Living Under The Reign Of Christ

Happy Reign of Christ Sunday!  We had an amazing Sunday at RCC.  Here’s a sneak peak at the altar!

Cornucopia Altar

I take no credit for this (other than looking for the wooden candlestick in my worship supplies), but I did take a lot of pictures and will to a separate post on it this week.

In the meantime, here’s my sermon!

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Colossians 1:11-20

Living Under The Reign Of Christ

One of my favorite things about the month of November is the way in which it becomes a month of giving thanks. People use social media to talk about their blessings; families prepare to come together and share an elaborate meal; the colder temperatures and shorter days force people to slow down and stay inside and the spirit of Christmas giving is alive and beginning to touch people’s hearts.

It has been hard not to give thanks at our church this month. There has been something on our church calendar every single weekend this month – the Bazaar, Homeless Awareness Weekend, a fall Cabinet meeting, a kickoff dinner for this year’s Confirmation class, a Bazaar wrap-up dinner and the assembly of over 60 Thanksgiving Baskets. Throughout this month we have served together, worshipped together, prayed together, sang together, laughed together and cried together. It has been one of those months where I have been in a constant state of disbelief – almost awe! – that this is my life and this the community that God has called me to be in ministry with. Our church is not perfect, but we are blessed to have one another and this community.

Today is Reign of Christ Sunday, the last Sunday in the Christian Church year. Next week starts the beginning of a new year in the life of the Church; it is the first Sunday in Advent, the four-week preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ, a birth which laid the foundation for our faith to rest upon.

When we look at this morning’s reading from the Old Testament, we see a prophecy that has been fulfilled through the Christian story. The prophet Jeremiah said that a just and righteous king would come, that Judah would be saved and Israel would live in safety and that the shepherds who watch over God’s people would return to their flock. We look back on these words, particularly on the cusp of a Christmas season, knowing that Christians fully realize and recognize Jesus as this king that Jeremiah said was coming.

But Jesus was not a king that ruled with power and laws; Jesus was a king that ruled with love and compassion, with – as Jeremiah prophesied – an emphasis on justice and righteousness. Jesus was a king that ruled by extending a hand of peace and not a fist of war. Jesus was a king that ruled by reaching out to the poor and the marginalized.

And this morning we celebrate Christ’s all-encompassing reign in our lives – the ways that his reign influenced the world 2,000 years ago and the ways that his transformative power is still at work in our lives and in our communities.

“The reign of Christ is the reign of peace.” [1]

I read these words in a commentary text this week, a text reflecting on Jesus’ fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy. And I got to thinking – what does the reign of Christ look like? And more importantly, how do we live under this reign? How, in an age where governments rule and the grain of societies take over, do we live under this reign? How, when there are so many fundamental differences between Christians in different churches and denominations, do we live under this reign? How, when disasters strike and we have no control, do we live under this reign? How, when each and every one of us must wake up and face the challenges of being human and living in an imperfect world, do we live under this reign?

I think that how and why we live under Christ’s reign is changing as the world changes. The reasons that our parents and our grandparents and our great-grandparents and our great-great-grandparents embraced and live a life of Christian faith and service are not the same reasons that we do. I think that Jeremiah’s prophecy is still being fulfilled – every single day – as new generations of Christians emerge. 2,000 years later, we are still living under Christ’s reign.

Living under Christ’s reign means seeing yourself as a Child of God. This means looking in the mirror, seeing your reflection – your imperfections, your shortcomings and your mistakes – and saying, “I am a Child of God and I am worthy of God’s love.” I know that this is easier said than done but I think that believing in Jesus means also believing in yourself.

Living under Christ’s reign means knowing that your strength comes from God and that you need to seek out that strength when you feel weak. “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power,” our reading from the Book of Colossians says. Part of the power in the Christian story is seeing the strength that God gave to Jesus – through his ministry and all the way to his death on the cross when he spoke the words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” before he breathed his last breath. When we ask God for strength we are living out the words of the ancient Psalm, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” God will always give us strength – this is something that we carry with us always.

Living under Christ’s reign means seeing God at work in things that are visible and things that are invisible. Colossians 1:15 says that, “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heave and on earth were created, things visible and invisible.” As you are seeking out God’s presence and strength in your life, remember that grace comes in the most unexpected of ways and places. Sometimes we cannot see it right away.

Living under Christ’s reign means being the hands and feet of Christ as we walk through our journey through life. Christianity is not based on some mystical and unseen divine force; it is based on the life, death and resurrection of a human being – a man named Jesus. A man who went against the grain of society; a man who called for peace, justice and unity; a man who we are called to emulate in our own lives.

Living under Christ’s reign means listening for the ways that God is calling you into ministry. “[Jesus] is the head of the body, the church,” Colossians says. And we ARE the Body of Christ. We each have a role to play.

Living under Christ’s reign means living, serving, worshipping, learning and ministering in community. Jesus did not come and work alone; Jesus came and called disciples to work with him. We are called to do the same.

Living under Christ’s reign means lifting others up in ministry. We are called to support our brothers and sisters in Christ, to love wholly and unconditionally, to be one another’s cheerleaders and to let go of our own pride.

Living under Christ’s reign means not only being in relationship with other people, but also being in relationship with God. A relationship with God – like all other relationships – take work. They require honesty and communication. There are good times and bad times; times of fighting and times of thanksgiving. And like all other relationships, we cannot take them for granted.

Living under Christ’s reign means making that our top priority. We cannot act as an individual first and a Christian second. We must be faithful in everything that we do. Our faith should not be limited to one hour on a Sunday morning within the four walls of a church building; our faith should encompass the lives we lead and the way that we act every single day.

Living under Christ’s reign means letting go of the things that society tries to tell us are important and embracing the things that we know in our hearts are important, even when that is difficult.

Living under Christ’s reign means seeking peace. The scripture says that “[God] has rescued us from the power of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son” – and we, as the hands and the feet and the face of Christ, are called to do the same. Seeking peace is not easy. It is not easy in our homes, in our churches, in our communities, in our country or in our world. But the reign of Christ is a reign of peace – that is what the Gospel teaches us. And that means letting go, making compromises, seeing the bigger picture and resisting the oftentimes natural tendency to choose war, violence and anger over peace.

Living under Christ’s reign means embracing a personal faith, listening to the unique and special ways that God is calling you to live out your faith. Your faith is not dictated by religious structures, dogmas and creeds; it is God touching you and working through you.

It is fitting that we are celebrating Reign of Christ Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year, on the same Sunday that we are celebrating Thanksgiving. Because living under the reign of Christ and living out the reign of Christ is something that we can all be thankful for this year! Blessings abound!

So let us give thanks for the way that God is active and working in our lives and in the life of this church community. Let us give thanks for the energy and passion that exists within our walls and extends out into the community. Let us give thanks for a wonderful year; a year that may have posed some challenges, but also a year that enabled us to find God’s presence, to feel God’s strength and see God’s grace in unexpected places. Let us give thanks for a reign of Christ that is still happening today.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

***

[1] Johns, Mary Eleanor, Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 4, Page 316

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