Advent 3 – Witnessing about the Word, in Hope

Introductory Prayer
O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming did send your messenger to prepare your way before you; Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in your sight, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Read Isaiah 35, especially these words: a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it.  It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

Read Matthew 11:2-10, especially these verses: What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

On this third Sunday in Advent we are given the testimony of St. John the Baptist. He had the unique ministry of preparing God’s people for the first arrival of Christ in the flesh. Even then, the images of judgment were prominent. Isaiah 35 is one of the many Old Testament prophecies that John drew from as he described the Savior who was to come. The language of deserts becoming gardens and mountains and valleys being leveled into a highway are vivid images to this day, showing us how seriously we must take the return of Christ. Additionally, we are here reminded that Christian ministry has a critical component of remembering and proclaiming the mystery of faith: that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Along with that proclamation, therefore, we are to help one another to prepare for Christ’s return, so that we will be found acceptable and ready and waiting for him. For many people, the return of Christ to judge and rule the world isn’t even on their radar screens. Is it part of your active faith and proclamation of the Gospel?

Close with the Collect for Advent
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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Advent 2 – The Passing World and the Enduring Word

Introductory Prayer
Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such a way hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Read Luke 21:25-33, especially these verses: when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Read Romans 15:4-13, especially these words: whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

As we continue the Advent themes of preparing for Jesus’ arrival in the flesh, in our minds, and for judgment, St. Luke gives us a picture of that judgment in his Gospel book. We are reminded there that the ways of this world will pass away. Everything that belongs to the world will come to an end: all our divisions, evils, prejudices, and sinful desires will be destroyed. Everything that belongs to God will endure, however: truth, faith, hope, love. In particular, God’s promises are highlighted in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans as something that is never-failing. The Holy Bible is lifted up here as a source of comfort – the more we hear, read, study, learn, and internalize the words of sacred Scripture, the better we know God’s promises and will for the whole world. So the big lesson here is that we get our priorities straightened out, and our attentions rightly focused. Do we spend more time focusing on the things of this world that are passing away than we spend focusing on the enduring word of God? Of course, we all have necessary roles and tasks in life that we must accomplish (be it school, work, family, or other responsibilities) and we also need times of rest and leisure, but do we use those as excuses to neglect the need to work on and rest in the word of God?

Close with the Collect for Advent
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

Among all the internet memes I’ve been bombarded with over the years, some of the most precious ones have been made by Christians about Santa.  Specifically, about Saint Nicholas.  A quick Google Search will yield lots of examples.  And, unlike most pictures on the internet, we can actually learn quite a lot of things from these St. Nicholas memes.

Nicholas was a saint of the Early Church who lived from 270 to 343, and was the Bishop of Myra, now a small town in southwestern Turkey.  He lived in a rough period of history: Christianity was transitioning from an illegal government-persecuted movement to a somewhat-tolerated religion, and some major heretical versions of Christianity were running rampant.  One of the most famous and numerous of those heresies was Arianism, the belief that Jesus was not really God, but just a specially divine human, or perhaps a demigod, created by God.  The drafting of the Nicene Creed was intended to correct this fatal theological mistake (among others), and Bishop Nicholas of Myra was part of that council at Nicea, writing that Creed.

The story goes that Nicholas was so zealous in the debate that he actually struck Arius (the champion of the Jesus-is-not-God heresy).  The Christian internet community today particularly enjoys this little factoid of history, and several memes focus on this, for example:
(based on the tune Santa Claus is coming to town)

Of course, St. Nicholas did many other positive noteworthy things – he paid ransoms to save young women from slavery, he gave presents and gold to poor families, and he especially cared for children.  Even though he had the far-reaching ministry of a Bishop, he still remembered his pastoral calling of a priest and a deacon, and became a wonderful example of Christian charity.  The legend of Santa Claus, secretly giving presents to children, is inspired largely by the reality of St. Nicholas.

I’ve come across multiple ways people approach the modern Santa Claus traditions.  One pastor I know allows his children to believe in Santa Claus, and never plans to tell them that he’s made-up, because he wants to encourage a healthy imagination, nurture the identification of good and decent heroes, and emphasize the continuation of St. Nicholas’ ministry through others, currently personified in the legendary figure of Santa.

J.R.R. Tolkein, of Lord of the Rings fame, wrote letters to his children from Fr. Christmas, whose first name was Nicholas, and lived at the North Pole.  These letters are now published together in a fantastic children’s book Letters From Father Christmas, and also prominently feature a fantastic imagination which encouraged his children to seek beauty and fun and goodness in the world long after they stopped believing in an actual man living at the north pole.

