Have you seen the trailer for the new Lion King movie? It looks absolutely amazing and beautiful. The trailer starts out with a classic sun coming up in the sky. It’s pink. It’s beautiful. You see the big, glowing orb of the sun sweeping through the kingdom. It’s all just beautiful.
You hear the voice of James Earl Jones come over the screen. He says that the king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day the sun will set here and will rise with you as the new king. You get that classic shot of Pride Rock where he holds up little Simba, and all the animals bow down to him. At the end of the trailer, there is a scene of the sky.
The stars are coming through, and all you here is a voice. The voice says, “Remember.”
This is really homage back to the original sequence, the original film. The climax of the film is when the little lion cub runs off, and he leaves the kingdom to be with his uncle. He decides to forfeit it, and he goes off into the wilderness and sings Hakuna Matata. He doesn’t care and just throws away all responsibility.
Meanwhile, the kingdom is in disarray. There is famine. There is drought. There is darkness. We hear this invitation for him to come back. The most powerful scene of the entire movie (I think of any Disney movie that’s ever been out) is the scene where he sees his father again. As in all Disney movies, the father is dead, so Simba has to have some kind of interaction with him.
Rafiki – that funny monkey – runs up to Simba. He says to come and see. They are running through the woods. They get to the end of the woods, and Rafiki opens up the tall grass. Simba looks down, and all he sees is his own reflection. There’s a look of disappointment because he wanted to see his father. The monkey tells him to look closer. He taps the water. You can tell he’s really trying to see his father, and he can’t see him.
All of a sudden, he hears a voice. The voice comes from the sky. He hears the voice say, “Simba.” He looks up, and he says, “Father, is that you?” In that moment, the wind picks up, and you see this lion coming in the clouds. This lion coming in the clouds represents a Christ figure like I’ve never seen it before.
The lion says to Simba, “Remember who you are. Remember you are my son. Remember you are the king. Remember who you are.” Then the voice trails off. Remember…remember…remember. It is like a sacramental scene in the movie. I love it.
At that point, Simba realizes who he is. He goes back to the kingdom, and the kingdom is absolutely destroyed. It is dark, there is famine and everyone is dying. He goes back as the king to restore it to its rightful place.
That is Disney’s version of a theophany. What is a theophany? “Theos” is Greek and means God. “Pheony” (think of epiphany) means the manifestation. A theophany is a manifestation of God. Theophany is going to happen right here at Mass.
Theophany happens every time we come to the Eucharist, and it happens in this cloud. Clouds are mentioned 150 times in scripture as referring to God. I looked it up. One hundred and fifty times. I went through all of the different times, and I’m just going to give you a few to refresh your memory.
In Exodus, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. In Leviticus, God said, “I will appear in the cloud.” God came to Moses in a cloud. God makes the cloud his chariot in the Psalms. The Lord is riding on a cloud in the book of Isaiah. The cloud filled the temple in Kings, Chronicles, Exodus, and Ezechia – all these prophets.
Thick clouds were God’s cover in 2 Samuel. And then we come to Christ. All these images of Christ. We hear in Matthew, Mark, and Luke that a cloud was on the Mount of Transfiguration. In that theophany, there was a cloud surrounding them on the mount. In three Gospels, it says the Son of Man will come in the clouds.
In the Book of Revelation, our reading today, God is coming in the clouds.
In Thessalonians, we will all be gathered together in the clouds, and here we are, right now at Mass. In just a few moments, incense will be brought out again for the consecration – for the blessing of the gifts – so we can all be brought together in the clouds because it is here that God reminds us who we are. Jesus heard a voice from heaven come down when he was baptized, which said, “You are my beloved son.”
Just like Jesus, God says this to us at every Mass. “You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.” We experience a theophany. And so often we forget. We forget who we are. We forget who he is.
The reality is that no matter how bad our kingdom gets, no matter how bad our country gets, no matter how bad our world gets, we have this Christ the King. The feast day is called Christ the King of the Universe. We have this King of the Universe who God has sent to restore order. So, we have this king who is going to make everything alright. He is in the process of making everything alright. He is in the process of restoring.
I just want you to think of you and your own life. Right now maybe your life seems beyond repair. Maybe your marriage or your family seems beyond repair, or maybe at times things here seem beyond repair. Christ the King is able to manage it. He is able to deal with it and to bring order, but far too often we forget.
This Sunday, as we celebrate Christ the King, and we come together in this cloud of incense in the liturgy, remember. Remember who you are, and remember Christ is King.