Monday, November 23, 2009

Christ the King

I sort of miss the rhythm and pattern of the Revised Common Lectionary and the intricacies of the church year. I do believe that the thematic series that define the year on both the north and south campuses are the most effective way to live out the preaching ministry at University. However, I still have tremendous respect and appreciation for the rhythm of the liturgical year. At University, we don't completely ignore the liturgical year. Of course, we still observe Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. But you won't hear much about Christ the King Sunday or Baptism of the Lord Sunday. You won't likely notice when we are in the fifth Sunday of Epiphany or when it is Trinity Sunday. You may notice that our stoles change color with the seasons of the church year: green for ordinary time, white during Easter, blue for Advent - but we don't talk about it much.

I miss these things not out of sentiment but out of my call to teach. These seasons, I believe, were developed as a teaching tool to connect us to the overall story of salvation and redemption. The rhythm helps us to find focus and to continually return to some of the essential parts of the story. I was thinking about this this weekend which was, by the way, Christ the King Sunday.

The following is from my sermon on Christ the King Sunday which I preached at Grace United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi in December of 2007:

The Christian calendar is a little different than the secular calendar.As the world begins seriously winding down the year we, as Christians are starting a new one. This week marks the final week on the Christian calendar. We start a new “liturgical” year next Sunday as the first Sunday of Advent. As Christians, there are certain ways we set ourselves apart from the world and our understanding of time is one of those. As the world is still counting down to the end of the year, we will already be beginning a new one. But like the rest of the world, as we come to the end of the year, it is good to reflect on the year that has passed. That is sort of what Christ the King Sunday is all about.

Over the years, I have learned to love Christ the King Sunday. Here is why: It has become, for me, a Sunday of reflection about the Christian year that is ending. Next week is the first Sunday of Advent. In Advent, we prepare ourselves for the coming of God into our world in Jesus Christ.

While television and retail outlets are telling us it is time to sing “Joy to the World.” While we will still be singing “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” and “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” Advent is the time when we prepare our heart and minds, our churches and our homes for the arrival of the new born King.

Before we enter into a time of looking forward, as we end this one year and prepare to enter another one, have we yet figured out who this king is? During another Christian year we will celebrate the birth and sing,

Hark the herald angels sing, “glory to the new born King”

But what does that mean? We will see Jesus praised by the wise men and treated like royalty,

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain. Gold I bring to crown Him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.

But why?

We will stop thinking in kingly terms when we hear of him calling his disciples and teaching and healing. He will look more like the leader of a rag-tag revolution as we are led up to his confrontation with authority and his arrest and crucifixion. Then the kingly image will seem more appropriate as he is raised from the dead. Royal yes, but king implies a kingdom to rule over. His resurrection will cause us to look back at what he said and did. His ascension will remind us of that he reigns with the Father and Holy Spirit now and always. And then we will end up right back here, at the end of the year, ready again to prepare our hearts for the promised coming and will we yet know what kind of king we are expecting?

If you want to think more about that last question and consider the Kingship of Jesus as you prepare for Advent, that complete sermon and another sermon on the same topic are available in my sermon archive here:

Blessings of Grace and Peace,

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