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.

Pentecost 24, 2016 — 30 Oct 16

Pentecost 24, 2016

RCL C Proper 26 Complementary
Isaiah 1:10-18, Psalm 32:1-8, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4 and 11-12, Saint Luke 19:1-10

The Gospel today takes place in Jericho, a city along the Jordan River, situated in a vast grove of palm trees. It is an oasis in the desert, the place where the children of Israel crossed over the Jordan into the Land of Promise.[1] It is the greatest fortress protecting the Land of Promise and the site of Joshua’s great victory when the walls came tumbling down.[2]

And in the Gospel today, Jericho is the site of another great victory for God. It is where salvation comes to Zacchaeus, the chief publican or chief tax collector who is rich.

Last Sunday, Jesus told us a parable about another tax collector who went to the temple to pray. He throws himself on God’s mercy, claiming to be a sinner, and Jesus proclaim that this tax collector went home justified. Zacchaeus does much the same thing.

He starts off as a lurker, but look what happens. Jesus calls him by name. Zacchaeus just wants to see him, but Jesus calls him by name. That moment when Jesus looks up into the sycamore tree on the street in Jericho is a great victory for God.

Not one of us can say that God has not searched for us, found us in our self-imposed distance, and called us by name. God is like that, seeking and saving the lost, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel.[3]

What does God have to do to get us, you and me, to come down out of our tree, and do what God wants us to do? Many of us are, like Zacchaeus, lurkers, hanging on at the fringe, wanting to see him, wanting to know a little more about him, and wanting to hear him say our name, to recognize us and to bless us.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, God does these very things over and over again at every Eucharist. He shows himself to us in his self-offering on the cross and in the memorial of it in the sacrament. He reveals himself to us Sunday-by-Sunday in the good news that is his Gospel. He calls us each by our name in our baptism and confirmation, and when he calls us to be his people in a confused and confusing world desperate for meaning. We have only to give him an affirmative answer: do his will, accept his forgiveness, or walk in the paths of good works he strews around our feet.

When Jesus looks up at Zacchaeus, he shows him the tenderest love. And that tender love when met with Zacchaeus’ coöperation makes him, in the words of the great hymn that we sang today, “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.”[4] Our coöperation, meeting that same tenderest love, produces the same results. What else could we ask for?

[1] Joshua 3:16.

[2] Joshua 6.

[3] Saint Luke 19:10.

[4] Hymn 410, Stanza 1.

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