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Christ the King Sunday

4 Dec

Christ the King Jesus

26th November 2017
St James’ Poole

Matthew 25:31-End
Ephesians 1:15-End

This week saw The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary, 70 years. This Sunday is a royal celebration of a different kind, today is Christ the King Sunday or Reign of Christ Sunday. This is a week where our readings particularly call us to explore themes of Kingship and Kingdom.

Today is also the last Sunday of the Christian year before Advent Sunday next week marks the beginning of our journey into the New Year. I like to think of today as a hinge point as we move from the ‘ordinary time’ liturgical colours of green seen on the altar and clergy stoles to the colour of purple in Advent when we wait, in reflection, in fasting, in hope before the feasting of Christmas season arrives with its celebratory colours of white and gold.

We might expect the Feast of Christ the King to end the year with climactic images of Christ enthroned in Glory, seated high above all rule and authority, one before whom every knee shall bow, and of course those are powerful and important images, images of our humanity brought by him to the throne of the Heavens. But for this Sunday the lectionary does an unexpected thing. It sets as a reading the passage in Matthew 25 in which Christ reveals that even as He is enthroned in Glory, the King who comes to judge at the end of the ages, he is also the hidden King, hidden beneath the rags and even in the flesh of his poor here on earth

*It’s tempting for me as we read a Gospel text like this to think  Look!  Even Jesus agrees with me and my theology. It’s about getting out of the building and loving the least and the lost. But when we do this and feel like we’ve got it cracked we are probably missing something. I can so easily replace the individualistic ‘pie in the sky when I die’ faith of my earlier life with a social justice programme.  Either way we end up not really needing Jesus so much as needing to make sure we successfully complete the right list of tasks.  Either way it leaves Jesus essentially idling in his van on the corner while we say “Thanks Jesus…but we can take it from here”

So while we as people of God are certainly called to feed the hungry and cloth the naked (and I’m really interested in trying to get a group together to take on cooking at Roots to Routes one lunchtime or evening a month). It can be dangerous when it starts to feel like we are placing ourselves above the world waiting to descend on those below so we can be the “blessing” they’ve been waiting for like it or not. It can so easily become about the power that comes from wealth and privilege, giving handouts to the less fortunate with good motive but also because deep down it makes us feel better and less guilty (although we don’t like to admit it). This is dangerous because its when we come from this place of power we can fail to admit our own neediness and frailty, so often hidden from view and behind the masks of confidence and competence that some of us are so adept at wearing.

So this week I had these dangers in the back of my head as I read Matthew 25 a little closer and I realised this: Jesus says I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Which means…Christ comes not in the form of those who feed the hungry but in the hungry being fed.  Christ comes not in the form of those who visit the imprisoned but in the imprisoned being cared for.

We all are equally as Sinful as we are Saintly.  And we are all the needy and we are all the ones who meet needs.  We are both sheep and goat. Placing ourselves or anyone else in only one category or another is to tell ourselves the wrong story entirely.

Our Ephesians reading tells us “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

Is it that we truly meet God and understand the divine mystery in vulnerability? For some us to be vulnerable is hard, we live in a world which celebrates the strong, the leaders who have plans and strategies and know all the answers. My experience of faith is that Kingdom, life and faith is a messy thing and that it is often despite of our plans that we see the Kingdom breaking in, in and through the most surprising people and places. This is not to say that we don’t plan but that we hold these lightly allowing us to respond to the calling of the Spirit.

Journal Entry – Tuesday 22nd November 2017

“This morning I sit and become aware of my breathing, I calm myself, acknowledge this present moment. Allowing my soul to still, I look around the coffee shop and recognise the divine spark within each person, the beauty of the stories contained within each person. I don’t really know any of them (and I’ve forgotten to put my collar back on after leaving the office so there is no outward sign of vocation), but there is something about the community that forms in this place. I reflect upon how this place is like a church, how this place has created a community hub where I often see the same faces, where Connie knows so many by name and talks with them about their lives. I dream of church being this kind of 24/7 hub where people come for food for body and spirit, a place of conversation and thinking, a place of welcome and hospitality. As I think about the Kingdom of God being the place where we most fully experience the Kings reign, I think of a church whose doors are open continually, where the homeless are fed, where workers on their lunch breaks bring their sandwiches and find peace and tranquility. A place where people are stirred by the spirituality of live music, where tourists come in and become pilgrims as they light a candle in prayer, where children are full members, seen, heard and where us adults recognise that there is much to learn from the faith of children. A place where God meets us in the mystery of the sacraments.

I love this coffee shop and see it as a place where I glimpse the Kingdom of God, I can name the ‘sacred’ within the ‘secular’ and even as I write I want to dispel those dividing lines.

This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday, in it we recognise the reign of Christ in the world. A very different type of reign, one where others are crowned with the glory God. A Kingdom of surprises and surprising people where the most unexpected are found in the most unexpected places. A Kingdom that we try and build boxes around but God continues to break out of, a box that God breaks down and we try to rebuild. A Kingdom of inclusion but we so often make about exclusion, about theological piety, looked after by theological police. A Kingdom that is about true freedom but can so easily become about tidy boxes, being seen at the right things with the right people. The reign of Christ is about seeing God in the wrong places, in mangers, in astrologers and shepherds, widows and the homeless, the coffee shop workers and the sandwich shop owners. I sit frustrated at my own words this morning. I preach it from the pulpit and I ask myself what does this really look like in me? In the way that I live and treat people.”

To love our King is to love what he has made…children, men and women, joyous, broken, hopeful or despairing…

To love our neighbours is to love the One in whose image they, we, are made…and to recognise the divine image, the breath of God that flows through and sustains all.

To try and draw the threads together I want to finish with a prayer written for the funeral of Archbishop Oscar Romero after his assassination in El Salvador. Let it speaks deeply to us and through it allow God’s spirit to challenge us in the areas we need to hear challenge and to comfort us in the areas that we need to hear comfort.

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

*I reworked some words from Nadia Bolz-Weber here

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Alderholt does Lent

17 Feb

Our Alderholt Lent book with preface by the Bishop of Salisbury has arrived. A few of us have been working hard on this for a while collating people’s favourite quotations, prayers and also coming up with simple actions to complete during Lent. It also contains a short reflection for each Sunday during lent.

It has a Alderholt flavour but in my opinion would still be a good Lent book for anyone. It is very simple and accessible for all kinds of people and it’s only £4!