The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.

 

All Hail, Christ the King!

Must we be so triumphal?

by Russell Rathbun

Psalm  Reading:  Psalm 93

For Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012—Christ the King Sunday

Some versions of the NRSV subtitle Psalm 93: “The Majesty of God’s Rule.”

The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved; your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.

It’s Good to be King

A twenty-first century American president is not the corollary of a B.C.E Palestinian regional king. Nor is that kingdom in any meaningful way similar to the contemporary Untied States of America. Like, for instance, we don’t have our own god that claims our country as its children or to whom the country claims allegiance.

Nevertheless, this week’s psalm for Christ the King Sunday is a royal composition of trust and protection. While it seemingly all about God—a hymn of triumphal praise in divine majesty—there is obviously a delicious pleasure to be had basking in such power. Especially when it props up your own.

To quote Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the king!”

Praise Triumphant

Praise is something that I’m uncomfortable with. The notion of a God that is on the side of a particular power, political or ecclesiatical, gives me the theological heebie-jeebies. Glorifying such power as though it was exclusively available to us and us only is even worse.

I come out of a tradition that has very specific ideas of what it means to praise God. There is a genre of music called, “Praise Music” otherwise known as “Worship Songs” or “Choruses.” There are also gatherings known as “Prayer and Praise Concerts.”

My experience with this music and the way it is used has contributed to my sometimes cynical, satirical assessment of contemporary Christian culture.

Makes My Teeth Hurt

When I read Psalm 93, the praise songs from my past come flooding back; I can think of a song for almost every stanza of this Psalm. It kind of makes my teeth hurt, the syrupy sweetness of the melodies.

I am rarely in need of such awesome power. That is not true for a large group of people who don’t have the kind of triumphal privilege that I do, who live in countries ruled by despots or occupied by forgiven armies. I would gladly let them use my god for a while.

The Hardest Question

If Christ is King, what exactly should we be praising? How should we be praising?


Russell Rathbun is a preacher at House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the author of Midrash on the Juanitos (Cathedral Hill Press, 2010) and the curator of The Hardest Question.

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