Christ the King

This is a special Sunday, a High Holy Day. If you didn’t know about this Sunday, don’t feel too out of place. “Christ the King Sunday” or “Reign of Christ Sunday” is something that many Churches have been ignored.

How do you picture Jesus? As the Good Shepard of Ezekiel? As a friend of children? The one who stills the storm? The one who heals? The teacher? Do you often picture Jesus as the Judge?

We don’t often imagine Jesus as judge. Perhaps that’s why we don’t often name our churches “Judging Jesus Holy Church”. We think of Jesus as a good friend, as redeemer, as the one who affirms us, but rarely do we think of Jesus as judge.

Possibly we do not speak of Jesus this way because “Jesus as judge” is connected almost exclusively with today’s scripture; the Last Judgment. And the last judgment is something that many people in our time find incomprehensible or offensive. That some would find themselves cast into hell seems inconsistent with a loving God.

However this scripture passage was chosen for this Sunday primarily BECAUSE of recent generation’s hellish experience. This Sunday, “Christ the King Sunday”, was created by the Church just 60-80 years ago.

The text calls us to be, a people who are awake! Eyes open! The first commandment of Jesus is to “be not afraid.”, for if we fear others we will avoid loving them, but perhaps there is something as important. That is being able to see. That is why the Bible tells us that we are blind.

Jesus said, “Those who say they see are blind. And those who say they are blind, see.” There is a prayer, from Singapore “Forgive us Lord when we only see ourselves.” To know you are blind is to begin to see. But then how do the blind see.

Jesus’ judgement shows us the way to see. Those churches who are judged as goats and cast out of God’s kingdom are ones who don’t see Jesus in the poor and the outcast. “When did we see you suffering?” “When did we see you naked?” “When were you a criminal in prison?”

It is interesting that the sheep, the righteous ones, they also don’t see Jesus. These Churches who do good to the hungry and care for the needy, notice that they don’t say, “Amen, Jesus.

Jesus is, the truly human one who sees with love and rules with love. Not the one who sees the suffering of the world and seeks to escape to a distant Heaven. No, this Jesus brings Heaven to the Earth.

The one who rules us, if we will let him, does so not from a distance powerful throne on clouds, away from the pain and terror, but is one who rules amid the suffering on a cross shaped throne. This is the King who enters INTO hell to claim the lost and even call the sinner to share in his cross shaped mission as a beloved friend.

And, God knows that a people of the cross are so much needed in our world in where fear of terror seems to be ruling. However, fear not, and see that there is much Good News in today’s text. A final judgment is coming, and may it come soon. For Christ’s judgment will cast out fear, and war, and terror, and poverty, and inhumanity.

And because that day is surely coming, we can continue to live our lives with hope. Having children and baptizing them into the mission of Christ, sharing with them the stories and the life of faith, so they might tell others that there is indeed a leader who is worthy to give our true allegiance to.

And we may face death with hope, knowing that it is Jesus Christ who will complete the work of the Church and the mission of the Kingdom of God, and that one day, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be raised imperishable, to share in a new Heaven and a New Earth.

For we have faith in the one with the nail pierced hands and feet who walks among those who suffer, pouring out a promise made in his blood, that all of the creation will be set free from slavery to fear and death. Believe in Jesus the Christ, our Judge and our Hope!

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Trinity 20
Ephesians 5:15-20
(Taken from Calvin’s commentaries)

If believers must not neglect to drive away the darkness of others by their own brightness, how much less ought they to be blind as to their own conduct in life? What darkness shall conceal those on whom Christ, the Sun of righteousness, has arisen?

Placed, as it were, in a crowded theater, they ought to live under the eye of God and of angels. Let them stand in awe of these witnesses, though they may be concealed from the view of all mortals. Dismissing the metaphor of darkness and light, he enjoins them to regulate their life circumspectly as wise men, who have been educated by the Lord in the school of true wisdom. Our understanding must shew itself by taking God for our guide and instructor, to teach us his own will.”

By a consideration of the time he enforces his exhortation. The days are evil. Everything around us tends to corrupt and mislead; so that it is difficult for godly persons, who walk among so many thorns, to escape unhurt.

