Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and from His Son, Jesus Christ, our living Lord and Savior.
This is a busy and joyful time of year, in both the church and secular calendars. Next Thursday (Nov. 28) we will observe a day of Thanksgiving followed by any number of holiday sales opportunities. Sunday, Dec. 1st begins the season of Advent during which we prepare our hearts and minds in anticipation of celebrating the birth of God’s Son, Jesus, on Christmas.
And tomorrow (Nov. 24) many area churches will observe the end of the church’s liturgical year by celebrating “The Festival of Christ the King.” The question for Christ the King Sunday — and every Sunday — is not that “Jesus the Christ is King,” but “What kind of King?”
Christ is Lord of every time and place. We know him in the bread and in the cup. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is with us from beginning to end; in good times and in bad, with the promise that neither things present, nor things to come, nor anything in all creation will separate us from him.
If someone walked up to you on the street and asked you to tell him or her The Story of Jesus the Christ, what would you say?
For Christians, Jesus spent his life teaching about the kingdom of God. He preached liberation to the captives and healing to those who were sick and lame. Jesus challenged the unjust treatment of women and preached the need for patience with children. His miracles and teachings so confounded the status quo of the elders, the priests and the politicians of the time that he was considered a threat to their religion and to their way of life.
His ministry was controversial, powerful and world altering. Eventually, those whom he threatened condemned him to death by crucifixion.
Jesus’ stories of forgiveness are legendary. He spent much of his ministry describing the kingdom of God as having different rules and different expectations from the rules, laws and penalties of humanity.
He said that the Kingdom of God is like the love freely given when a son foolishly asks his father for his inheritance, takes it, goes to a foreign land and squanders all he has. Then, when the son comes to his senses and returns home, hoping his father will forgive him, he is met with celebration, rejoicing, and jubilation. Why the celebration? Because of the father’s great love and ability to forgive his son. (Luke 15:11-23)
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a shepherd who cares so deeply for all his sheep that when one is lost, the shepherd goes in search of the lost and does not give up until the sheep is found. (Luke 15:1-7)
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a rich man who gives a party and when the other rich people are too busy for the party, the rich man throws open the invitation and invites the poor, the blind and the lame to be part of the feast. (Luke 14:16-23)
This kind of forgiveness is a challenging notion for many of us. Part of our inability to believe and trust the forgiving power of God’s grace and mercy is our inability to believe that other people deserve mercy.
WE want to judge whom God lets into heaven. We would rather have Jesus say that God loves the people we love and the people we say we are like – and that God does not love the people we do not love and the people we say are not like us.
We would prefer if God did not love the addicts, adulterers, thieves, murderers, prostitutes, members of the LBGTQ community, rebellious teenagers and disgruntled employees. We would prefer if paradise were exclusively for the nice people, the clean people, the polite people, the well-behaved people, the right people.
As Christians, we have a confessional faith — not because we are weak, but because God is strong, and because God is love. We have a confessional faith because the grace of God is sufficient for all.
There is grace for us AND for the people we do not like. We have a confessional faith because God is our refuge and our strength. We confess because God will hear and forgive our sins; and also, because God will hear and forgive their sins.
Our salvation is not dependent upon each other, but on a loving, grace-giving God. We confess because God’s saving grace will heal, restore, redeem and forgive those whom God has created, and whom Good fiercely loves.
All have sinned and fallen short; all have angered, frustrated and disappointed God. However, God so loved the entire world that whosoever believes shall get all the grace that God has to give.
Jesus spent his entire ministry teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God. One of Jesus’ last forgiving acts on earth was to proclaim that a repentant sinner crucified next to him on Good Friday would be with him that day in paradise. (Luke 23:43) Oh, praise God for Christ the King!
May the love of God surround you; the grace of Christ release you; and the Holy Spirit be your guide and strength during this holiday season, throughout 2020 and forevermore. Amen.
Written by the Rev. Janice C. Winters, Retired Lutheran Pastor