May I speak in the name of God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.
Good morning and welcome to church as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.
One of icons associated with this feast is that of Christ Pantocrator. I have brought my icon in and put it in the side chapel and I would invite anyone who wants to use it as part of their reflections, to make use of that space after the Eucharist and after the service.
When Meagan and I joined the Anglican church in 2008 I had only a vague understanding of a ‘church calendar’. I had grown up in churches that celebrated Christmas, Easter and Remembrance Sunday – all of which were remembered within a regular calendar. All of these celebrations and acts of remembrance were held in common with the rest of our community, and the year was still marked by the passing of the twelve months of the year. When I found out that there was something called a church calendar that not only held specific days for feasts, celebrations and remembrance, but also began and ended at a different time from the regular calendar I had been raised with, I was a bit confused. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why it was necessary. As the years have gone by, I have come to both love and appreciate this different pattern, because unlike the way we culturally celebrate the new year as a time to look back on another year gone by, making new resolutions and hoping this year will be better, in the church we are given fresh space with permission and intention to get to know God better.
Around the time Meagan and I became Anglican,I began watching Doctor Who and I absolutely loved it. I loved the characters, adventures and the way time became so flexible and fluid. In one episode I remember the Doctor giving a definition of time, it has become a loved quote of mine. He says, ‘People assume that time is a strict progression of cause and effect, but “actually” from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff.’ I am no time lord, nor have I had the privilege to time travel. All my experience and learning has lead me to believe that time is linear. I began in the past, I exist in the present and I hope to continue well into the future; in time, we progressively move uninterrupted, undeviated, in a straight line, always simply going forward. What strikes me about the Doctor’s definition is the way time begins to fold in on itself and becomes another dimension that exists within relationship to that which was, that which is and that which is still to come.
I use this as an example because I used to think of time and seasons in simple linear progression; these times and seasons were never to be repeated and to which I would never return. I was told to make the best of every situation, every opportunity because I would never have this chance, this moment, ever again. A modern day acronym ‘YOLO’, a contemporary equivalent to carpe diem, simply stands for ‘you only live once’.
For me it is one of those double edged sayings, where you can see how someone thought that was helpful, ‘Tell people they only live once and that will encourage people to live this life to the full. We will raise up a culture of people who take chances, are adventurous and never let an opportunity pass them by.’ My fear is that, instead of creating a culture that holds to these ideals and lives life to the full (whatever that might mean), we have created a culture of disappointment and regret for all the chances that have been passed by. The success of others does not always inspire a sense of possibility but can create a sense of missed opportunity and a mismanaged existence. Guilt not freedom, failure not value are sentiments that define many people, young and old, in our world today. And this is where the Kingship of Christ and the trajectory of the church calendar are extremely important.
The church calendar revolves around the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and reign of Christ. Our calendar focuses on the God who loves us and desires relationship with us. The liturgical year is about revisiting the same person to discover something new, to be reminded of truths we have forgotten and to have our worldview realigned through our relationship with God. We do not progress forward to a new place never to return on the path we have just come, instead we circle back able to deepen what has begun, to find ourselves hearing of love, inspired by grace, driven by mercy. We anticipate our King, hear about his kingdom, and pray for that kingdom to come. And what does that kingdom, what does our king look like?
In our readings from Ezekiel and Matthew we get a picture of the Kingdom of Christ. Our reading from Ezekiel begins, ‘I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.’ Our King is a shepherd who searches for his sheep.
God says, ‘I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.’ Our King is the one who provides.
God continues, ‘I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.’ Our King raises up the lost, the outcast, the broken, the sick, and the needy.
Jesus is the King who searches, who provides and who raises up.
In Matthew’s gospel we hear about the people who are welcomed into Christ’s kingdom. This passage is troubling for the church as the spend time trying to say who are the sheep and who are the goats; often seeking to define who is in and who is out. In this attempt these verses have often been misinterpreted to gloss over the trouble. This passage, which tells of all people standing before the throne of Christ, says that it doesn’t matter what you confess you believe what matters is how you live what you believe. Can you see the problem churches have had? It is difficult to have a check list of things to believe as a statement of belonging, when your King says what matters is a person’s life. Jesus specifically calls those who, in a throw back to Ezekiel, take care of the lost, the outcast, the broken, the sick, and the needy. In fact, they don’t seem to believe they are worthy of the kingdom to which they are called. In contrast the ones who expect to get in are the ones to whom Jesus says, ‘whatever you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ Jesus kingdom is not about the exercise and establishment of power, it is about establishing care of those who need it, where the King’s people live in the way of our King.
The King whom we proclaim reigns, on this feast of Christ the King, is the same king we will celebrate in the humble birth in a few weeks time. We are about to start our new year, to revisit the truths of the God who creates us, redeems us and sustains us. This year we have a chance to live our faith again, not bound by what we have done or have not done but inspired to deepen that which Christ has called in us.
For some of us it will be opening an account with the credit union, for others it may be volunteering with a charity. For some it will be through sponsorship of aid relief around our world. For some it will be through doing the best we can at our jobs, or being the best family member to those we live with. For many of us it will be simply saying hello and smiling to our neighbour, learning to be mindful of the needs around us. We may help a person with their shopping, or simply take time to hear the stories of years gone by.
This year we walk forward into the ‘big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff’ seeking Jesus who searches, Jesus who provides and Jesus who raises us up. For today we proclaim our God as we live out that Christ is King.