New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
Listen to these words from the Gospel of Luke…
33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus[a] there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”]][b] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by watching, but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah[c] of God, his chosen one!”36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him,[d] “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding[e]him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah?[f] Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into[g] your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Let us Pray:
Enlighten us today Lord as we look to gain understanding in these words of scripture.
So, if you are like me, you are sitting there thinking, why in the world are we hearing these verses that are for Holy Week… this is a little harsh for Thanksgiving and of course the Joys of the Christmas season that is upon us.
Hamilton gave me an out and said if this didn’t work for me, I could certainly do my own thing. But as my dear Martine will tell you, I can be a bit stubborn and who doesn’t like a good challenge. So here we are, Jesus is on the Cross, and it is a time of blessings and thanksgiving!
Today it is also Reign of Christ Sunday on the Church Calendar. This is also known as Christ the King Sunday, established in 1925, a time in the history that there was a rise of ideologies like nationalism, and fascism and communism. It is believed the Christian Church was saying… Christ is the one true power and Christ should be our guiding light.
So, guess where we are going today!
As we all focus on gratitude and name our blessings for Thanksgiving, it is impossible not to look to our guiding light… Christ and Christ’s Reign as the one true power.
In history the reign of any king or Queen has some end in time. Queen Elizabeth’s reign ended when she died. The reign of power does not go on forever… unless of course, we look to Jesus Christ. How is it that after 2022 years after Christ Died on the Cross are we, as Christians, faithful to this one true power?
The questions that swirl through my head are numerous. Aren’t there other paths to a God filled life? Faith that directs us to love and care for others? Faiths of peace? Why Christ?
I must admit that I was not fully aware of the Reign of Christ Sunday… so, when I started to look deeper into what it is all about, I came across a blog writer, John Pavlovitz. A 25-year veteran of Local Church Ministry, committed to equality, diversity, and Justice (both inside and Outside Faith communities). Pavlovitz writes “Most Christians (and I think he means, those that call themselves Christians) wouldn’t recognize the real Jesus. The real Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew, a poor refugee. He was a heretic, a radical, a revolutionary who challenged the political and religious authorities of his day, and who led a movement of the marginalized and oppressed.” He goes on, “Jesus championed the poor, and opposed the powerful. He freely gave food to the hungry and care to the sick. He welcomed women in ministry and treated them as equals. He decried personal and systemic violence. He condemned the hoarding of wealth, and he was an activist for the common good.”
These words further deepened my questions… why and how does the Reign of Christ live on? We all have seen and have all (including myself) hoarded a bit of wealth, we have “walked” past the cold and hungry with our eyes fixed ahead as if we didn’t see the need to care. We have seen how some people are willing to oppress fellow humans because the color of their skin or the person they love does not match their own view of what is right. It begs the questions of how and why.
From the beginning of human time poor choices have been made… some guy bites an apple and sin is proven to be human nature. I bet there isn’t a soul in worship today that wasn’t told by their parents…” Don’t touch that or do that, don’t hit your brother” and of course we did it anyway. Human nature… and love endures.
Our Free Will, making choices that do not reflect what God wants of us all, taking paths to satisfy our own pleasures and leaving God’s love behind is a recipe to bring an end to Christ’s Reign. And yet, it has not ended.
As we (The members of the Federated Church Community) look at our many blessings as we consider our financial commitments to this Faith community for 2023… we look to God for guidance, we pray gratitude for the resources we have been blessed with and we are called to share from our abundance. We share our blessings when we provide a Thanksgiving meal to families we may never meet, because Christ fed the hungry. And we will Thank God for the gift of family, friends, and the bounty around and on our own Thanksgiving table.
Our GIM video this morning highlighted some of the ways Federated Church is guided by the Light of Christ. The actions this congregation takes for the world outside our walls is a way to celebrate Reign of Christ Sunday!
As a congregation we are fighting for the marginalized, we are offering our resources to help feed and care for the least of us. Federated puts Faith into action, sharing God’s love. And that is just what we are doing as a group… what do we do as individuals? When we are not together, are you, am I guided by the light of Christ? How are we living into the Reign of Christ? Do we speak up when others are tearing people down? Are we accepting of those around us who look or think differently than we do? Are we showing gratitude for those that are serving us? Are we loving the hard to love?
Are we giving of ourselves, our time, and our resources?
I know the question has been asked… and I know many of you are involved in the community in ways that give back the love you have received in Christ Jesus. I, as the Director of Missions and Services would love to know how you share that love when you are away from this church community. I invite you to share your stories and the places where you volunteer. Send me an email or give me a call! The Reign of Christ survives because we give of ourselves to those in need.
Here is another thought…
Mercy, God offers us mercy that we do not deserve. A chance to live into forgiveness Through the life of Christ, no matter how many times we try to screw things up.
We come together in worship, to be fed spiritually, but also to shed our sins and ask for forgiveness. We pray each week… “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. We want to live into the love of God, to follow Christ, to use his light to guide us on our earthly way… and yet, we just might repeat our mistakes.
I know I have shared this before…but it is the best example of why I learned to practice being “good”. (I say practice because I never fully get it right.) At a very early age I learned that doing the things my parents asked me not to do was a good way to betray their trust. Betraying their trust meant a lot of hard work and time to get it back… so I learned, follow their guidance, trust them to trust me to make the right choices… it is amazing how that worked.
God, through Christ has taught us to trust Her to trust us. Jesus came to us as a Middle Eastern Jew, a poor refugee who challenged the powers that be… he taught us through words and actions that we are to look out for the poor, feed the hungry, fight for the marginalized and oppressed.
The Reign of Christ survives because we are willing to confess our sins and then, as Maya Angelou once said… “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Let’s go back to the Gospel of Luke… a little earlier in chapter 23, Pilate is trying to understand why Jesus was brought before him… he asks Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews” Jesus answered “You have said so”
It is funny to me, how you have heard or read something for most of your life and one day you hear it completely differently… simply, my thought is that Jesus never really wanted to be “King”. Not in the context we often think about, Like Queen Elizabeth.
At the end of our reading today we hear this…
“Jesus, remember me when you come into[g] your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
That seems to be the defining piece for me. Jesus, in this earthly life does not see himself as King… He knows (and we have heard the story of His death) He knows he must go through with the crucifixion… He must enter the Kingdom of God, and this is where His Reign begins.
Unlike Queen Elizabeth’s reign ending upon her death… the Reign of the one true power begins more than 2022 years ago, hanging on a cross in that place called The Skull.
Let’s close with this from Maya Angelou:
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”
May we live into the Reign of Christ