Thirdly, one of my professors in college, the director of the marching band, had a saying.  “There are three phases in life: first you believe in Santa, then you don’t believe in Santa, then you become Santa.”  This, I think, captures really well the point of the whole Santa thing – as a child it’s fun to receive presents from a secret benefactor.  As a teenager, it’s uncool to have an imagination.  But part of growing up is re-claiming that childhood magic – not by denying reality, but by choosing to make reality a better place.  By giving presents to our children, or giving alms to the poor, or other acts of kindness, we demonstrate and communicate the love of Christ.

St. Nicholas’ story is just one of many.  Santa Claus is just one legend among many.  But they both point us to one of the basic elements of being a Christian: standing up for the Truth of Christ and kneeling down to show the Love of Christ can and should go together.

So on this feast day of Saint Nicholas (December 6th), I wish you a blessed Advent that at the end of this nearly-four-week journey you may also have a truly merry Christmas.

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The Advent Attitude & Lifestyle

This was my sermon for Grace Anglican Church on 30 November 2014 (Advent 1).


Today is the first day of Advent. Advent is to Christmas like Lent is to Easter – they’re solemn times of self-reflection, there’s a heightened penitential feel to our worship and corporate life, and they both lead to a great celebration of one of the most joyful events in all of history. This year, Advent was preceded by a significant moment in current events: the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri, delivered their verdict, and the public responded. No matter how you look at it, what happened in Ferguson is cause for solemnity, self-reflection, and penitence.

Some say this is the latest example of racism in America at its worst. Race relations certainly play a role here. Some say the protests that became riots only made things worse. Certainly that is also true. Black or white, in favor of the ruling or against, we cannot be quick to judge, not knowing all the details and people involved.   What we can do is examine ourselves for our own sinful tendencies. Did we look at the case and quietly say to ourselves “that black kid sure looked suspicious, he obviously got what was coming to him”? Or did we see “yet another example of white police brutality against men of color”? Events like this, as does the spirit of Advent, gives us opportunities to lay bare the hidden attitudes of our hearts, call out the sins that we find, and lay them at the foot of the Cross where Christ can take them away and replace them with his righteous virtues, crowned with faith and hope and love.

Let’s give this a different picture. Imagine, if you would, two siblings in an argument. My sister and I usually got along famously, but we had our moments. Now and then, when our parents weren’t around, we might get into an argument about something. But what happens when we hear our parents arriving home? Quick, stop arguing! Look happy! Put the dropped toys back on the shelf! Make it look like we were playing with Legos or something! Granted, there’s an element of deception going on there, but there was also an element of reconciliation. Faced with judgment on the way, we shaped up and scrambled to get ready so we wouldn’t get lectured during dinner, but could instead have a painless family meal together.

This is kind of what Advent is all about. Jesus will return, so we need to stop our fighting and get our act together. There are two aspects of this preparation that I want to share today: first in our attitude, and second in our lifestyle. We find these themes particularly in Romans 13:11-12…. “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Our attitude is described first: know the time, know that the hour has come. Our lifestyle is described second: cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let’s look at these both in turn.

 Attitude = Active Anticipation = “looking East”

For those of you who like alliteration, we’ve got a real winner here today: go after the Advent attitude of active anticipation. This attitude of active anticipation is fueled by the reality that Christ will return to rule and judge the world someday. Sure, after two thousand years of church history it’s a little difficult to have any sense of urgency or expectation. The Apostles, for a while, seemed to think that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. But as time drags on, we’re getting further and further away from those Gospel events. It makes faith in the doctrine of Christ’s return difficult sometimes. How do we cling to this blessed promise and hope?

One way that we are encouraged to trust in the promise of his return is by rehearsing the reality that he did come once, in the flesh, and is among us even now through the Holy Spirit. Pick up your Bible and read the New Testament. Daily reading plans are not simply a modern fad; it has always been a part of church tradition, and especially since the Reformation it has become available to more and more people. We’ve started putting an Anglican daily lectionary on the back of the bulletin; if you keep up with it, you’ll get through the New Testament three times in a single year! I commend this to you because as we immerse ourselves in the New Testament, we remind ourselves that Jesus was a real guy. He really came into the world, ministered, worked miracles, touched lives, and left a legacy and spiritual family in which we continue to experience his presence spiritually to this very day!

