What image comes to mind when you hear the word “king”? For me it is the image of King Charles III being crowned last year with a priceless crown studded with jewels, a crown so heavy that his head could hardly hold it up. Today we celebrate a different kind of king: a shepherd king gathering up the people from all nations, all circumstances, all genders, all positions of status. A humble king who empowers, heals, and calls each of us by name.

Reign of Christ Sunday is a marker for the end of the liturgical year. Today we wrap up a year’s worth of worship by remembering once again who we are and more importantly, whose we are. We have come once again to the end of the season after Pentecost – 25 full weeks. Next week will begin a new year in our liturgical calendar as the first Sunday of Advent leads us into a time of active watching and waiting for Christ to enter our world and our lives in a new way.

But first, on this Sunday we remember our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ called to participate in the transformation of the world, through the power of his Holy Spirit. We aren’t disciples of our own wisdom; we aren’t disciples following the winds of this world. We are disciples of Jesus Christ, supreme sovereign and King of all Kings.

The prophet Ezekiel speaks on behalf of God to a people who have been led astray by their kings and government officials and have gone into exile. God by contrast is a different kind of king, shepherd of the people, coming to rescue them from the places they have been taken to. God will provide for them, especially those in poverty and those who are marginalized in any way. Ezekiel’s prophecy paints a picture of God as the good shepherd, caring for God’s flock. This passage reminds us that our king is not distant or indifferent but deeply involved in our lives. God seeks out the lost, binds up the injured, and strengthens the weak. Our shepherd-king knows each one of us by name and desires that none of us should be lost.

Psalm 100 is a call to worship and a song of praise reminding us that God is our shepherd and we are the sheep of God’s pasture. On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. In a world filled with various forms and types of leadership and authority, we look to Jesus as our true king, the one who reigns with love, compassion, and selflessness.

The Gospel passage from Matthew 25 presents a powerful image of Christ as the ultimate king and judge separating the sheep from the goats, not based on their wealth, status, or achievements, but on their acts of love and mercy. The sovereign we honor is one who identifies with the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned, calling us to recognize God’s presence in every single human being.

As we reflect on these readings, we are challenged to examine our lives. Do we give Christ first place in our hearts? Do we follow his example of humble service and selflessness in our leadership roles, whether in our families, communities, or workplaces?

Let us not forget that God empowers each one of us and calls us to form community. I had the great joy this week of watching the VOS production of The Wizard of Oz at the McPherson Playhouse. A timeless story that I’m sure you are well familiar with, where the four main characters are each on a journey and searching for something they believe to be outside themselves. One wants a brain, another a heart, the third one courage, and the fourth a home. As they travel to find the Wizard of Oz whom they believe can give them these things, they support and help and encourage each other. They form community. And when they finally reach Oz, they discover that these things that they were seeking were theirs all along, they only had to realize it. Their gifts became apparent on the journey together. And so it is with us. Our gifts show  up best in community with others because that is why God has given us gifts  - to serve one another.

In a world that often values power, wealth, and success, Christ’s sovereignty stands in stark contrast. He reigns not by force but by love. He leads not with arrogance but with humility. He serves not for personal gain but for the well-being of others. This is the kind of leadership that our world desperately needs.

As we honor Christ the King, let us surrender our lives to His loving rule. Let us allow Him to be the King of our hearts, guiding us in acts of kindness, compassion, and love. Let us be a community that serves the neediest among us, recognizing in their faces, the image of God.