NOVEMBER 22, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Well, here we are now – the end of the Church Year. Time has flown for me, especially since mid-March and we shifted from in-person worship. Maybe that’s a sign of aging. It certainly doesn’t fit with “time flies when you’re having fun.”
Onward with the Collect — Note the optimism — for all peoples, restored to unity in Christ. Think of our present divisions, fears, sin that tears us apart, inwardly and with our neighbors. Pray not for a future day – but now, to be set free from sin that spawns hatred and division, making room to so see Christ in one another, and live more fully into God’s kingdom, now – here on earth.
Today’s readings sound a triumphant note, but not a triumphalist note. God’s universal rule is expressed in Christ, the Shepherd-King. It’s quite a juxtaposition of images – a lowly shepherd. No power finally can withstand or match his. He is seen and enthroned not by demonstrations of power, wealth, greatness – but in the lives of the needy, marginalized and those who slip beneath the cracks of this world and go unseen. If God’s eye is on the sparrow as the spiritual says, you better believe God cares for the least among us. And to live close to God’s kingdom, we will, too.
Both texts – the Old Testament and Psalm dwell on the nurturing and protecting role of the Shepherd-King. We, every one of us, are his people, — like sheep safe in his pasture. We tremble not in his presence but sing our praise. Ezekiel’s words give a political twist to the shepherd’s role by condemning “shepherd-kings” in the land who neglect and exploit the flock. Yahweh intervened in the past — and will in the future through a future king in the line of King David.
Both of our New Testament readings — from Ephesians, and Jesus’ parable in Matthew — echo the Old Testament, pointing toward God’s anointed King above all earthly rule, authority, power and dominion. The texts only point to the nature of God’s rule in the lives of those who love the Lord and anticipate His coming rule over all creation. We live in the interim – and for now, the crucified and suffering Lord is manifest in the hurting and least of this world. God’s reign will be complete. Those ignored and left out – are the subjects of God’s care. The least, surprisingly, think they’re the mighty in this earthly kingdom, while ignoring God’s care for those they consider least. God’s reign will be completed – and complete. Jesus guarantees it. How do we prepare? First, we fall in love with the God incarnate in Jesus Christ, with more than words. Death will one day be vanquished. The Son of Man, will rule over the created order as judge of the nations — and each of us personally. “The slave is our brother,” brother who rescues and redeems, placing us in God’s loving arms forevermore. To be able to see all peoples — beginning with the least and working our way down to the top is the way of God’s kingdom. That’s where the Reign of Christ takes us. Best we begin getting with the program.
Read, learn, pray and meditate with, and inwardly digest our readings. Take your time with them. Give room for the Spirit to find room in your heart. God is always seeking to fill our hearts with the security of Divine Love so that we might be His presence of compassion to those around us.
Blessings and Christ’s peace holding you, as we soon bring this Church Year to a close, Fr. Steve
Last Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King
November 22, 2020
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.
I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.
1 Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
2 Know this: The Lord himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.
4 For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”