Another way that we are encouraged to hang on to the Advent attitude of active anticipation is by the apocalyptic teachings of Jesus. An apocalypse in the Bible, we must remember, is not the near-total destruction of the world… that’s a modern movie genre. No, in the Bible, an apocalypse is a big unveiling or revelation of God to the world. The last book in the Bible, called The Apocalypse in Greek and the Revelation in Latin, is so called because it’s about the final and complete unveiling of God to the entire world. Destruction and judgment is part of it, but that’s not the main thing. In three of the gospel books, Jesus gives us what’s often called a mini-apocalypse. We’ll hear from one of them next Sunday. In those apocalypses, Jesus tells us that there will be famines and earthquakes, and wars and rumors of wars, and persecution before his return. Some people look at those things and sensationalize current events and start crying out “the end is nigh!” Others may scoff and say “those things have always been going on, somewhere in the world, what’s the big deal?” Both responses have an aspect of truth to them. These disasters and evil events in the world are meant to be reminders to us that God’s plan for the world is not yet finished, and thus we are to remember that Jesus still has yet to return. We don’t need to get alarmist about it, but we ought to be moved to an attitude of active anticipation.

A third way that we’re encouraged to persevere in this Advent attitude is in our manner of worship. The last prayer in the Bible is “Come, Lord Jesus.” Forms of that prayer echo throughout our liturgy, especially during this season. In Matthew 24:27, Jesus said, “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” We remember that Christ is coming whenever we celebrate Communion. Indeed, the liturgy is rich with symbolism. The vestments of the ministers point to the dignity of Christ the King. We strike our breasts, and bow our heads, and bend our knees to remember our sinfulness, God’s mercy, and his glory. We stand, and sit, and kneel, to remind us of our place as petitioners, disciples, and penitents under God. And, since ancient times, Christians have faced East during the Communion liturgy to remember to keep watch for Christ. Together, the clergy and the people faced the East together, waiting and watching for Christ. Even in Churches that did not physically face East, the everyone stood together in the Mass, gazing at Christ on the crucifix, or the altar, or the tabernacle, to recall the importance of watching for his return. The symbolism of the priest and people facing ad orientem—to the east—is an ancient reminder of the coming of Christ.

More recently, it has become common for the priest and the people to face one another during the Communion service, and this has also been the norm in Protestant worship. The priest stands behind the altar as he consecrates the Eucharist, facing the people. The people see the face of the priest as he prays, and he sees their faces. These positions can have important symbolism too. They can remind us that we are a community—one body in Christ. And they can remind us that the Eucharist, at the center of the assembly, should also be at the center of our families, and our lives. But the symbolism of facing together, and awaiting Christ, is rich, time-honored and important. Especially during Advent, as we await the coming of the Lord, facing East together—even symbolically facing Christ together at the altar —is a powerful witness to Christ’s imminent return. And let’s face it, it’s easy to be complacent in our spiritual lives and in the work of evangelization—we need those reminders that Christ will come. So in this ad orientem, I am not be facing away you. I am with you —among you, and leading you — facing Christ, and waiting for his return.

Lifestyle = Armor of Light = living transparently

Lastly, it is important that we back up our attitude with our lifestyle. We cannot simply “talk the talk” without making sure to “walk the walk.” This is where we come to the exhortation to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Just about a month ago we heard from the famous passage in Ephesians 6 about putting on the whole armor of God. That armor was clearly a set of defensive tools in our struggle against the schemes of the devil. This Armor of Light, however, is set in a very different context. Romans 13 is not about spiritual warfare, but about holy Christian living. We are to love one another, which is the Summary of the Law and spelled out in the Ten Commandments. In so doing, we cast off the life of sin (the works of darkness) and put on the Armor of Light.

So the Armor of Light isn’t so much a defensive thing as it is a way of life. Besides, think about light for a moment. What does it do? It removes darkness. A modern expression that captures this idea well, I think, is the catchphrase of “living transparently.” The Armor of Light surrounds us in light, so that everything is made more visible to ourselves and others. When we pursue after sin, we run from the spotlight, to carry out our deeds in darkness. Putting on the armor of light, then, is one of the ways in which we live out that sense of anticipation that Christ will return.

To return to the illustrations I used at the beginning, if we are wearing the Armor of Light, we will more quickly catch ourselves when we betray our prejudices one way or another over such divisive events as what has happened in Ferguson over the past week. If we are wearing the Armor of Light, we’ll be more quick to stop fighting with our siblings and figure out how to get along before the parents come home. When Jesus returns, we want to be spiritually awake, ready to welcome him, so we can joyfully celebrate rather than fearfully scramble to get ourselves in order.

The more we meditate on his first coming and his continual spiritual presence with us, as we watch the signs of the times and face East in worship, and as we strive to live transparently under the Armor of Light, the more attentive and ready we shall be for the return of Christ our King, and our God.

