|Year A, November 26, 2017||Father Ray Bagby|
|Last Sunday after Pentecost
Christ the King Sunday
|Christ Church, Mexia|
Just as in 1925 the powers of nationalism and secularism are rising. Consumerism is in full swing and running rampart with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and, of course, tomorrow’s Cyber Monday all happening in close proximity to each other. These distract us from our sacred duty.
Surely Christ should be venerated or revered and emulated, but how can we communicate that status, continue the work, especially in light of the aforementioned “isms?” Recall that the church of Christ converted the Roman Empire without force of arms. Pontius Pilate is known for his one act of sentencing Jesus to death on the cross and there is little to commemorate him; while buildings for the worship and adoration of Christ now exist in every continent on earth. And we refer to him this Sunday as Christ the King … king because of the limitedness of the human mind. It is apparently the highest form of power we can seem to conceptualize. Yet, surely Jesus is not interested in titles or extravagant buildings. Palace-like churches almost inevitably distract us from the church’s true mission: to transform the world through love. Even in our modest physical plant here the majority of our time seems to be spent upon maintenance and budget matters. And I’m not suggesting that these are unimportant, or that we should sit here until the roof caves in upon us, for example; it’s just that too often the other aspects of church get overlooked or receive too little attention in comparison.
The long, relatively uneventful season of Pentecost, in which we endeavor to discern and do the will of God is coming to a close. But it does so with “visionary universalism.” In Jesus, God did something for all humanity, not just Christians. We should know by now that we do not have to earn salvation; we have it through God’s grace. But we also know that we can deny or fail to accept God’s grace. As Christians, we ought to hope and pray, like God, that no one will choose, or by neglect, fail to accept this marvelous gift.
But more importantly, we are called to live so that others will know that they have the gift as well. The church and our sacraments are not the only doorways to God’s grace. They celebrate our awareness of that grace and make it more real to us, but the gospel makes clear this morning that there are other ways; and this should make it even more clear that the church should never become a self-righteous club for the “saved.”
The Rev. Danae Ashley reminds us of something that has appeared on Facebook recently: “Sometimes I want to ask God why (God) allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when (God) could do something about it, but I’m afraid (God) might just ask me the same question.” When you do it to the least of these…
But our mission, the church’s mission, is NOT just to give something to people they do not have, although sometimes we need to do so; rather it is to help them understand that they already have it – the love of God and God’s grace. Only then will they understand the importance of accepting the gift, and that they also need to live in a way in which others can learn from them. In other words, it is our job to grow more disciples – to spread the word and the hope. “Through our belief in Jesus, we have the power to heal other people’s lives, just by our presence in theirs.” (Ibid)
All of this is possible only through love, and not by law. We need to come to church because its story helps to make sense of our stories, and because we need each other to remain focused and to grow both individually and corporately. But I am reminded of the saying, and I forget who said it: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sleeping in your garage will make you an automobile. So, we need to act on our faith. And it doesn’t always have to be big things. I recall for example several years ago when I went to Starbucks as a change of venue while I was grading student papers. I had noticed a table nearby of several women enjoying each other’s company, but thought nothing of it in particular. Then one of the young women stood up, approached my table and handed me a card, a small 3”x5” note card that I still carry in my BCP. On it she had written: “You are a man of wisdom, a gifted teacher. God sees you. He sees your faithfulness and delights in the way He made you. He loves that you empower others to be all they can be. He wants you to know He is always with you. He strengthens you and will give you endurance. He loves to speak to you and increase your wisdom. Praying you are filled with joy and peace today and know that Jesus loves you and rejoices over you! ‘I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.’ Isaiah 41:106 ‘Come listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.’ Proverbs 1:23 A simple gesture, but it meant so much to me both then and now. That’s all we need to do – be present in people’s lives, upholding them, caring about them and giving them hope by sharing the good news.
In closing, let me remind you of the prayer of thanksgiving contained in today’s lesson from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” Amen.
In the name of the one God, who created us, who redeems us, and who sustains us.
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