This past Sunday (November 22, 2015) in my Episcopal tradition is usually referred to as “Christ the King” Sunday. The Gospel lesson is the conversation between Jesus and Pilate in which Pilate asks Jesus if he is “the King of the Jews”. In my way of thinking, every Gospel reading should raise a question which each of us must answer for ourselves and then work out the implications of the answer we conclude.
In this case, the question is “Do I accept Jesus as my King?” By answering “Yes!” I must then wrestle with the implications – i.e. what does it mean for me in practical terms to confess that Jesus is my King?
I begin by asking myself what it means to have Jesus as my King. I conclude it means that I allow him to have control, to be in charge, to rule my every thought, attitude, value, decision and action. As if the very thought of that is not challenging enough, I must then also answer the question, “How do I do that?” I conclude, the only way to let Jesus rule in every detail of my life is Pray; I must ASK him … then I must LISTEN for his answer. How do I do that?
I ask: “Jesus my king, is what I am thinking about such and such an issue in accord with your will?” THEN, listen for the king to answer. Our thoughts about every issue must be subject to the will of the king of kings: immigration, refugee quotas, gay marriage, which presidential candidate to support … on and on the list goes. “Jesus my king, is what I am thinking about ______________ (fill in the blank with any issue) in accord with your divine and holy will?”
Some might be asking – but how does one LISTEN for an answer to the prayed question? While many Fundamental Christians reject the practice as “pagan”, Contemplative Prayer and other ancient Christian practices are becoming increasingly revived and practiced by many Christians. Contemplative prayer, one of these ancient Christian practices, is one way of listening for the voice of the king.
On the Day of Pentecost, Peter quoted the prophet Joel, saying “‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17, NRSV) Notice especially the phrase “all flesh”. That means everyone will be potentially capable of hearing the voice of the King.
Fundamental Christians are justifiably concerned about the “subjectivity” of such practices. Without doubt, that is a justifiable concern. Cult leaders and other false prophets have done much damage by claiming to have a “message from God.” But there are safe-guards we can employ to minimize the possibility of subjective error. Let me suggest three:
1. Be spiritually grounded — be a spiritually maturing person, grounded in
the Word of God, regular in Worship, prayer and acts of charity. Apply
the Armor of God spoken about by Paul in Ephesians 6:10ff;
2. Pray before hand, if you are looking for direction or an answer to a
specific need or question, that God will guide your mind and heart from
being led astray;
3. Finally, have a small group of prayer partners who share both your
beliefs, and the practices that lead to spiritual maturity. When you
believe you have received a message from the King, check with them to see
if there is any accord.