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Advent 1 – The Awakening & Cleansing of the Soul

Advent is the proclamation of God’s three-fold coming: in the flesh, in the mind and for judgment. And notice how those three dimensions are connected: Christ’s coming in the flesh, historically, and his atoning work, is the basis of his coming to our souls in grace; and his coming in judgment is nothing other than the summation of all his comings in grace and what we have made of them. As it is written in John 3:19, “This is the judgment, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light…” And so this season urges us to wake up, to cast off darkness and clothe ourselves in light.

Read Matthew 21:1-13, especially these verses: And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

Read Romans 13:8-14, especially these verses: Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.  The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

This pair of Scripture readings uses a real-life story to illustrate a spiritual reality that all Christians need to engage in on a regular basis. When Jesus arrived at the Temple in Jerusalem, he cleansed it; he turned over tables, set free animals that were being sold for exorbitant prices, and even drove out merchants with a whip. Zeal for the Lord’s house consumed him, indeed! Later in the New Testament, however, we are taught that the Temple of God in the New Covenant is Christ’s spiritual body, the Church, of which all Christians are a part. So, just as Christ came into the world in the flesh, he also comes into our hearts in a spiritual manner, by the work and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And, just like the old Temple in Jerusalem, there are many things amiss in the temples of our bodies which need to be overturned or set free or driven out. The season of Advent begins with this reminder, for as we are preparing for the arrival of Jesus to rule and judge the entire world, we need to be ready ourselves.

Close with the Collect for Advent
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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St. Andrew’s Day

(30 November)

The Collect:
ALMIGHTY God, who did give such grace unto your holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of your Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay: Grant unto us all, that we, being called by your holy Word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfill your holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Readings:
Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 10:9-21; Matthew 4:18-22

Saint Andrew was the first Apostle called by Jesus in the Gospel (as John 1:40 clarifies), and thus the Church celebrates his feast day around the beginning of the Church year. Many Christians today ask why we celebrate Saints’ days; today’s Epistle perhaps gives the best answer to this question. Quoting both the Old Testament and the Psalm, St. Paul describes the necessary progression from someone who is sent out (which is the basic definition of “apostle”) to preaching and believing the Gospel, and therefore receiving Christ’s salvation. Thus we honor these Apostles who have gone before us, thank God for them, and seek to emulate their virtuous qualities, such as Andrew’s prompt response to follow Jesus when called.

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Christ: King, Priest, Prophet

Who is the Christ?

The Christian faith, Christian worship, everything that can be called Christian revolves around one thing: the identity of Christ. Knowing who Christ is and what he has done, is doing, and will do, sets the stage for it all. We confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Savior of the world, a friend of sinners, the Messiah of Israel, and many other titles.

One of the questions we commonly ask people today, to determine if they’re a Christian or not, is “have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” This is a good question, referring to Jesus as Lord and Jesus as Savior, but there is another dimension to his identity that usually goes along with these. Throughout the Church’s history, and especially among the Reformers, Jesus has been referred to as fulfilling three different roles, or offices: King, Priest, and Prophet. When we ask “have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior” we’re covering the first two: his kingship is represented by ‘Lord’ and his Priesthood is represented by ‘Savior’ – but he is thirdly also a Prophet. A King rules and judges, a Priest makes sacrifice for sins, and a Prophet delivers God’s words. As King, Jesus will return to this world to judge and to rule forever. As Priest, Jesus made a sacrifice to atone for sin and is making intercession for us. As Prophet, Jesus preached the New Covenant between God and his people, enabling non-Jews like you and I to become part of God’s family.

What’s really cool about our readings today on this modern observance of Christ the King Sunday, is that each of the three traditional offices of Christ as referenced. In Jeremiah 23:5 we find a prophecy about Jesus as King: “he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” In Colossians 1:20, we find a teaching about Jesus as Priest, how God would “reconcile to himself all things” through Jesus. And in John 6:14, after Jesus miraculously feeds five thousand people, they proclaim “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Knowing Christ as King, Priest, and Prophet

This isn’t just theology to learn, memorize, and file away in a box somewhere. Proclaiming Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King is a profound confession of faith. When we proclaim Jesus as Prophet, we acknowledge that the authority of his teaching is from God, we acknowledge that the miracles he performed were the works of God, and we acknowledge that the Covenant he made is not only available to us, but we are bound to it. When we proclaim Jesus as Savior or Priest, we acknowledge that his sacrificial death was on our behalf, making atonement for the sins that we are guilty of; we acknowledge that he truly rose again, and ascended into heaven to make intercession for us before the Father until he returns again to bestow God’s eternal blessing on his people. When we proclaim Jesus as Lord or King, we acknowledge that he is sovereign over us; he’s in charge, and we are subject to him. We don’t have any rights before God; all we have are his promises made to those whose sins are forgiven.

