I saw a very interesting play recently called the Iron Stag King. It
was a variation on the mythological prince raised by a pauper and the
adventures of the fellowship that wants to restore him safely to the
throne. Throughout the play you find yourself rooting for the
protagonists, but it starts to get a little uncomfortable when the
main villain of the piece is defending his actions with cherished
Democratic beliefs. A King is a tyrant and people need to be free from
the shackles of the monarchy. The people should decide the country’s
fate, not a despot.
This idea of freedom is deep in our culture. Our politicians tell us
other countries hate us because of our freedoms. Our national holiday
is Independence Day! It’s reinforced in our pop culture. Our heroes
fight to be free and would rather die than to be imprisoned or
enslaved. To obey, to submit, to sacrifice, to be a servant… these are
to be avoided like the plague.
Obey, submit, sacrifice, serve are words steeped in sexism in our
culture and the feminist movement has legitimate reasons to be wary of
these terms. Survivors of abuse are also quite wary of these words as
well. In many ways the tyranny of the
corporate/consumerist/commodifying “kingdom” has far more ruling power
than is good or healthy for our planet. Rebelling against the kingdoms
of this world is often needed and necessary. While acknowledging that,
I still think it’s important to call attention to the fact that King
and freedom are words opposed to one another in our culture.
Christ as savior, the one who bought us out of slavery to sin; who
freed us! That’s the Christ that fits better with our culture than
Christ the King. But really? They’re one in the same. It’s not
intuitive. It doesn’t make sense. And yet I can tell you from personal
experience that submission to Christ freed me from the shackles of
compulsive destructive behavior that plagued me for decades of my
And so I submit to you, that obeisance to Christ the King is freedom.
In our country’s mythos of every person for themselves, pulling
yourself up by the bootstraps, making yourself over, we cut ourselves
off from understanding our radical dependence on God. We are not
isolated creatures that can exist on our own. We could not be alive
without the rest of creation, the air we breathe, the plants that make
oxygen, the food we gather from the earth, even all the so-called man
made items come from some source material from the created world.
We are also social beings. When we come out of the womb it takes years
for us to be in any way capable of “surviving on our own.” In a
consumerist culture all the many other people involved in creating,
transporting and exchanging goods become invisible to us, but it would
all break down if they weren’t there. We need love and companionship
and touch to be truly healthy and happy.
There’s a popular idea that Jesus loved everyone equally, as his
Heavenly parent does. But we often forget that Jesus was fully man as
well as fully God. Even the Lord had an inner circle of close
apostles. In John’s gospel Jesus even names the apostles as his
One of these friends, Thomas, after seeing Christ resurrected,
exclaimed “My Lord and My God!” In my mind’s eye, I see Thomas
genuflecting when he says this. This is not mere reverence, but a
moment of submission to Christ’s authority.
Do not be fooled into thinking that submission is a passive thing. It
is not rolling over and waiting to be acted upon. It takes emotional
and mental effort. To let go of the illusion of control, to accept
that we have very little power over the vast majority of things that
happen in this world; to become aware of the impermanence of the
worldly things that we look to for comfort and security – takes
spiritual effort and practice. The effort is worth it however because
it can bring us peace that we could never find any other way.
A vital element of this process is trust. A lot of the ways God is
talked about out there can lead one to think of God as a vengeful,
angry judge. I challenge you to read the Gospels carefully. While
Jesus does sometimes get angry, and speaks of wailing and gnashing of
teeth; pay careful attention to how Jesus treats anyone who sincerely
asks him for help. Notice how often Jesus speaks of forgiveness. How
he spends time with the marginalized, the outcasts and children. When
Jesus speaks of his parent in heaven, what does he say? God gives
life, provides for us and protects us, teaches and loves us. Is that a
God you can out your full trust in? Can you have faith that Christ
also cares for you and loves you and will not hurt you? Can you submit
to this King?
By submitting to Christ you are not losing anything – with surrender
you are gaining. You can feel much more happy and at peace. You can
let go of worrying about all that which is not in your control. You
can find your deepest true self. You can give freely without
constraints. Submission is a giving back to God, the gift of the
person God knows you to be.
Finding your true self requires being open. Talk to Christ about your
whole self; your insecurities, strengths, thoughts and feelings. I
speak from experience that Christ has the power to transform you; to
bring forth that deeper self. Transformation can’t happen if you’re
not willing to look at it all. It helps to say these things aloud.
Having a community or a spiritual director is vital here.
Notice our text speaks of Christ freeing us; a collective term. To him
who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be
a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and
dominion forever and ever. In Ephesians, Paul instructs the Church to
submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. This is not a
matter of dominion, power and control, but a community of those who
are all priests, all willingly subjects of Christ the King.
Submission doesn’t happen once and then you’re done. It is a
continuing and evolving process. None of us are complete. Our
congregation collectively and individually will make mistakes. Do not
let this truth discourage you. One way to look at submitting to each
other is to support each other in more fully submitting to our King.