Such corruption having infected the age, the devil appears to have obtained tyrannical sway; so that time cannot be dedicated to God without being in some way redeemed. And what shall be the price of its redemption? To withdraw from the endless variety of allurements.

Let us be eager to recover it in every possible way, and let the numerous offenses and arduous toil, which many are in the habit of alleging as an apology for indolence, serve rather to awaken our vigilance.

He whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates in it day and night,”  (Psalm 1:2,) will triumph over every obstacle which Satan can oppose to his progress. When it comes that some wander, others fall, others strike against a rock, others go away, — but because we allow ourselves to be gradually blinded by Satan, and lose sight of the will of God, which we ought constantly to remember? And observe, that Paul defines wisdom to be, understanding what the will of the Lord is.

To psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. These are truly pleasant and delightful fruits. The Spirit means “joy in the Holy Ghost,” (Romans 14:17;) and the exhortation, be ye filled, (Ephesians 5.18,) alludes to deep drinking, with which it is indirectly contrasted. Speaking to themselves, is speaking among themselves. Nor does he enjoin them to sing inwardly or alone; for he immediately adds, singing in your hearts; as if he had said,

Let your praises be not merely on the tongue, as hypocrites do, but from the heart.” What may be the exact difference between psalms and hymns, or between hymns and songs, it is not easy to determine, though a few remarks on this subject shall be offered on a future occasion.

The appellation spiritual, given to these songs, is strikingly appropriate; for the songs most frequently used are almost always on trifling subjects, and very far from being chaste.

Giving thanks always. He means that this is a pleasure which ought never to lose its relish; that this is an exercise of which we ought never to weary. Innumerable benefits which we receive from God yield fresh cause of joy and thanksgiving.

At the same time, he reminds believers that it will argue ungodly and disgraceful sloth, if they shall not always give thanks, — if their whole life shall not be spent in the study and exercise of praising God.

Not given the times we are in, concerning the Church (Christ’s Body) and the turmoil it is in, it is interesting that most of this Sermon came form John Calvin, written in the mid 1500’s.

As St Peter said: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

By the waters of Babylon we sat down, and wept: when we remembered thee, O Sion.

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 1 Chron. xxix. 11.

9th Sunday after Trinity

Trinity IX.

The Prodigal Son, also known as the Lost Son, is one of the best known parables of Jesus. Yet it appears only in the Gospel of Luke. It is read on this Sunday as a reminder of God’s mercy, taught to us in the lesson of Lent, and the great incarnation of Easter. A refresher course, if you will.

It is the third and final member of a trilogy, following the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin.

This makes up a dual plea for repentance to the audience of Publicans and sinners and a rebuttal to the listening Pharisees.

The Pharisees’ accusation to Jesus had been: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” They may have been referring obliquely to Psalm 1:1:

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

Their reaction to Jesus associating with sinners was equivalent to the reaction of the faithful son in the parable.

In Pope John Paul’s Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy) discussing Jesus’ teachings on mercy. He puts forth the Parable of the Prodigal Son as an especially vivid illustration of God’s mercy for man. John Paul stresses the interior need of the son that brings about his need for reconciliation.

Above all, he enlarges on the reaction of the son’s father, who welcomes him with unbounded merciful love, rather than a mere insistence on justice. John Paul points out that the father’s reaction is based on more than mere sentiment, but on a deeper understanding of what his son really needs:

“Notice, the father is aware that a fundamental good has been saved: the good of his son’s humanity. Although the son has squandered the inheritance, nevertheless his humanity is saved.”

The Pope makes the point that this parable illustrates that mercy is best judged not from the mere externals, but from a deeper examination of what it does to the interior of man.

One common kontakion hymn (for the Eastern Othodox Church) of the occasion reads;

I have recklessly forgotten Your glory, O Father;

And among sinners I have scattered the riches which You gave to me.

And now I cry to You as the Prodigal:

I have sinned before You, O merciful Father;

Receive me as a penitent and make me as one of Your hired servants.

So what does all this mean to us?

If we are truly sorry, in our heart of hearts, for our sins and misgivings, we will be forgiven, no questions asked. On the spot we will be welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, if we are truly sorry.

The penalty is our rewards will not be as great, but all of the benefits will still be there, if we are truly repentant.