Week of the Last Sunday after Pentecost, Reign of Christ
Dear Friends in Christ:
This past Sunday was the Last Sunday after Pentecost – Reign of Christ or Christ the King Sunday – which brought to a close another year in our church’s liturgical, seasonal calendar. This coming Sunday, November 28, is the First Sunday in Advent, which becomes a kind of liturgical “Happy New Year” for us as we embark on a new year of grace. In the three-year lectionary cycle, we now enter a year that features Luke’s Gospel on many of the Sundays of the year.
While we refer to the liturgical years as cycles, and that is true, as each year features the same festivals and seasons with lectionary readings appointed for a three-year repeating pattern, I invite you to think of our sacred time as spiraling, not simply cyclical. Yes, there are repeating cycles, but time also marches on into the future, namely, into God’s promised future when the divine promise is that Christ will come again to usher in the fullness, the completeness of God’s dominion even here on earth.
So, the cycles do not simply repeat themselves. While the festivals and readings do repeat, they offer the story of Christ and of God’s scriptural word in ever changing seasons and epochs of human and ecclesial history. This season of our life together in this world continues to be marked by the claims of the global pandemic. This season of our life together also features increasing concerns about climate change, as weather-related extremities are increasing in number and intensity from one year to the next. The timeless word will inevitably speak in new and poignant ways in relation to the particularities of our historical moments.
Because of the changes and chances of life, the appointed lectionary readings and the themes of the festivals that we observe and celebrate can take on new meanings for us. The timeless, changeless truths of God’s word erupt with nuances of meaning, renewed emphases on eternal meaning, which results in a freshness of the word in whatever season of history we enter into. In such ways, we come to understand anew that “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Considering Advent, it is perhaps my favorite season of the church year, for a major feature of its energies anchors us in our present time, while pointing us also to God’s promised future. That is to say, Advent is not simply a looking back, though it involves that to be sure as we hear again proclaimed the ancient words of the prophets and others who heralded Christ’s first coming. And yes, Advent culminates in the celebration of Christmas, a looking back to the birth of Christ, but this time also reveals the ways in which God’s word becomes flesh, incarnate, among us even now. That said, again, Advent speaks directly to our particular time now, the between times of Christ’s first advent and the promise of Christ’s ultimate advent to come again to usher in the fullness of God’s reign of peace, well-being, of commonwealth for all people and all of creation.
Our contemporary in between times can be fraught, as if we are caught in a kind of limbo between what Christ started some two thousand years ago and that future promised time shrouded in mystery about when and how Christ will return. And this two-thousand-year (so far) history can seem like a long time, especially when the earliest Christians expected the immanent return of Christ perhaps even in their lifespans. But as I have been fond of saying in Bible Studies and sermons, two thousand years even in the time of human evolution and societal development, not to mention geologic and cosmic and divine time, is but the blink of an eye. While we might claim delay, from God’s perspective there may be no delay at all.
And even amidst our already-but-not-yet epoch, we confess that Christ is fully present with us in word and sacrament, while the Holy Spirit continues through these means to guide us into all truth. Moreover, this is not wasted time, for God has been sending us on a mission for two millennia to proclaim in word and deed the good news of Christ in a world desperate for such good news.
Thus, as we continue to bask in Christ’s presence, and as we look to God’s promised future in Christ, Advent, finally, is a season of hopefulness, indicated by the seasonal color of blue which will be featured on the vestments that I wear and the cloth adorning the place of proclaiming the word. In Christ, we have abiding hope even amidst a seemingly hopeless time in the life of our troubled world. It is that spirit of hopefulness which makes the season of Advent so very compelling to me, and perhaps to you, too.
Here’s what you can expect programmatically in our life together as a congregation in the coming four weeks of Advent:
- Wednesdays in Advent (December 1, 8, 15, 22): Advent Evening Prayer via Zoom at 7:00 pm featuring Resurrection members who will offer reflections on what gives them hope in a seemingly hopeless time in our troubled world.
- Sunday, December 12 at 3:30 pm: A worship event for all ages, Parsonage outdoors, the Light of Christ in a season of shadows.
- Sunday, December 19 at 10:00 am: Service of Lessons and Carols as part of our usual Sunday worship.
- Sunday, December 19 after worship: decorating our church for Christmas.
- Sunday, December 19 at 5:00 pm: Christmas Caroling and Worship outside the Parsonage, an opportunity for those unable to worship with us indoors to share in singing and worship in anticipation of Christmas.
With abiding hopefulness in Christ Jesus as we await his advent now and in future days and years to come,
Pastor Jonathan Linman