Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christus Rex

This week I invite you to consider the pictures here and see what sort of connections you can discover. These are images of recognizable people (at least I'm assuming).  How many different relationships and connections can you recognize? What are their names, titles and roles? Does any of this matter?

Christ the King on cross detail.JPG

In our day and age, when we hear a claim that Christ is King, what are we hearing? In the day and age of the first century, what sort of impact do you think the assertion that  Christ is Lord had?

Nearly ninety years ago the festival of that we observe and celebrate this coming Sunday had its official beginning. Pope Pius XI established this feast in an encyclical Quas Primas Here is a paragraph from Quas Primas to consider.  (Keep in mind that gender-inclusive language was not much of a concern in 1925).
“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. 
He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God” (Romans 6:13).   
Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, 33  -  December 11, 1925
The festival of Christ the King is the last Sunday of the Church Year.  The following Sunday we begin again with the first Sunday of the new church year, or the First Sunday of Advent. So, this Sunday is in a real sense pivotal. In a deeper way it points us to a core claim of our life as children of God in Christ. We are summoned to clarify our allegiances.  Yikes!  This sounds like such a task and hard work.

Maybe one of the most straightforward ways of doing this hard work is simply to get to it. Postponing, in this case, is just another form of procrastinating.

Let me share an example. My son Gabriel will likely never win an award for the tidiest bedroom. Periodically, however, a thorough housecleaning is in order. At first glance the task seems overwhelming if not entirely futile. And the longer it is postponed . . . well, let's not go there! 
Last evening, we made a start. Gabriel and I worked together to clean his room (mostly he talked to me while I cleaned his room!). We didn't finish the task yet, but we did make good headway. 

The point is, not everything in the room can claim Gabriel's allegiance. One need only take the time to look around and it is obvious that some things are more important than others. And so, the tedious and difficult work of picking through everything has to commence. Taking inventory like this is the only way to do it. Some things need to be thrown away as the trash that they are, while other things are rediscovered as the valued and meaningful possessions that they are. But it takes work and being intentional.

How can we apply this to our spiritual lives?  Is our room a mess? Are we do for a thorough housecleaning?  

Christ the King Sunday and the anticipation of a new year is a great time to get down on our knees and take stock of the people, plans, and possessions with which we surround ourselves. What can be said of our ultimate allegiance? Is Christ King in our hearts? Are we in need of another revolution?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where there is despair,

The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1893
In [Christ] we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his gory, we who first hoped in Christ.  Ephesians 1:11-12
These verses from Ephesians were part of my morning devotions today. Paul seems so confident and assured -- as if it should be self-evident that God is large and in-charge. However, sometimes God feels distant, uninterested, and at best oblivious to the daily trials and burdens with which we so valiantly contend.

We confess that, in Christ, God has come near. The faith of the church is that God has taken on our nature and our lot and has made us a new creation in Christ. While that is the official "company" line, for many it seems to be simply too many words. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, or when we find ourselves bombarded with so many trials and perplexities, it would be nice for a clearer -- more obvious -- way that leads to life.

When we lack the clarity and confidence that we believe must materialize following our hard work and fidelity to expectations, than it is so easy to despair.

So what do we say to one another when we are in such a situation?  How do we assist one another to weather such periods of confusion and indifference?

These are some of the questions I ponder as your pastor.

My current conclusion is that we (and when I say we, I am referring to "us" as a congregation) have both an opportunity and an obligation to be a community in which it is okay to question, doubt, and be open and honest about our struggles. In other words, we ought not feel obligated to "put on a happy face" when inside, in our gut, we are struggling and suffering. If the church, the community of faith, isn't a place in which we can be honest and authentic, then what are we to do?

What do you think?  What can we do for and with one another when we are faced with difficulties that test our faith beyond our individual ability to contend? How do you keep things in perspective? What experiences have you had that seemed to threaten your spiritual vitality? How could you share your faith and strength with others who are need of your witness?

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

Trouble and perplexity drive me to prayer and prayer drives away perplexity and trouble.                                          - Philipp Melanchthon

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Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
November 9, 2014

Prayer of the Day
O God of justice and love, 
you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son. 
Give us the light we need, 
and awaken us to the needs of others, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amos 5:18-24
Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13