Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | November 21, 2010

2010.11.21 “Another Year’s Journey” – Christ the King Sunday

Central United Methodist Church

“Another Year’s Journey”
Pastor David L. Haley
Christ the King

November 21st, 2010

Today – Christ The King Sunday – is one of those times Ferris Buehler was talking about in the John Hughes movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” when he said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 

Every now and then, we need to stop and look around.  It’s like as a child, when on a car trip with our parents, we go to sleep and then stop for a rest stop and wake up and get out and stretch and look around, to see where we are. Christ the King Sunday is a good time to look around to see where we are. What I’d like to do is describe where we are, how we got here, and what we do, now that we’re here.

While most Christian festivals are ancient, the festival of Christ the King is not, and was not even instituted until 1925, by Pope Pius IX. Ten years after the disaster of World War I, with Mussolini head of Italy for 3 years, and an Austrian paperhanger and rabble-rouser named Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party growing in popularity, the future looked ominous.  In the face of this, Pope Pius IX believed it time to reaffirm that ultimately, Christ is King, and that those pretenders who think they are, whether Caesar, Kings, Der Fuhrer, or even Presidents – are not.

Celebrated in late November as the last Sunday of the Christian liturgical year, it provides an occasion for us as Christians, amidst all the activities and allegiances of our lives, to affirm that, for us, Christ is Lord, and all those other allegiances and authorities that ask us to bend the knee before them, are not.

Some say that the terminology – Christ is King – is misleading, even repugnant to us Americans, who after all don’t allow kings, and went to great pains to get rid of the last King we had, King George. Indeed, the image of an earthly King, sword in hand, may be misleading.

For this reason, some prefer to call today “Reign of Christ,” which may be a better image.  What it means is that when we say “Christ is King,” we’re not saying Christ is sitting on a rainbow somewhere, sword in hand, the larger image of an earthly king, but that as Christians we choose to live under the Kingdom of Christ, not someday in heaven when we die, but here and now.

We all have our little kingdoms in life, any area of life where our will and our desires determine what happens and what does not happen, even if only extends to the remote for the TV.  In our homes, at our places of work, we have spheres of influence, places where we make a kingdom for ourselves, where we try to arrange things so that what we say, what we think, what we believe determines the shape of life.

In such a way, the kingdom of God is where God’s desires, God’s dreams, God’s will and God’s intentions rule.  The kingdom of God is where the shape of life mirrors God’s design for life.  It’s what we mean when we pray, “Thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.”

And occasionally, we can see it, from our house. The kingdom is present wherever people pray the way Jesus taught us to pray. The kingdom is present wherever Jesus nurtures behaviors and lifestyles that call forth the fruit of the Spirit. The kingdom is present wherever people pour water over the heads of babies or take bread and wine to their lips because Jesus told us that this is what we are to do in remembrance of him.

The kingdom is present wherever a Christian refuses to go along with some scheme – whether binge drinking or gay bashing or creative accounting – because he or she believes it is untruthful or wrong. The kingdom is present when a woman brings light into a neighbor’s darkness by speaking a word of peace, whenever a man sits down to tutor a homeless child, whenever a person undertakes any project to help another in the name of Christ. Whenever and wherever such things are done in the name of Jesus, then and there the kingdom of God is present, and Christ reigns.

As we look at where we are on this Christ the King Sunday, looking ahead is important. We are four days from Thanksgiving, five days before Black Friday, one week from the start of Advent, and five weeks from Christmas. Are you ready? Do you feel a panic attack coming on? How are we going to remember Christ is Lord in all of that?  Maybe we need to take a deep breath, and prepare ourselves. In fact, that’s just what we do during Advent, which we begin next Sunday.

As we look at where we are, looking back is also important, because that explains how we got here.  Have you ever had the experience of driving while listening to a riveting story on the radio, or a book on tape, and when it ends you realize that while you’re still behind the wheel and on the road, you have absolutely no memory of the last two hours of driving and don’t even know where you are? We don’t want to be like that. We want to remember how we got here.

        Today, as we come to the Re-Opening of the Log Cabin, we want to remember that it was a journey we began a year and a half ago, (appropriately) on Transfiguration Sunday, February 22nd, 2009.  At that time we voted as a congregation to renovate the Log Cabin, rather than tear it down, the only other option before us.  After all the necessary research and arrangements, done mostly by Julianne Arvizu, we voted February 14th of this year, again on Transfiguration Sunday, to begin construction.  Today we celebrate the completion of that project, and the reopening of the Log Cabin. 

        It’s a big day in the life of our congregation, one to be celebrated. It shows what we can do when we agree on something, are willing to work in teamwork and provide the resources necessary for its fulfillment.  It will be an asset rather than an eyesore, not only to our congregation but to the entire community. If there’s any song we ought to sing, it would be “Amazing Space.”