Additionally, when we proclaim Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, we’re making a political statement. You know the popular American quote, “There are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.” Well guess what, Jesus brings both of those to an end. He completed his work as a Prophet, preaching and teaching and delivering the New Covenant. He’s currently working on completing his work as a Priest, having finished the sacrifice, is still interceding for us and providing his people with his Body and Blood in the heavenly Temple, and will return to pronounce God’s blessing. And he has yet to take up his eternal throne to rule on earth. When he does, he will completely displace all other rulers, both political and spiritual. When Jesus returns, ISIS will be disbanded, the Chinese government will be pushed out of power, the United States of America will lose its sovereignty, and even the British Empire will sadly come to an end, all to give place to one King over all: Jesus. Thus, our taxes to our respective nations will finally end. Similarly, the rule of death over life will finally be reversed: the dead will rise, and we will all live forever, like God meant us to. Those who accept Jesus as King will find eternal life to be heaven. Those who reject Jesus as King will find eternal life to be hell.

Christ’s Kingship through Jeremiah’s eyes

Let’s look more specifically at Christ’s kingship, as Jeremiah describes it. “Behold, the days are coming” God declares, because as far as Jeremiah was concerned, the kingship descending from David had just been destroyed. God was first and foremost giving his people hope. He promised “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king.” This was a necessary description – too many of the kings in David’s line were distinctly unrighteous, and that is why they and the whole kingdom were overthrown. If anyone were to be able to restore the kingship, it would have to be someone righteous. Through Jeremiah, God continues describing this promised king as one who would “deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” So while we might be happy to see earth’s corrupt governments and powers gone, we need not lament the subjection of the good countries, because as much as we might like some earthly countries, Jesus’ kingdom will get it right. His justice and righteousness are perfect, and we can trust and love him as King. Verse 6 goes so far as to say that under the reign of Jesus, “Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.” This means that God’s people will find two things: salvation from sin and a safe homeland. In the Old Covenant era, the Israelites got a snapshot of that in the Promised Land, and when they were able to rebuild Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon they had another snapshot of this promise, but ultimately God’s promises are not merely the Holy Land to the Jewish people-group, but the whole creation to his whole family. A title for Jesus given here is “the Lord is our righteousness,” because his perfect righteousness is to be shared with all of his people.

Verses 7 and 8 go on to focus on the celebration of renewal and restoration. In Jeremiah’s time, the main picture was of the Jews being restored to the Promised Land. But in Christ we’ve been brought back to the bigger picture. God is not just aiming to gather his ‘favorite tribe’ back in their historic territory, he’s aiming to conquer the whole world with his people. Bringing the Gospel to all nations and people-groups and subjecting the whole world under his Christ – this is what he’s really promising. This is what it means to make the whole creation new. The old focus of nationality and territory and earthly governance is to give way to the new and eternal covenant of Jesus Christ as the King of all creation, and its Priest and its Prophet.

Liturgical and devotional applications of Christ’s Kingship

So that’s what Christ the King Sunday is really all about. As impressive as our earthly rulers can be, there is coming a day when all knees will bow, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Liturgically, this Sunday acts as a hinge, by the way. Ever since Trinity Sunday, at the beginning of the summer, the lectionary has taken us through a long discipleship course. First it brought us through Purgation, the shedding of sinful ways from our lives; then it brought us through Illumination, shining the light of the Holy Spirit deeper into our hearts to cleanse us from within; and finally it brought us through Union, the joining of every aspect of ourselves with God. The culmination of all this is perfection! On the Last Day, we will be completely purged from our sins, completely illuminated with God’s Spirit, and completely united with Christ. In that state, and only in that state, will be ready to receive Christ as our King. So this discipleship course has, in a way, prepared us to move into the season of Advent, where we celebrate and anticipate the return of Christ our King. And so the liturgical calendar is a circle; we walked through the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and then after the final big revelations of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the Holy Trinity on Trinity Sunday, we got that long discipleship course to show us how we live in response to who God is. And now, at the end of the discipleship course, we are prepared to welcome Christ our King openly and honestly.

Because, whether we like it or not, he will arrive suddenly, with the hosts of heaven, and judge the entire world, and take his place as King of Everyone and Everything for ever. To some, that sounds absolutely terrifying. To those who have recognized his worthiness and the rightness of his kingship, however, this is the best news we’ll ever hear.

Blessed be God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and blessed be his kingdom, now and forever. Amen.

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