my miscellany

Christ the King, 2016 — 20 Nov 16

Christ the King, 2016

RCL C Proper 29 Complementary
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Saint Luke 23:33-43

On this the last Sunday of the Church Year we behold Christ the King reigning from Calvary’s Tree. No throne, no purple or royal clothing, no crown except the mocking crown of thorns, and no scepter proclaim him King of all the world.

But he is King, and the kingship he exercises is a special kingship. It is other-worldly. He forgives those who unjustly nailed him to the cross. He allows those who think they now have him under control to gamble for his meager clothing—everything that he has in this world. He endures and suffers the mockery of those who deride him.

And he judges. He judges two criminals punished justly with him. One of those mocks and derides him just like the others. But one of them pronounces the King’s judgment upon himself. He asks the King, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And so it is: the King’s mercy is his judgment. “Today,” he says to the second criminal, “you will be with me in Paradise.”[1]

The kingship Jesus exercises on Calvary’s Tree is forgiving; it is just; it is merciful; it is long-suffering; it is the kingship of the Creator of everything that is.

I trust you see that Jesus is more forgiving, more just, more merciful, more long-suffering than anyone else you know. But the truth is that he calls upon his followers to go and do likewise. He calls upon us to be his people in this unforgiving, unjust, unmerciful, and impatient world. It is trying, I know. We can think we’re surrounded by people who just don’t get it. And we are. They are there surely, just as surely as we know that there is a better way and a better person to be our guide. That’s very good news.

Along with that good news, there is more good news. We’re about to be given another Year, another Year of grace to bring our lives into greater harmony with his. For if we adjust our sights to his, every day of the coming year will afford us boundless opportunity to journey a little more deeply into the mystery of the cross and the mystery of his kingship, a journey that will carry us closer to completion and closer to fulfillment, closer to him.

So I invite you to lay aside the things that hinder you and to become more fully his. For he is cheering us on. Only we can move toward him, “the firstborn from the dead”[2], the King of kings and Lord of lords.

[1] Saint Luke 23:42-43.

[2] Colossians 1:18

Pentecost 26, 2016 — 13 Nov 16

Pentecost 26, 2016

RCL C Proper 28 Complementary
Malachi 4:1-2a, Psalm 98, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Saint Luke 21:5-19

Our time is running out. We have today and next Sunday before Advent Sunday, the first Sunday in the new Christian Year. And every year at this time, the readings from the Scriptures turn apocalyptic. The end of the Church Year reminds us of the end of time.

Apocalyptic is a literary mode, like tragedy, or comedy, or satire. It can be the mode of many literary genres, like prophecy, or drama, or novels. It comes from a Greek word meaning revelation or unveiling. What is revealed or unveiled usually is the end of time.

You heard it in Malachi: “the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evil-doers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up.”[1] And you heard it in the Gospel, when the talk was of the temple, adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, when Jesus says: “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”[2]

Christians understand the end in a particular way. The end of time begins with the Second Coming of Christ. And that Second Coming means that Christ is the last word. It means that, come what may, we have a good future, and that future is Christ himself.

The Gospel on which the Church stands is the Good News that Christ has died, Christ is risen from the grave, and Christ, now reigning in glory, will come again. Christ’s glorious return, his Apocalypse, is also a present, strengthening reality that comforts us in the midst of our own trials and struggles, and feeds us as we make our way as pilgrims through life. For we are headed for Christ, each one of us. If we are his disciples, every day of our short and uncertain lives takes us a little more deeply into the mystery of Christ and brings us that much closer to completion and fulfillment.

As I said at the beginning, our time is running out. But as the grains of sand fall through the narrow place, let us keep in mind that we are headed for Christ and his own redeeming love. And in the meantime, sisters and brothers, we can, as the Epistle commands, “not be weary in doing what is right.”[3] For, as Jesus says in the Gospel, “by your endurance you will gain your souls.”[4]

[1] Malachi 4:1.

[2] Saint Luke 21:6.

[3] 2 Thessalonians 3:13.

[4] Saint Luke 21:19.

All Saints Sunday, 2016 — 6 Nov 16

All Saints Sunday, 2016

RCL C All Saints
Daniel 7:1-3 and 15-18, Psalm 149, Ephesians 1:11-23, Saint Luke 6:20-31

Last year, you may recall, All Saints Day, November 1, fell on a Sunday, and even though All Saints Day takes precedence of a Sunday, we had from Church Publishing only the ordinary Sunday inserts. The difficulty was discovered too late to do anything worthwhile about it, and I vowed to make the correction this year and to take the opportunity given by the Prayer Book to observe All Saints on the Sunday after November 1.

So here we are. It’s important for us as Christians and as Episcopalians to remember all the saints, those whose memory may be forgotten by the passage of time or the quirk of the calendar or the celebration of the Eucharist only on Sundays.

We remember them, because their lives and their sacrifices show us the fullness of God. God’s image, planted in each of us, guiding and directing each of us, knows no limit. That image shows itself in as many ways as there are, and there can be, people. We celebrate the fullness and variety of God by remembering the fullness and the variety of people devoted to God. The Communion of Saints is, after all, all the saints, not one being forgotten. We remember them all by remembering the group that contains all of them.

But there’s yet another reason to keep the feast of All Saints, and that reason transcends remembering and reaches unto prayer. By remembering them, we ask God to bring us to “those ineffable joys” that belong to the saints who’ve given themselves to God in “all virtuous and godly living.”[1] We ask this in the surety of God’s love for us and for the mercy promised to those who truly love him.

And, finally, we remember, we pray, and we ask that we be among all of them, united with God and those who love him. We ask this because we know that here, on this bank and shoal of time, we’re not there yet though we know that on their bank and shoal of time, where God and all the saints are, is where our true home is. Ours, as Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, today’s Gospel, “is the kingdom of God.”[2] With all the saints, we desire what God promises, and that is our truest identity, united with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and all the holy people of God.

[1] BCP, page 245.

[2] Saint Luke 6:20.

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