Archive for the ‘Christ the King Sunday’ Category

Devotion for Proper 29, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Christ the King

NOVEMBER 24, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 100

Ephesians 1:15-23

Matthew 25:31-46

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Christ the King Sunday, originally established in the Roman Catholic Church opposite Reformation Sunday, was the creation of Pope Pius XI in 1925.  The rise of fascism and other forms of dictatorship in Europe between World Wars I and II was the context for the creation of this feast.  The feast, in full,

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe,

has been the Sunday preceding Advent since Holy Mother Church revised its calendar in 1969.  The feast became part of many Lutheran and Anglican calendars during the 1970s, as part of liturgical revision.  In much of U.S. Methodism Christ the King Sunday used to fall on the last Sunday in August, at the end of the Season after Pentecost and leading into Kingdomtide.  Christ the King Sunday, set immediately prior to Advent, has become ubiquitous in Western Christianity.

The term “Christ the King” works well for me, for Jesus was male.  I have seen the alternative term “Reign of Christ,” an example of unnecessary linguistic neutering.  I have also wondered about the use of the language of monarchy in a world with few monarchs than before, and about how many citizens of republics might relate to such terminology.  I have also noted that “Reign of Christ” does not allay any concerns related to the language of monarchy.

God is the king in Psalm 100, and Jesus is the king in Ephesians 1 and Matthew 25.  We read of negligent Hebrew kings in Ezekiel 34.  There we also read of the promised Messianic sovereign.  In Matthew 25 we read that the Son of Man (an apocalyptic term for, in this case, Jesus) expects us to take care of each other and will mete out both judgment and mercy.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Most of the readings for this Sunday are apocalyptic in tone.  Matthew 25:31-46 belongs to an apocalyptic section (set immediately prior to the crucifixion of Jesus) in that Gospel.  Ephesians (whoever wrote it) is probably from the 90s C.E., about the time of the composition of the Apocalypse of John (Revelation).  The promise of the Second Coming of Christ hangs over Ephesians 1:15-23.  The promise of a Messianic king in Ezekiel 34 is apocalyptic on its face.  The readings also fit well at the end of the Season after Pentecost and before Advent, when many of the readings are apocalyptic.

Apocalyptic literature is inherently hopeful, for it affirms that God will end the current, sinful, exploitative age and usher in a new age of justice–of heaven on Earth.  If one studies the Bible carefully, one recognizes the pattern of pushing dashed apocalyptic hopes forward in time–from the end of the Babylonian Exile to the time after Alexander the Great to the time of Jesus to the end of the first century C.E.  One, studying history, might also find this pattern since the end of the New Testament.  The list of times Jesus was allegedly supposed to have returned, according to a series of false prophets, is lengthy.

Nevertheless, Christ remains the King of the Universe, despite all appearances to the contrary.  God remains faithful to divine promises, and the apocalyptic hope for God to set the world right remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/christ-the-king-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 29 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

God is the Ruler Yet

NOVEMBER 24, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Daniel 1:1-17

Psalm 9:1-8

Revelation 1:9-18

Luke 17:20-21

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This is my father’s world!

O let me ne’er forget

that though the wrong

seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

–Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901)

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In the reading from the Book of Revelation the imagery used to describe Jesus is similar to that usually reserved for the Roman Emperor.  Thus the Apocalypse of John fits the bill of subversive literature from the beginning.  Revelation 1:9-18 is therefore an appropriate lesson to read on Christ the King Sunday.

British Congregationalist minister Charles Harold (C. H.) Dodd proposed Realized Eschatology. The Kingdom of God, he wrote, has always been present.  It has, however, been more evident at some times than on others.  Dodd must have been thinking about the assigned Gospel reading as he formulated that idea.  Psalm 9 might also have been on his mind.

If Dodd was correct, what about exploitative powers, such as the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (in Daniel) and the Roman Empire (in Revelation), among other oppressive regimes?  The question of, if God exists, why evil does also, has vexed many people over the ages.  But why would the existence of God nullify human free will and prevent abuses of it?

As the Mennonites tell us, we are living in the age of God’s patience.  This indicates a future age of divine impatience, with good news for many and catastrophic news for many others.  Judgment is in the purview of God, not mere mortals.  May we mere mortals understand that reality and embrace it.  May we also trust in God, who, despite appearances, is the ruler yet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/god-is-the-ruler-yet-2/

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Devotion for Proper 29 (Year D)   1 comment

christ-pantocrator-icon

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Christ the King

NOVEMBER 24, 2019

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Obadiah 1-21

Psalms 87 and 117

John 12:17-19, 37-50

1 Corinthians 15:27-34 (35-38) 39-41 (42-58)

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The resurrection of Jesus overlaps with Christ the King Sunday in Year D.  I like that liturgical year.

