Christ the King 2014
Here is the text of the sermon I preached on Christ the King (Sunday 23rd November) at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
The problem was, the Roman empire increasingly demanded to receive more than it was due. So, Christians also had to say NO to the state. In particular, the empire started claiming an absolute authority over religious matters. The emperors became the supreme priests, and were even being worshipped as gods in their own lifetime. Christians knew they ought to pray for the emperor, but never to the emperor. Sadly, emperors such as Decius and Valerian demanded this undue honour; the Christians refused, and many thousands of them perished. In the 20th century, this feast of Christ the King was established by the Pope precisely to oppose the totalitarian regimes that were taking over Europe. And let us not forget that widespread and cruel persecution of Christians continues today.
This Christian NO to the state is the best way to understand the Maccabees’ revolt. The rulers demanded idolatry and sin, and the Maccabean Jews refused. They refused to join the king’s sycophants, his flatterers and floozies. (When I spent a term engrossed at the Union, hosting speaker events instead of doing my History degree, my dissertation supervisor warned me to keep away from the ‘sirens and floozies of the Union’!) Well, Mattathias and his followers, ‘who were seeking righteousness and justice’, stayed clear of the king’s court because they knew they had to remain faithful to God’s covenant.