund upper body behind heavy clothing while featuring his dancer’s legs in a pair of high heels to accentuate his calves. To say Louis XIV was a different sort of king is an understatement.
Reading that story on the cusp of the Feast of Christ the King has me wondering what sort of king we want Jesus to be. Some might be searching for an iron-fisted monarch, which is in keeping with the expectations hurled upon him in the crucifixion narrative we have for Sunday. “Save yourself,” they cry out, as if the sole job of a king is to look out for his own self interests. Jesus is clear, however, that his reign is not self serving, it is not violent, it is not worried about centralizing power. Instead, the King we find in Jesus, especially in the Gospel assigned for Year C, is a king who prays for his enemies, has concern for those who persecute him, willingly gives himself up to death for the greater good, and lives out the self-giving love of God to his final breath.
Like the irony of a ballet dancing strong armed king, Jesus’ power comes not through might, but from love. His reign is based in love, compassion, and forgiveness, and he invites those who would be his subjects to live after his model. There are many Christians in this world who have a hard time accepting this sort of King Jesus, which is why I think it is of utmost importance that we members of the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement get out there and share the story. Tell of the King who came to reign with love. Tell of Jesus whose gospel is forgiveness. Tell of the monarch who welcomed the marginalized even in the hour of his death. This version of Christ the King is the monarch that this world so desperately needs, and it is our duty to share him with the world.