The power of God, in whom we need to rely, is a theme present in the assigned readings.  This power is evident in Jesus; that is no surprise.  Furthermore, all temporal substitutes for God–geography, international alliances, et cetera–are woefully inadequate.

The fear of certain Pharisees in John 12:19b is

Look, the world has gone after him!

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

If only that were true!  I am not oblivious to reality; I do not mistake superficial observance for discipleship.  I also know that, overall, the rate of discipleship in the Western world is declining.  An accurate reading of U.S. history reveals the fact that a substantial proportion of the population has always been non-observant.  Nevertheless, the current situation is not a return to historical patterns.  One can make similar generalizations about other parts of the Western world.  Nevertheless, I am optimistic; God is in charge and no human resistance or indifference can halt the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/christ-the-king-2/

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Proper 29, Year C   11 comments

Essen_Kreuzgang_3_Kruzifix

 

Shame, Transformed Into Victory and Glory

The Sunday Closest to November 23

Last Sunday After Pentecost:  Christ the King Sunday

NOVEMBER 24, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Canticle 16 (Luke 1:68-79) or Psalm 46

then 

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 23:33-43

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adorationfor-the-last-sunday-after-pentecost-christ-the-king/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/christ-the-king-prayer-of-confession/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-last-sunday-after-pentecost-christ-the-king/

Hope of the World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/hope-of-the-world/

This is My Father’s World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/this-is-my-fathers-world/

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/alleluia-sing-to-jesus/

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Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,

Source of all that is and that shall be,

Father and Mother of us all,

Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!

The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!

Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!

Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.

In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.

In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.

From trials too great to endure, spare us.

From the grip of all that is evil free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever.  Amen.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), page 181

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Colossians 1:13-20 describes Jesus well–better than I can–so I defer to it as a superior expression of Christology.  Please meditate on it, O reader.

Jesus of Nazareth, to whom Zechariah referred in Luke 1:68-79, died on a cross and under a mocking sign calling him

THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Crucifixion was the way the Roman Empire executed those of whom its leaders wanted to make a public and humiliating example.  Usually nobody even buried the corpses, left for nature to consume.  Thus crucifixion, carrying great stigma, extinguished a person in society most of the time.

But it did not extinguish Jesus.  So a symbol of shame became a symbol of triumph.  Symbols mean what people agree they signify; therefore a symbol of state-sponsored terror–judicial murder–has become a symbol of perfect love.

Christ the King Sunday exists to remind people that, as the Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901) wrote in a hymn which his widow had published:

This is my Father’s world:

O let me ne’er forget

that though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

the battle is not done;

Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied,

and earth and heaven be one.

That promise is true, although the culmination of it remains in the future tense.  But may we who claim the name “Christian” never abandon hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/shame-transformed-into-victory-and-glory/

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Proper 29, Year B   17 comments

Above:  Second Coming Icon

Christ the King

The Sunday Closest to November 23

Last Sunday After Pentecost:  Christ the King Sunday

NOVEMBER 25, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 23:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now these are the last words of David:  The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:

The spirit of the LORD speaks through me,

his word is upon my tongue.

The God of Israel has spoken,

the Rock of Israel has said to me:

One who rules over people justly,

ruling in the fear of God,

is like the light of morning,

like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,

gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.

Is not my house like this with God?

For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,

ordered in all things and secure.

Will he not cause to prosper

all my help and my desire?

But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away;

for they cannot be picked up with the hand;

to touch them one uses an iron bar

or the shaft of a spear.

And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

Psalm 132:1-3, (14-19) (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  LORD, remember David,

and all the hardships endured;

2  How he swore an oath to the LORD

and vowed a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:

3  ”I will not come under the roof of my house,

nor climb up into my bed….”

14  For the LORD has chosen Zion;

he has desired her for his habitation:

15  ”This shall be my resting-place for ever;

here will I dwell, for I delight in her.

16  I will surely bless her provisions,

and satisfy her poor with bread.

17  I will clothe her priests with salvation,

and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18  There will I make the horn of David flourish;

I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19  As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame;

but as for him, his crown will shine.”

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 (Revised English Bible):

As I was looking,

thrones were set in place

and the Ancient in Years took his seat;

his robe was white as snow,

his hair like lamb’s wool.

His throne was flames of fire

and its wheels were blazing fire;

a river of fire flowed from his presence.

Thousands upon thousands served him

and myriads upon myriads were in attendance.

The court sat, and the books were opened.

I was watching in visions of the night and I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven; he approached the Ancient in Years and was presented to him.  Sovereignty and glory and kingly power were given to him, so that all people and nations of every language should serve him; his sovereignty was to be an everlasting sovereignty which was not to pass away; and his kingly power was never to be destroyed.

Psalm 93 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

he has put on splendid apparel;

the LORD has put on his apparel

and girded himself with strength.

He has made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

Ever since the world began, your throne has been estabished;

you are from everlasting.