Now that we’ve done the sanctuary, the parsonage, the Log Cabin (and yes, I know we’re not completely done there), the only building whose fate remains is the Educational Building, next on the list.  Once we complete that we can mark buildings off our agenda, and come to the goal of having our buildings support our ministry, and not our ministry supporting our buildings, as is the case in far too many urban churches. 

        Despite what some people may think, the Log Cabin is not the only journey we’ve been on this year.  Our most important journey has been our collective journey through the life of Christ over another Christian year, a journey in Christian formation.  This is why our worship together is one of the most important things we do: in worship we are shaped as Christians, then send out to transform the world.

Though of course you can come into it anywhere, our journey began last year on November 29th, on the first Sunday in Advent, as we began to prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of Christ. Last Advent we did that through a series, Christmas through the Lens of Hollywood. We took a look at, to see what we could learn from, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Transformation of the Grinch,” and compared with the Song of Mary another song we know, “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.”

Finally, came Christmas, and our Candlelight Christmas Eve service, one of our favorite services of the year. The best Christmas services are not those in which we not only celebrate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem long ago, but in which Christ is reborn – each year – in us.

After Christmas comes the season of Epiphany, the glory of God in Christ, which we remember in multiple ways, such as through the coming of the Magi at Jesus’ birth, at his baptism, at his calling of his disciples, and through his word and works of ministry, such as the marriage of Cana. 

One of the things I look forward to each Epiphany Sunday as we celebrate the visit of the Three Kings is our all-church potluck, this year January 2nd. I almost expect to see the Three Kings walk in and sit down, their gifts no more exotic or wonderful than the variety of food we have on the table.  After all, we know that if they had been really wise men, they would have brought tuna casserole rather than gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The last Sunday in Epiphany is Transfiguration Sunday (What big decision are we going to make this year?)  With the solemn service of Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent.  Who can forget, ”Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return?”  Kind of tends to help keep things in perspective.

For the six Sunday of Lent this year, do you remember what we did? 24 Hours That Changed the World, the last 24 hours in the life of Christ. It was an awesome experience to visit those holy sites via video, as we walked with Christ on his journey to the cross and tomb.   By the way, I’ve not forgotten that some of us still hope to take that trip to the Holy Land. This year in Jerusalem?

What a great Easter service we had!  Do you remember the place was packed?  And that our Superintendent, Rev. James Preston, was here with us? And that we confirmed two, my daughter, Rebecca, and Ferdinand Soco. Even more miraculously, they are still here today!  Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

During the Great Fifty Days of Easter, we did a series from The Book of Revelation.  I learned a lot during that series! Did you know that Ed Gut put that series on CD, and you can borrow it and listen to it again?  Did you hear it reverberating today in our Call to Worship:

“Grace to you and peace

from him who is and who was and who is to come,

from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness,

firstborn of the dead, 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.”

During the Sundays of Easter, our Spring Promise of the Rainbow campaign was a great success. Over 44 people contributed $3,869 to over 46 different missions, causes, and organizations.  In our giving and through our gifts, we extended the Reign of Christ.

Throughout the summer, in two services, we were on the road to Jerusalem with Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, weighing Jesus’ call to discipleship. Among other things, for example, we looked at the Lord’s Prayer, some Parables of Jesus, including some sayings of Jesus regarding our relationship to our money and our possessions, which was, of course, a foretaste of what was to come.  Did you know that for the summer months, in two services, we averaged six more worshipers than last year, for an overall average of 107?

This fall, in the late Sundays after Pentecost, we just completed our series, Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity. I hope this series had an impact upon your life, it did upon mine.  I’m committed to simplifying my life, and to be more generous.

During the year, other things got done too. We came up with a new congregational mission statement, most memorable as a slogan: “Keeping God Central, in hearts, lives, and minds.” We updated our bulletin, newsletter, and website. We now send an email newsletter, and a weekly worship update.  We began every Sunday communion; rejoining weekly the twin essentials of Christian worship: Word and Table. Our shared space relationship with Jesus Love UMC continues to bear fruit, as we do more projects together. We especially thank them for the work their congregation has done on the Log Cabin.

Another year’s journey: In worship we were shaped as Christians, and sent forth to transform the world.

During all this, life went on.  Some of us had new babies or grandchildren or got married or divorced or lost loved ones to death.  Some of us lost jobs or found new jobs. Some moved here, others moved away. We said hello to some and goodbye to others, losing some members but gaining others. We discovered new heartaches, and took on new challenges. We experienced failures, but also joy, not least the joy of the renovation of the Log Cabin. 

Today, at the end of another church year, after another cycle of hearing the story of Jesus’, after another year of baptizing, marrying, and burying our dead, after another year of facing challenges and completing projects, including the Log Cabin renovation, we bring it all to the climax of this day, and lay it at the feet of Christ our King, giving him our thanks and offering him our lives.   

“O that with yonder sacred throng

we at his feet may fall.

We’ll join the everlasting song,

and crown him Lord of all.

We’ll join the everlasting song,

and crown him Lord of all.”

– Edward Perronet, 1779

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