As I was prepping for tomorrow’s Hanging of the Greens service, I realized I never posted my Reign of Christ Sunday sermon! So read this, get caught up and I’ll see everyone in church tomorrow (well – some of you virtually!).
Rehoboth Congregational Church
November 22, 2015
Sharing Christ’s Reign
Forgive me, congregation, for I have sinned.
A few weeks ago, I met someone for the first time who knows somebody who attends church at RCC. When they asked me how I knew our mutual acquaintance I said, very simply, “Oh, through the church in Rehoboth!” and then changed the subject.
Later that night, as I was talking about my day with Bruce, he stopped me at this point, started laughing and said, “Wait a second, you didn’t tell them you were the pastor?? That changes the whole story!”
Confession time: When I am with someone that I have just met and the subject of my vocation comes up, I often dance gracefully around the truth in order to avoid uncomfortable conversations where the person awkwardly tries to be on their best behavior and then I even-more awkwardly try to convince them that I am “normal”.
Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience.
So last week I confessed this encounter to my Tuesday morning bible study, which launched us into a discussion about how and when and where (and with whom) we talk about our faith. Most – if not all – of us shared that we have, at times, struggled with sharing our faith outside of our church community. “We do not want people to think we are one of ‘those’ Christians,” several people argued. “People are so quick to judge and there are a lot of stereotypes out there about Christians that we do not want to be associated with.”
Fair enough. I mean – they were preaching to the choir; I was not arguing with them.
Truth be told, I have wrestled with this a lot lately. As polarizing opinions flood our media and social media channels, I am finding it harder and harder to find a balance between sharing something that is very real to me while also not wanting to be stereotyped as some extreme nut job. Sometimes I find that it is just easier to have a passive voice and try to let my actions speak for themselves than to open myself up to judgement and ridicule by talking about my Christian faith.
But here is the problem with having a passive voice in today’s society: Someone’s voice will always be heard. It has to be. And if we let our voice be the passive voice, then we will lose out on the opportunity for our voice to be the one that is heard.
And I think our voice needs to be heard.
Today is Reign of Christ Sunday. In the Christian Church, Reign of Christ is a feast; a celebration in which we honor the Christ who reigned and the Christ who still reigns in our lives today. Reign of Christ – which is also called Christ the King Sunday – is the last Sunday in the church year. A new liturgical year begins next week with the beginning of Advent and with our preparations for Jesus’ birth. So before we get swept up in the craziness of Advent and Christmas, we pause today and give thanks for the ways that Jesus has worked in our lives this year; we celebrate a Gospel that is still very much alive and at work today. And we share that Good News with a world that so desperately needs to hear it.
This morning we heard a reading from the book of Revelation, which is the last book of the bible. While the book of Revelation is, in many ways, a book about the end of time, it is also a letter that was written to ordinary people, like us, 2,000 years ago. The author – a man named John – wrote this letter to seven Christian congregations in Asia living in distress and corruption. He offered a vision of what Christ’s reign could look like in this world and how redemptive that would be from the world that they were living in. It was and still is a bold proclamation that Christ is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end; a strong reminder that Christ can and should reign over all other things in our lives.
So how does Christ reign in our lives? Today is a wonderful opportunity to not only think about the ways that we are living under the reign of Christ, but also about the ways that we will respond to living under this reign of Christ and the ways that we will share that reign with others.
I think many of us struggle with this. We do not want people to think that we are crazy, but at the same time we are growing tired of the world that we are living in. We are tired of the negativity, the violence and the stress. We are tired of struggling. We are tired of feeling overwhelmed. We not only need God in our lives, but we also feel as though the world needs God. We want to share God’s hope, peace, joy and love in a world that so desperately needs it, but we do not want to be judged and ridiculed along the way.
But here is what I am starting to realize: We have a choice. We can choose to feel awkward when the subject of faith comes up, we can choose to not say anything and we can choose to let someone else’s voice be heard. We can choose to air on the side of not being judged or ridiculed and we can choose to further distance ourselves from the extreme voices that are creating negative stereotypes.
Or we can choose to share our faith. Unapologetically.
The book of Revelation talks about the utopia that can be achieved if God can encompass the world that we are living in and be part of the lives that we are leading. We need to let God into our lives so that God can encompass the world. So part of living under Christ’s reign means not only allowing God to come into our midst, but also being unapologetically open to others about how God is working in our lives.
Think about the foundational core of our beliefs as Christians: We are free because of the life that Jesus led. John wrote in Revelation:
And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness … to him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood.
The story of our faith is a great story to tell. We are unconditionally loved and forgiven by God. We are redeemed by the living waters of baptism and sustained by bread and wine served at the table of extravagant welcome. We are never alone because God is always with us. And in those moments when God’s presence is just not enough to hold us together, our community of faith stands with us. This is why we come together. This is what it means to live under Christ’s reign.
It is not about extreme stereotypes, it is about grace. It is not about polarizing viewpoints, it is about God’s love. And this is the Good News that needs to be shared with the world. This is the Good News that God is calling us to share with the world.
We may not be able to control certain things that happen in our lives and in the world, but we can control how we choose to react to them and we can decide what Christ’s reign will look like in our lives. We do not have to be afraid. We can let our voices be heard. We can be confident in what we believe and we can share that belief with others. We can change the stereotype.
As you gather around your tables of thanksgiving later on this week, I encourage you to give thanks for the ways that Christ reigns in your life. Give thanks for your faith, give thanks for this church and give thanks for the cloud of witnesses who walk with you along your journey through life. Give thanks for the Good News that you have been called to share and for the courage and strength you will be given to share that news with others.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Let your life by filled with God. And do not be afraid to share that with the world.
Thanks be to God!