4 The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

SECOND READING

Revelation 1:4b-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Grace to you and peace from him who is and was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

Look!  He is coming with the clouds;

every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him;

and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wait.

So it is to be.   Amen.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,

says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

GOSPEL READING

John 18:33-37 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him,

Are you the King of the Jews?

Jesus answered,

Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?

Pilate replied,

I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?

Jesus answered,

My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.

Pilate asked him,

So you are a king?

Jesus answered,

You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 29, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/proper-29-year-a/

John 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-ninth-day-of-lent-good-friday/

A Prayer for Humility:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-humility/

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God’s ways and those dominant in many societies contradict each other.  Look around.  Listen.  Pay attention.  Then consider the following:

  1. The first will be last and the last will be first.
  2. The person who serves is the greatest of all.
  3. The Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew
  4. The Beatitudes and Woes in the Gospel of Luke
  5. This Sunday’s readings from Revelation and John

This is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in the Western Church year.  The next Sunday will inaugurate Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas.  Already we read of the return of Christ, which is par for the course at this time in the Western Church year.  Only God knows the details of the parousia, so do not believe anyone who claims to have worked them out.  Unfortunately, such alleged experts have given books such as Daniel and Revelation a bad name among many Christians and others.

I have no obsession with matters eschatological, but neither do I find Daniel and Revelation frightening or intimidating.  They are dense, but that fact creates a challenge.  I can deal effectively with a challenge, or at least try to do so.  My main task as a Christian, however, is to follow Jesus, not to fixate on the seven seals or the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  I do not look forward to the end of the world.  Rather, I seek to leave my corner of the world better than I found it.  How can I function as a divine agent so that God’s order will become more evident in the world, or at least my corner of it?  How can I, for example, help those who mourn to laugh, those who hunger to have their fill, those who weep to rejoice, and those who seek God to find God?  How may I serve God most effectively and show Jesus to those whom I encounter?  These are my responsibilities; prophesy conferences are irrelevant.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/christ-the-king/

Proper 29, Year A   24 comments

Above:  The Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

The Face of Jesus

The Sunday Closest to November 23

The Last Sunday After Pentecost:  Christ the King Sunday

NOVEMBER 26, 2017

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the Lord GOD:

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. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 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. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. 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.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them:

I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 34:11-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the Lord GOD:

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. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 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. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. 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.

Psalm 95:1-7a (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

SECOND READING

Ephesians 1:15-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 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. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 25:31-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for 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, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Our Lord and Savior commands us to love our neighbors as yourselves.  He also tells us that each person is our neighbor.  We are to love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves, for God dwells within each of us.  Do we seek to recognize the face of Jesus when we look at each other?

Respecting Jesus in each other requires us to seek justice for each other.  The audience of the reading from Ezekiel is the ruling class, but Jesus addresses people in general in the lesson from Matthew.  By serving each other, he tells us, we serve God.  Following Jesus is not an abstraction.  No, there are observable deeds.  When given the opportunity, do we care for others, especially those society has marginalized and/or despised?

Let us be honest.  Who enjoys visiting prisoners?  And do we not prefer not to look upon the homeless?  Furthermore, going to a hospital or a nursing home can be far from a pleasant experience.  Yet God also loves and Jesus died for those who are incarcerated or homeless or in a nursing home or a hospital bed.

Speaking of marginalized people, let us ponder shepherds.  They occupied a lower rung on the socio-economic ladder.   Yet they were essential elements of their society.  God spoke as a shepherd in the reading from Ezekiel and Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd.  King David’s immediate former profession was shepherd.  I interpret this combination of facts to mean that we ought not stand on ceremony and rank, seeking glory for ourselves.   Rather, we should seek to serve.  Furthermore, leadership, especially that of a nation, is properly an opportunity and a responsibility to serve others and work for justice.

There is god news and bad news in this day’s readings.  The good news is grace.  Reread the lesson from Matthew:  Those whom God praised did not know how much good they had done.  Yet there is bad news:  judgment.  Those whom God condemned were unaware of the depth of their sins.  Maybe they even thought they had lived righteously.

I like to listen to radio programs and podcasts from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  Among my favorite series is The Late Show, which profiles deceased Canadians who contributed greatly to society, rarely in ways that made headlines.  Here is a link to the episode about Gladys Evelyn Cook.  She worked with prisoners, understanding who they were and what they had done yet not judging them.  Instead, Cook recognized the potential within them.   With her generous spirit and Christian faith she touched the lives of many people for the good, giving away many hugs.  Inspired by her example and the lives of many other Christians in the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, I pray that, by grace, I will act properly, not merely out of fear of divine wrath, but because I seek to do the right thing.  Gladys Evelyn Cook makes me want to be a better person than I am.  May I, by grace, have a similar effect on others.  May you, O reader, by grace, have a similar effect on others.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-face-of-jesus/