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Christ the King: a time to reflect

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John 18:33-37
Christ the King
SMAS (25-11-12)

Next week marks the beginning of a new church year. The church has a lectionary which takes us through an annual cycle of Bible readings that teach us about Christ’s existence whilst He was here on planet earth with us AND also about His continuing existence in our hearts. If you were here last week you may remember I was talking about the Kingdom of God. About how Christ should be ruling in our hearts and that the Kingdom of God is not an airy-fairy place up beyond the clouds somewhere but is actually something that begins in the here and now in our hearts and goes on into eternity. (Same meaning as eternal life – begins in the here and now and extends beyond our bodily death. The Kingdom of God = the ‘now and not yet’).

To get back to the new church year which begins next week (and during which we will be using Luke’s Gospel). This means that today is like New Year’s Eve for the church. And, as usual, we end the church year by celebrating ‘Christ the King’. It marks the end of the church’s journey through the life of Christ and His teachings about how we become part of the Kingdom of God by allowing to rule in our hearts.

This Sunday provides a bridge between that earthly reign and the coming of Christ to rule the earth at the end times which we will begin to celebrate next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of hope and expectation, the longing for the coming of the Kingdom of God amid the darkness of a sinful world.

Today we will look back over the journey we have been on in the church year that started last Advent. Advent means ‘coming’. Most people think it is anticipating Christmas but that is only a small part of it. It celebrates several ‘comings’, starting with the Bibles accounts of the anticipation of Christ’s first coming by the Israelites, through the longing of the prophets and John the Baptist. It also anticipates for us the second coming of Christ at the end times. We should begin our new year in Advent, reminding ourselves that in the midst of the worldliness of our lives we need to renew our relationship to this King who has come and is to come again in judgement. The church uses the colour purple to signify our penitence as we look forward to this and in our waiting we should be thinking and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ which brings salvation to the faithful. This is in obvious contrast to the world’s bustling and very commercial run-up to Christmas.

We remain seated to sing:

We have a Gospel to proclaim,
Good news for men in all the earth;
The gospel of a Saviour's name:
We sing His glory, tell His worth.

After Advent came Christmas. The church uses the colour of white and/or gold for the Christmas season. This reminds us of the purity of the infant who was born in a manger, and yet was also our King: the splendour of God come to dwell with his people. Christmas Day marks the end of the waiting of Advent as we celebrate the gift of the light of the world, our Saviour and His rebirth in our own hearts.

The twelve days of Christmas lead on in to Epiphany, which means ‘manifestation’ and we look at the ways and events through which God revealed Himself through Jesus. We learn about the Wise Men from the East who brought gifts to the infant Jesus: this means they were the first Gentles (non-Jews) to acknowledge Him and thus go back and show Jesus to the wider world as God become man 9the incarnation). At the same time we hear of Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32). Jesus came for all people of all nations and races. The work of God in the world would not be limited to a selected few.

We remain seated to sing:

Tell of His birth at Bethlehem,
Not in a royal house or hall
But in a stable dark and dim:
The Word made flesh, a light for all.

The season after Epiphany is Lent. We return to the colour purple, with the ashes on our heads after the service of Ash Wednesday. A sombre time of penitence which runs up to Passion Week and Easter. In this time we journey through the three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry via the people who responded and the people who mocked. The men, women, and children who heard Jesus’ words and either went away fulfilled, or who chose to reject Him. Passion (Holy) week marks Jesus’ suffering from Palm Sunday and the joyful entry of Israel’s Messiah-King in to Jerusalem and ends with the same crowd yelling "Crucify Him" as we come to Good Friday.

We remain seated to sing:

Tell of His death at Calvary,
Hated by those He came to save;
In lonely suffering on the cross
For all He loved His life He gave.

But then came Easter and as Mary Magdalene wept at the tomb, she was told the good news "He is not dead! He has risen!"

Christians everywhere celebrate this as the most holy day of the Christian calendar. The church’s colour changes back to the brightness of white and gold portraying the purity and kingliness of our risen Saviour.

The following fifty days of Easter gives us the opportunity to experience anew the freedom, joy, power, strength and new life that comes to those who open their hearts to Him. We do this by listening to the conversations of the disciples after His rising, and by watching those who had previously persecuted the people of God now fall on their knees in awe and wonder.

We remain seated to sing:

Tell of that glorious Easter morn:
Empty the tomb, for He was free.
He broke the power of death and hell
That we might share His victory.

The fortieth day of Easter is Ascension day when we think about Jesus’ glorious ascension back to His throne in heaven and then 10 days late the Easter period ends with the great joy and celebration of Pentecost. The church changes its colour to red for this day as we remember the great rushing wind and the dancing flames like fire, and the words of Jesus, baptizing his disciples with the promised Holy Spirit.

The disciples and followers of Jesus were one moment huddled in fear in a small upper room. Then the Holy Spirit came in power and they were able to stand and proclaim publicly the good news in languages that all could understand. It was the birth of the Church. It is the same today for all who are willing to be filled with the Holy Spirit who empowers us to proclaim Jesus to all.

We remain seated to sing:

Tell of His reign at God's right hand,
By all creation glorified;
He sends His Spirit on His Church
To live for Him, the Lamb who died.

This season of Pentecost is followed by a long period of what is called Ordinary time: the Sundays between Pentecost and Advent. There are no Holy Days in this time so it serves to remind us of the ordinary times of life. The book of Acts and the Epistles give us a clear picture of ordinary people, going about ordinary lives, but doing extraordinary things that built the Kingdom of God. The Church was growing by leaps and bounds, both the individuals within it and the worldwide Church. So the church uses the colour green to illustrate this ‘growing’ time.

We should pray for the same thing within our own ordinary lives. We should use this time to hear again the Good News and be instructed in the ways of people of the Kingdom of God in a world that is hungry for the grace, love, and peace we can to it. We can only do this if we are walking in the Light, ‘abiding in the vine’, and bringing the living water to a thirsty world. This is the extraordinary way that God builds his Kingdom - through ordinary people like you and me.

On this "Christ the King" Sunday we are reminded that God is with us through all the seasons of life. Its good at this point to remember Jesus very last earthly words to His disciples as He rose gloriously back to heaven. They are words for His disciples here today too.

He said:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We remain seated to sing:

Now we rejoice to name Him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
This gospel message we proclaim:
We sing His glory, tell His worth.

Today we’ve looked back at this past year’s journey with Jesus. We must also begin to look forward to our journey this coming year in the faith of the transforming power of God at work in our world, and in our Church. The Kingdom of God that Jesus brought must be a present reality in our lives but we also know that there is a future Kingdom over which God will reign in Christ, a Kingdom in which the world will be restored to the perfect heaven that will once again fully reflect its creator.

Today we celebrate Christ as past, present, and future King over all the earth, at the same time that we express our hope and our faith in that coming Kingdom of heaven which we stand now to sing about in ‘There’s a place’. Amen.

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