Hi friends! Happy Reign of Christ Sunday! It is hard to believe that Advent begins NEXT WEEK! We are working on a pre-recorded Hanging of the Greens service, in addition to our livestream. Stay tuned for all of that next week!
In the meantime, here is today’s sermon. Peace be with you all – Happy Thanksgiving!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
November 22, 2020
Christ’s Reign In Our Whole Lives
Today is Reign of Christ Sunday; the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent – the first Sunday of a new liturgical year. If you had told me back in March when we “suspended in person worship for three weeks” and I thought to myself, “how crazy would it be if we are not back in person by Easter” that, eight months later, we would be planning Advent and Christmas in our virtual worship space, I would have thought you were crazy.
But here we are.
And it’s fine.
And not fine in a 2020-sense of the word, “fine” (you know, “it’s fine, I’m fine, everything is fine” when it’s really not). It’s fine because we have learned over the past eight months that we can do this; that we can come together and worship God and support one another and grow in our faith without physically coming together. We have learned that church is not about a building, but about people; in fact, we have learned that, despite the absence of our building, we can still do an awful lot of church.
And so, as we close out this year – a year that unfolded in a way that we never saw coming when Advent began last year – we do so with the realization and the assurance that we are so much stronger than we ever thought possible. We look ahead to the new beginning of the Advent season with a renewed sense of hope in Jesus Christ, the alpha and omega, the beginning and then end.
Reign of Christ Sunday reminds us of the infinite sense of Christ; that Christ is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-being. This year, however, I have been thinking about the fact that we have a role to play in this, as well. Christ has done his part – and continues to do his part – in our lives. We are the ones that now have to live into this promise of what it means to follow Jesus and to lean into the wholeness of Christ.
Jesus Christ is our Savior; he is not one thing, he is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. He can, if we let him, be a part of all of the pieces of our lives, not just the one piece that comes out in this building on a Sunday morning.
Because we have learned this year that there is so much more to our faith and to our hope in Christ than who we are when we walk into this building one day a week.
We are Christians; we believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end and we believe that Jesus is part of our whole lives.
Our whole lives.
And this is amazing, right? That we can be fully Christian all the time; that our faith does not start and stop based on where we are and what day of the week it is.
But my goodness, if this is not a challenge, as well.
Because it is not easy to be fully Christian all the time; it is not easy to walk this walk and talk this talk, both when you know people are watching, but also when you think they are not.
It is not easy to carry God’s light when you are in a race with other shoppers for the last package of toilet paper. It is not easy to share God’s love when you are debating politics on Facebook. It is not easy to uncover God’s grace when the part of you that is concerned for everyone’s health and safety is telling you to stay home, but the part of you that desperately needs to see and hug your people is telling you that you just cannot do distance anymore.
I think being Christian – and doing church – was a whole lot easier when we could just do it when we walked through the doors of our building and knew people were watching.
But now we are doing it all the time, quite often without the structure and the support of our physical gatherings.
And it is a little bit harder, right?
This morning’s scripture reading comes from the Gospel of Matthew and it has always been one of my favorites. But, if I am being honest, I think I understand it in a completely different way right now. We are in the 25th chapter of the Gospel; Jesus has already entered Jerusalem and his death is quickly approaching. Jesus knows what is about to happen; and so there is a sense of urgency to his words. He is speaking to his disciples and to the crowd that has gathered; he needs them to understand that he is not always going to be there to tell them what to do or how to live or hold them accountable for their actions and their faith.
Think about it this way: As important as it was – and continues to be in our lives and our faith – Jesus’ time on earth was still such a small piece of the story. What really mattered – and continues to matter in our world today – is what happened next and what continues to happen; what really matters now is how we write our own chapters. What makes the Gospel even more powerful than it already is are the billions of people who have decided to, despite the absence of him physically on earth, follow Jesus and share his message. The reason Christianity continues to change lives and open minds and transform hearts is because people live out their faith regardless of whether or not they think someone is watching.
As Christians, we need to live our lives in such a way so that when we meet Jesus in heaven he will say, “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. … Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
My friends, this scripture is a call – it is a call to us to live our lives in accordance to the grace that has been given to us, regardless of who we are with or who we think may we watching. It is a call to feed the hungry, to take care of the sick and to reach out to the marginalized. It is a call not only to serve Christ, but also our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It was a call to do so both when Christ was physically present among the disciples and the crowds who had gathered to hear him teach, but also looking ahead to when Christ would reign in heaven.
Today we celebrate that reign of Christ; and we, too, live out this call.
I believe in the world we are living in today, this is a call to do things like wear a mask when we are out in public and stay home as much as possible so we can try to keep our own community and our families and friends safe. I believe it is a call to find new and distanced ways to take care of one another, even if we are not necessarily going to get recognized by our community in our building for doing so. I believe it is a call to keep up our giving to the church, despite the fact that we are not in the church to physically to put money in the offering plate. I believe it is a call to attend and participate in worship, even if we are not able to physically “count” you. I believe it is a call to continue to participate in the life of our church, even though, in many ways, it is more complicated.
I have been amazed this year at the ways in which this church has risen up and done the work we are being called to do, despite the fact that it is happening in kind of a nontraditional way. Thank you. Thank you for your participation, for your support, for your creativity, for your flexibility and for your grace. Thank you for doing the work when you think no one is watching and for stepping up to serve when you might not necessarily get credit for doing so. Thank you for not only celebrating the reign of Christ, but also demonstrating the reign of Christ in your own life; removing the boundaries between who you are at church and who you are in your life and just being Christian and following Christ in all aspects of your being.
I know you all are tired; I am, too. It has been a long eight months and we still have a little ways to go before it gets better – before we can “come back” and do church the way we want to be doing it.
But there is a lot of work to do in the meantime. And I am grateful and honored to be doing this work “with” you.
I hope you all have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. I look forward to beginning a new year with you all next week where we can continue to see and know and share the Good News of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.
May Christ reign in your life – your whole life – now and forever.
Thanks be to God!