November 26, 2023

November 26, 2023

Christ the King Sunday


Today is a very special day in the life of our church!! Today is Christ The King Sunday!  It is also referred to as the Feast of the King and the Reign of the King. Now many of you may have heard of this special Sunday?  Perhaps some of you may not have heard of it.  I only learned about this Sunday a few years ago.

The definition of Christ the King Sunday is that it bridges Ordinary Time and Advent, even as the retail machine already is shoving us headlong into Christmas even before Halloween. Ordinary Time is the time between Epiphany and Lent and the time between Pentecost and Advent.  Advent begins the season of hope for Christ’s coming again.

During Ordinary Time us Pastors’ wear Green Stoles except on Communion Sundays when we wear White Stoles.  Now that you are completely confused, we continue.  

Why do we observe this odd day anyway?  Christ the King Sunday is not an ancient high and holy day.  It began being observed in the mid 1920’s, a practice instituted by Pope Pius out of a concern for the growing secularism and the rise of fascism in Europe.  Pope Pius stated, that “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, and peace and harmony.”

I think that we can agree that we all yearn for such blessings especially, because  of the state of our world today.

The church calendar can be a little confusing this way.  It’s this seemingly never ending cycle: it ends on Christ the King Sunday, but until Christ comes back again, we begin Advent the very next Sunday.  Christ the King Sunday helps worshipers who are already thinking about Christmas to remember that the event of Christmas is about much more than a baby in a manger–it’s about a sovereign Christ.

According to Wikipedia, the Sovereignty of Christ is the Christian teaching that God is the supreme authority and all things are under His control.  God is the “sovereign Lord of all by the incontestable right as creator and owner and possessor of heaven and earth. 

Sovereignty is an attribute of God based upon the promise that God as the creator of heaven and earth has absolute right and full authority to do or allow whatever He desires.

So, this Sunday aims to focus our attention and our worship on the vast character of Christ’s reign over the world.

According to Ben Stewart, a liturgy professor “It was in 1925, against the backdrop of the rise of Mussolini and the growing popularity of Nazi Party, that Pope Pius announced this new feast day, designed to remind the church that Christ didn’t rule over only inner subjective, spiritual things, but Christ’s rule extended over everything else:  the way we vote, the way we govern and way we care for the vulnerable and outcasts in our society. 

The feast was meant to remind us that Christ’s reign was universal and extended over the worldly rulers like Mussolini and Hitler.”

As we wrestle with whatever we bring to church this week, be reassured that Jesus is indeed Lord of all, the Prince of Peace, the one who saves sinners, the one who redeems all of creation, no matter its current state.  No matter if you are anxious about the state of the world or worried deeply about a loved one, Jesus is present and offering grace.

Many Advent traditions are observed in the United States preceding Christmas Day. The Advent wreath is very popular here in this country.

It is uncertain as to when exactly the celebration of Advent was first introduced in the Christian church.  Some sources say that Advent began on November 11 (St. Martin’s Day) at some time in the fifth century in the form of a six-week fast leading to Christmas. 

Advent was reduced to its current length at some stage in the sixth century and the fasting was no longer observed.  Thank God.  Advent is originally a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter.  Advent has sometimes been referred to as the Winter Lent.

Advent traditions spread from Europe to the United States, especially the Advent calendar, which became very popular in the U.S. after World War II as American military personnel and their families who were stationed in Germany brought them home and made them a part of their Christmas traditions.  Some people credit President Dwight Eisenhower with helping the tradition of the Advent Calendar spread in the U.S. during the 1960’s.

Purple is historically the main color used for Advent because it reflects penitence, fasting, and the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the king (Jesus Christ).

As Max Lucado, says “For centuries, Christians throughout the world have used the season of Advent to prepare themselves spiritually for Christmas.  The word

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus and simply means “coming” or “arrival.”  Advent is a time for prayer and self-reflection.  If we want to arrive at Christmas with a heart wide open for the Christ child, we need to be intentional about making room for him now.”

We turn now to our Psalm for today, Psalm 100. Psalm 100 shows us the pathway into God’s presence.  “Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth” (Psa. 100:1). According to Enduring word, this psalm is simply titled A Psalm of Thanksgiving, and it is the only psalm in the collection to bear this title. It speaks of an invitation to the whole earth to know and to worship God.

A joyful shout: “The original word signifies a glad shout, such as loyal subjects give when their king appears among them. Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people; a cheerful spirit is in keeping with his nature, his acts, and the gratitude which we should cherish for his mercies.” (Spurgeon)

All you lands: “The nations must recognize who the Lord is. He is Yahweh, by whose grace and blessings his people exist.” (VanGemeren)

Serve the LORD with gladness: “It is your privilege and duty to be happy in your religious worship. The religion of the true God is intended to remove human misery, and to make mankind happy. (Clarke)

Come before His presence with singing: As in many places in the psalms, praise is expressed in song. Singing is not the only way to praise God, but it is the chief way to praise Him.

Know that the LORD, He is God: The praise that comes to God from His people and all lands should be mindful.

It is He who has made us: The next reason to worship God is in appropriate recognition of His work as Creator. The idea that we could make ourselves is absurd, and we should worship the One who has made us. 

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture: Another reason to worship God is because He has chosen a people (originally the Jewish people, then added the followers of Jesus Christ), and He cares for us as the sheep of His pasture. Entering through the gates and into the courts of the temple. As God’s people approach, we should do so with thanksgiving, recognizing how much God has done for us.

Into His courts with praise:  Thanks, and praise merge together, as God’s people are thankful and bless His name. For the LORD is good: Thanks, and praise are right in recognition of God’s goodness.

in His plans, good in His grace, good in His forgiveness, good in His covenant,

and good in every aspect of His being. His mercy is everlasting: The brief psalm ends with God’s unending mercy and truth. These are everlasting reasons to give thanks and praise to God.

Our New Testament reading this morning is from the gospel of Matthew 25:31-46. You may have heard about the Matthew 25 Project that the PCUSA or Presbyterian Church of the United States of America which is the denomination that this church is a part of.

From the PCUSA website we are Welcomed to the Matthew 25 movement. The Matthew 25 invitation focuses on Matthew 25: 31-46, the parable of the sheep and goats in which Jesus makes clear, that what we do matters to God and how we treat others is important to God.

When we welcome others, we welcome Christ; when we bring together people who are divided, we are doing God’s reconciling work. We are called to serve Jesus by contributing to the well-being of the most vulnerable in all societies – Make no mistake, Jesus is calling us to perform ordinary acts of compassion in daily life. In so doing, we continue Christ’s work of proclaiming release to captives and good news to the poor — the good news of God’s righteousness, justice and peace for all.

Your church can join this movement.  However, I know that this church is already doing so many of these mission activities in your path to serve the well-being of your community and the world.

In a sermon entitled, “How Do I Measure Up,” Lew Slade says I don’t think I can be accused of exaggerating if I say that this is one of the most difficult passages of scripture in the entire Bible (Matthew 25: 31-46). It’s what teenagers today might call “in your face”. It confronts and challenges us at the very core of our being; it forces us to face up to the most fundamental of questions – “What does Jesus think of me?” Will I be one of his sheep to be blessed for eternity or one of the goats heading for the hot seat! It speaks of a time which is coming when all of the things by which the world judges us – power, prosperity, intellect – will be irrelevant and we will stand face to face with Jesus. At that moment, I suspect that for most of us the most significant question in the depths of our hearts will be – “How do I measure up?”

Paul spells out God’s way very clearly in the letter he wrote to the Ephesians. In chapter 2 and verses 8 and 9 he writes, “For it is by grace that you have been  saved, through faith – and this is not of yourself, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no-one can boast.” It cannot be clearer than that. Salvation is a gift from God and we can do nothing in any practical shape or form to deserve it.

Simply put, works will not work! What does work is faith. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and acceptance that we are assured of heaven simply and solely through his death on the cross and his resurrection. It is only through such faith and acceptance that God will look past our wrongdoings and see our lives through the righteousness of Christ.

So does that mean we’re off the hook! It doesn’t matter what I do for others as long as I have faith in Jesus? We can never put it past our human mind to find the easy way out, the line of least resistance. So, if we are saved by faith then is there really any necessity to go out of our way to do things for other people? I’m sure that Paul was very aware that this could be what some might be thinking so he goes on immediately in Ephesians to write, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

So, it is clear then that salvation is not the reward for good works. But that is not to say that God will not reward those who do good. In Hebrews 6: 10 we read, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”  In Proverbs 28:27 are the words, “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing.”  LET US PRAY: