Remembrance Sunday 2023: Love & Service

1 Thessalonians 4:13-end
John 15:9-17

The British Legion’s theme for Remembrance this year is focussed on remembering and honouring Service. There are significant anniversaries united with the theme of service: the 70th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting of the Korean War. It has been 60 years since National Service ended with the last serviceman being demobbed. It is also the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush Empire’s arrival which brought settlers from the Caribbean to help with the post-war rebuilding efforts. There are also efforts to remember the contribution from Commonwealth personnel.

The Legion also endeavours to mark South Asian Heritage Month and Black History Month. Each of these events highlight the service of people who are often overlooked and whose stories are not told. However, their service is commendable and needs to be recognised. None of us have a monopoly on service.

The Legion writes, ‘Service, the act of defending and protecting the nation’s democratic freedoms and way of life, is rarely without cost for those who serve. Physical, mental or emotional injury or trauma; the absence of time with family; or the pressures and dangers that come from serving, highlight why the Remembrance of service is so important.’

I wonder what your first experience of community or public service was beyond your family?

Mine came through the Guiding movement; and as a good Canadian Brownie and Girl Guide, I spent many a November 11th shivering in my uniform at the local Cenotaph. November can be a rather frigid month in Alberta! It had to be a full-on blizzard with sub-arctic temperatures (hell would have to freeze over first) before any consideration would be given to moving indoors. Those old Canadian Legion members were a tough bunch!

I remember thinking about what was happening on Remembrance Day in other countries and feeling that somehow the world was joined on that day. And it is.

It is important to consider the cost of service, the cost to those who serve and the cost to those who support those who serve. Although the cost is often high, it is undervalued. Some pay the ultimate price and that is what we, of course, remember today.

There has been a change in societal attitudes to service, both civilian and military. Government spending cuts, the rise of social media, the pursuit of one’s personal comfort and convenience over the collective good have all contributed. In recent times we have seen the British Forces undertaking more civil work; driving ambulances and running testing centres during Covid, carrying out relief work in areas of the country experiencing flooding.

Some members of the public do not think that the armed services should be doing this sort of work. I spoke to a serving British Army officer about this at a wedding last summer. He pointed out that 20-30 years ago, almost everyone would know someone in the armed services but this is no longer the case. Currently the majority of people do not know anyone in the forces given the reduction in the number of serving personnel.

His view is that the public seeing the army serving the nation is actually a good thing. There is also a very low public appetite for sending personnel into active combat. His pride in these jobs was evident.

During Covid there was a huge swell in public service with many people wanting to get involved and help neighbours and communities in need. Whats App groups sprang up all over the country as neighbours reached out. People who lived next to each other for years finally learned each other’s names! There was and hopefully still is a real desire to serve our communities.

Why do people serve? Think of a few words or phrases about the why.

Loyalty, commitment, purpose, meaning, desire to help or care for others, sense of justice, the greater good. Love.

How do we respond to those who serve? Admiration, inspiration, respect, awe, but above all I would hope with love.

Love is the answer. Love is what should underpin our service. Not sappy or soppy love. Agape love. 1 Corinthians 13 love. Love that is patient, kind, never gives up, looks forward and not backwards. This love is more than emotional; it is a response to wanting what is best for the other despite the cost to ourselves. It is not easy, it often does not feel good.

Think of soldiers on a battlefield, fighting for a cause that is bigger than themselves, doing it for the people they love back at home. For King and country. For the man beside them. Honour and duty will take one so far but only love reaches the end.

Jesus is telling his disciples to stay in his love. Abide has a lasting, long-term quality to it. The timing of this passage is crucial; Jesus and the disciples are at the Last Supper and these are some of the final words of Jesus. Love. We are to love one another. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. This is not an easy way to love a friend. This is the highest calling of love that there is. This is love shown to us by Jesus dying on the cross.

What the world needs now, in the words of Jackie Deshannon, is love sweet love.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some, but for everyone

Not just love for people that we love naturally or who are easy to love. Loving our neighbours as ourselves, loving our enemies. It is not convenient or easy to love the people we find difficult. This is where God’s love, agape love, comes into play. It is not about our feelings or desires, it is tapping into God’s view of the world.

The end of St John’s life was hard. All of his friends (including Jesus) had been killed or crucified in horrendous ways; he was probably present at their deaths. John had been exiled to the Greek island of Patmos under extreme conditions.

He was extraordinarily dedicated to his cause (as many people can be), his passion is evident in his writings. John had dedicated his life to the service of others by telling the Good News of Jesus. Despite the hardships, pain and grief, at the end of his life John knows that it is love that got him through. Everything he did was all done for love.

John learned over his many decades, that following the commands of Jesus, leads to a full, loving abundant life. What a different world it would be if we could abide in God’s love and live out the commandment to love one another as God has loved us. Maybe we would not be here today?

Maybe I am a little idealistic. Like many people, I yearn for a world that is fair, peaceful with love and grace in abundance.

As we remember again today those who have died in the theatre of war, we can be reassured that because of the resurrection of Jesus, it was not for nothing. The cost of their service came at a high price; it cost everything. The love, the life, the sharing of burden and suffering, the service required to work together for a greater good is not lost in death. There is more to the story.

Our own service whether to King and country or friend and neighbour is needed and valuable. It needs to be done from a place of love.

All Souls: The moments when we shiver in grief

All Souls Service

Lamentations 3:17-26; 31-33
John 5:29-25

In Church of England tradition, we come together over these few days at the end of October/beginning of November for a short season of remembrance. The Church has marked All Saints and All Souls for hundreds of years. It stems from the belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven and those living on earth. It is often said in my family that the dead sit at the dinner table long after they are gone.

This service offers us space and time to give thanks to God for the life and love that was shared, for the memories we carry and to ask for God’s help if we have unfinished business with those who have died. Not all our remembering will be of the good, sweet times as none of us are perfect and neither were they!

I am going to start with a quote from Arthur Golden’s novel Memoirs of a Geisha:

“Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it.
It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord.
The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver.
But it opens a little less each time, and a little less;
and one day we wonder what has become of it.”

Memoirs is the beautifully haunting story of a young Japanese girl named Chiyo whose life was a catalogue of loss, grief and bereavements. She is now an old woman and is telling her story to a writer who will publish it. Chiyo’s story is not only a story of death but of the many non-death losses we encounter in life. The loss of relationship, loss of trust, she loses her name, her status, her freedom. As she looks back on her life, she makes this comment about grief as a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver.

This speaks of the random nature of grief. It just happens, we have no control over it. Isn’t this true? We hear the opening bars of a much-loved song, a favourite program on the telly, driving by a special place, or seeing an item that would be the perfect gift for our person. Whatever our trigger is, it can bring that feeling of uncontrolled grief, the coldness and all we can do is shiver.

The writer of the Lamentations reading certainly is shivering; ‘my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is’. The person writing this book is lamenting the fall of Jerusalem around 587 BC and the horrors experienced by the Jewish people. Jerusalem was once the chosen city of God but has now fallen from grace because of bad behaviour. The enemies have taken over and the people who lived in Jerusalem have been exiled. The loss for the people is immense.

The reading we have here is about the author’s own suffering; he believes that God has deliberately marked him out and is now not listening to his prayer. His peace is gone. Yet at his lowest point he remembers God’s steadfast love, hesed. Hesed is the love and mercy God has towards his people; it is a long-term and loyal love. It is love that never ends. It is new every morning.

The writer has experienced this love, not just with his head and his heart but in his very soul, in the marrow of his bones. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ he says. The Lord is enough for him.

The bereavement that we are facing is not the whole story. It might be a very big part of the story right now, might feel like it has taken over the whole story for a long time. It might feel like you won’t ever stop shivering.

The only alternative to avoiding grief is to avoid love. If I want to avoid the grief I feel over my person who has died means I would have had to forfeit the love and the relationship that we shared.

I appreciate that many relationships are complicated. We should not pretend they are not. Some feelings about the person who has died might be mixed or ambiguous; maybe there is guilt or shame if you felt you didn’t do enough for them or felt relief when death finally came. We must be very careful in how we interpret relationships; especially ones that are not ours even if they are in the same family.

There can also be great temptation when someone dies to want to paint a rosier picture of them, their life and relationships than actually ever existed. We lie! We do it for all sorts of reasons; some even noble ones.

We might almost be able to fool ourselves but we cannot fool God. He knows what was said, unsaid and done and not done. He also knows the motivations behind our words and actions. He knows and loves them, and He knows and loves you. He knows the situation and is the only one who truly knows both sides.

That is because God has authority over everything. In John’s Gospel reading, Jesus is telling the disciples precisely this. Everyone (even him) and everything (even death) is under God’s control. He can raise the dead. This is not just the physically dead; but John is suggesting that those people who are spiritually dead. The people who Jesus healed got their lives back and came alive again.

This authority is not based in control or power or a malicious need to be authoritarian. It is the authority of love. God’s love is so great for his Son and for us. The idea is that God the loving father is showing Jesus the beloved Son all that he does and even greater things.

Those who believed in Jesus would be treated by God in the same way that Jesus was. Jesus died and rose again and so will we. The Bible does not give us very much information on what happens when we die. To die in a few places means ‘to fall asleep’.

Paul’s vision in 1 Thessalonians, which is based on what he has been taught, is that one day when Jesus comes back, those who have fallen asleep/died will be woken up. The dead in Christ will rise first and if we happen to still be alive when that happens will be caught up together. We will be together with God forever. This is the great Christian hope: that once this life is over we will be reunited together with God to spend eternity.

This is good news – death is not the end of the story. Grief is not the whole of the story either. We live in the in-between time where everything might seem withheld, you might be shivering in your grief, you make your own way through. Even in that, knowing that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, there is good news for the soul that seeks him. A new dawn will arrive.

Lent 5: I am the Resurrection and the Life


Psalm 130
John 11:1-45

The Raising of Lazarus
National Gallery, London
Sebastiano del Piombo incorporating designs by Michelangelo

It is a great privilege to welcome the baptism family and friends to St Mary’s Fawley this morning on this very special day. According to the baptism book, FB is the 399th person to be baptised here since 1910. Baptisms are a delightful occasion in the life of the church as well as being quite a serious one too.

Parents and godparents Simon you are making some considerable promises to God and to FB this morning. You are putting yourself on the hook for guiding and teaching him throughout his life in the ways of the Christian faith. This is more than being a good and nice person with an understanding of Christian virtues and morals.

Fortunately, we are off to a good start this morning with our Gospel reading. This is a rather long and well-known passage of John’s Gospel. I chose to read it from the Children’s Bible that I will present at the end of the service; as I was quite surprised by the depth this version goes to. Often the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus gets reduced down to a miracle story of Jesus. An impressive miracle story of course. However some of the more important parts get left out.

Jesus is our friend. I baptised two brothers a couple of years ago and I asked the older one what does it mean to get baptised? He paused for a moment. Then with the biggest smile on his face, he said, ‘it means that I am Jesus’ friend forever and Jesus is my friend forever.’

Jesus is the friend that will never leave us. Jesus loved his disciples and his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He spent his life travelling around and teaching them so they could pass on the message to others. Mary, Martha & Lazarus appear to have been particularly close friends as Jesus is known to have stayed with them and they are mentioned by name.

Jesus does not always do what we want him to, when we want him to. The fact that Jesus knew that Lazarus was sick and did not immediately rush to his bedside, but waited for two more days is awkward. We have this idea that God should act and react whenever we summon him to meet our needs and wants. When this does not happen, people get angry and God takes the blame for all failures and misfortune.

There were reasons why Jesus did not rush off: the disciples were afraid that the Jews were going to stone Jesus (we are getting rather close to Easter) and they were quite far away from Bethany at the time. Jesus tells the disciples that, ‘this illness does not lead to death, but rather it is for God’s glory, so the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

There are things that we will never understand about how God and Jesus work on this side of death. We do not know how God’s glory fully works. It is good to be curious so that we can begin to understand and that comes through learning about Jesus by looking at this life.

This past week a lovely Priest friend of mine collapsed and died at his home. Leonard was married with three teenagers; he is a much loved parish priest just outside of Reading. He was a very good friend to me during a difficult time when we were training together in Oxford. I have been so incredibly sad through to raging mad over his death. It makes no sense and all I can see is the unfairness, the injustice of it. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, what is wrong with my friend Leonard?!

Everyone who trusts in Jesus will live forever. The pinnacle of John 11 is in the words of Martha as she knows that Lazarus will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. Despite her distress, her sadness and her request that seemed to go unanswered; Martha understands, at least on some level, that death is not the end of the story.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. As he says, ‘Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ Martha believes this. I happen to believe this. I am confident that other people in church today believe this. Do you?

This, ultimately, is what FB will need to come to understand about the Christian faith. The resurrection is the central event that everything about Christianity hangs on. Part of baptism is being prepared for death; the water represents the washing of sin and death to self. This is not easy and needs to be done daily. We all make mistakes, fall short, mess it up and we need to make amends for that. As lovely as FB is, he will not always be the delightful little cherub we see in front of us today. In his life, FB will need to forgive and be forgiven. He, like us all, will have to die to ourselves.

We will all experience physical death in this life; the death of those that we love and our own. How do we make sense of it? Unfortunately most of the popular narrative around death today is painfully lacking and brushed over.

In light of my friend’s death, belief in the resurrection is the only thing that has brought any comfort at all. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. I have no questions or qualms over the fact that as bad as it is right now, my dear friend Leonard is now living in the light of the resurrection.

Jesus cried. People sometimes get the impression that God is somehow removed, distant from us or worse, not particularly interested in what is going on down here. If we want to know what God is like, then we need to look at the person of Jesus. In Jesus we see love and compassion, forgiveness for those who want it and boundless patience. Jesus was so moved by the broken hearts of those around him, he cried.

Jesus is not afraid of bad smells. FB will need to know that nothing is beyond God’s reach, nothing he can ever do or not do, say, think, act is too much or too bad. He is loved by God unconditionally forever. As much as you love him, God loves him more! Trying to out-love God will keep you occupied for the rest of your lives.

Jesus can raise people from the dead. Jesus can and did raise people from the dead on a few occasions. Miraculous! However, they went on to die again another day. Jesus also raises people from spiritual death who do go on to live forever. This is out of love, the most extraordinary love we will ever know. I hope that you go from here today knowing how much you are loved by God. Go and share that love.

Trinity Sunday: My (valiant) attempt…

Trinity Sunday

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

Today we are remembering Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost and we are meant to celebrate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. The three-person Godhead. Celebrating foundational Christian doctrine might not sound all that exciting, but it is!
It is good, I think, to remind ourselves about the essence of our Christian faith after the events and activities of Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. The church year now opens up and rolls along until Advent as the big festivals are now complete.

Most Priests shiver at the thought of a Trinity Sunday sermon. We try to take holidays, pass the preaching on to a visitor or a Curate. Clergy Facebook groups are filled with angsty posts about the Trinity sermons. I was at the Oxford Diocese Clergy Conference this past week and even Bishop Steven hinted at outsourcing his Trinity Sunday sermon to his chaplain.
So where does that leave me?!

The Church has marked Trinity Sunday since the mid 800’s. So it is not new. It was instituted to speak against the heresies of the early church as they worked out how to understand the concept of one God in three elements. Three does in fact equal one!

Reference to the Trinity is woven through our services, every time I or we say ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the entire Christian story is retold in the Eucharist prayer before Communion, we repeat it each week in the Creeds. Central to the Christian faith that God is Father, Son and Spirit. It is difficult to understand and at some point needs to be believed as part of the mystery of God. But don’t simply jump to that conclusion as tempting as it is!

I picked up a new book at the clergy conference, ‘Why Being Yourself is a Bad Idea and other counter cultural notions’ by Graham Tomlin (the current Bishop of Kensington). He starts with a rather punchy history of the Christian faith…
Many people are still struggling today; even the most honest of Christians will admit to doubts and questions.

In our Gospel reading this week, Jesus tells his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. Read and understand this sentence with the utmost kindness and patience from Jesus. He knows what we do and do not understand. The Spirit was sent to guide us slowly, in forbearance to come to understand the deeper truth of all that Jesus said. This is a safe place to start. God never burdens us with more than we can understand nor does He push us into belief or faith. The Spirit was sent to guide us as long as we are wanting to be led in seeking the truth.

Pope Francis, “The Holy Spirit will never tell you that on your journey everything is going just fine. He will never tell you this, because it isn’t true. No, he corrects you; he makes you weep for your sins; he pushes you to change, to fight against your lies and deceptions, even when that calls for hard work, interior struggle and sacrifice… The Holy Spirit, correcting you along the way, never leaves you lying on the ground: He takes you by the hand, comforts you and constantly encourages you.”

In the work of the Trinity, we see that God is fluid, dynamic, never sitting still. Many people, young and old, believe and live like God is some distant and dusty old Man sitting on a cloud or living in a box or in a church building. There is something comforting in the idea that God is sitting still, containable but yet desperating boring. God is on the move, always surprising and wanting us to join in with what he is doing. Unity is at the heart of the Trinity, but unity does not mean rigidity. Many Christians get it so wrong with holding on to ideas that God is mean or distant or it is just about the rules or even worse – irrelevant to life in this time and season.

God is diverse and thankfully not limited to our imaginations. We are all created in the image of God yet express ourselves differently. It follows then that God’s nature is diverse too. Jesus is the beloved Son, born of Mary and sent to us in human form. He consistently points to the Father who sent him to be with us. We see that the Holy Spirit was sent to journey with us, move with us every day and in every way.

Finally, we see that God is communal. We were made for relationships, for community. We were not hatched from eggs, like separate entities. We were born into families (for better or for worse), hopefully we have made friends along the way, got married or not, had children or not and have found community along the way and built relationships.

I read many sets of banns this morning for the upcoming weddings. Now imagine for a moment that after your marriage service, you went off on your separate ways. (find some examples). You would still be married but you would never know the fullness of your marriage relationship while apart. If you want a full relationship with your spouse, then you need to be together, live in community with each other. The same goes for God, if you want a full relationship then you need to live together with him, He needs to be invited in. God also comes with roommates, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is a full and glorious house.

How lovely was it last weekend to attend Jubilee parties or lunches? For those that did, did you feel any different by being surrounded by community again? My prayer is that the coming together of last weekend will have a lasting and positive effect on communities large and small and that connections made new or reestablished will be maintained.

St Paul wrote his letter to the Romans before he ever visited so he laid out the basic elements of Christian teaching. Paul had a dramatic encounter with Jesus after the resurrection and was blinded for a time. Through his blindness he came to see the Risen Jesus and was forever changed. He is writing to the Christians in Rome to tell them they have everything they need in the grace and love of God through the Holy Spirit. Endure, Paul says, go the distance, it is worth it. Often endurance means we need to forgo the right of convenience, the right to give up when it gets too much.

At the centre of this endurance is love. God is love. At the heart of the Trinity is love; deep, unflinching, unfaltering, life-long and life-giving love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that is extended to us. Do not worry about what you cannot bear right now. Work at understanding that you are simply loved by God as you are. The Trinity tells us that there is more love and life to come, we are part of a bigger story. We are children of the Trinity, always invited and deeply loved. The power of the Trinity will change our lives, lead and guide us to become the people we were created to be, guide us to unity and community. May our lives reflect the beauty and truth of the Trinity.

Christ the King: Who Was and Is and Is To Come

Christ the King

Daniel 7:9-10,13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4-8
John 18:33-37

God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.

Today is the final Sunday of the church year; this is New Year’s Eve! As most people do on New Year’s Eve, we can look to the future. Christ the King Sunday offers two ways; the first is pointing to the end of time when the kingdom of Jesus will be established in all its fullness to the ends of the earth. The second dimension leads us into the immediate season of Advent, the beautiful season of expectation and preparation as we look ahead to celebrating the birth of Jesus. In both dimensions we are reminded that Jesus, Christ in King.

Christ the King is a recent addition to the church calendar – and a Roman Catholic one at that! Pope Pius XI instituted it in 1925 – which is like 5 minutes ago in church time. He did this in response to issues he was facing in the church. There was growing secularism after World War 1. The Church was facing a huge crisis of faith and many people left the Church (both Catholic & Protestant) in Europe in the wake of the war. The men had left for war and they didn’t come back; and the women left the church and God. This context led the Pope to establish Christ the King Sunday as a reminder of Jesus’ power and authority above all else. Pope Pius wrote:

‘If to Christ Jesus our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to His dominion; if this power embraces all men, [paraphrasing now] He must reign in our minds, He must reign in our wills, He must reign in our hearts, He must reign in our bodies and in our members as instruments of justice unto God.’

This Sunday was instituted as a reminder about who is really in charge. It is good to remind ourselves that Jesus is King above all kings; whatever season we are in. I know that for many people 2021 has been, quite frankly awful. Others it has been fair to middling to better than 2020. Wherever you are at, God bless you. The King knows what is going on, is with you and loves you.

Christ the King Sunday reminds us that we live in the in-between. We are between the first Advent (The birth of Jesus) and the second (his return). The new born King has come and yet we wait for His return as the grown-up King. Most of us, I suspect, prefer certainty and security to uncertainty and chaos. We like to know where our next meal is coming from, when the next train arrives, and that there is money in the bank.

We might even prefer more certainty of Jesus or hold a view of Him that is containable, manageable and fits with our view of the world. The readings this morning counter any comfortable view we might want to hold. Jesus before Pilate just before the Crucifixion and John’s vision of the return of Jesus at the second coming.

Revelation is the start of John’s visions while he was an old man exiled on the Greek island of Patmos. John knew Jesus; he was the beloved disciple, he had spent 3 years with him, following him around, listening and learning from him. John was there when Jesus was crucified, a young man probably still a teenager!

Now John is an old man, having lived a life telling people the Good News that he heard and saw when he was with Jesus. In this final event of his life, John is given the most extraordinary visions of what happens when Christ comes again. It is dramatic, it is frightening and quite frankly hard to understand. John starts with God and Jesus as he knows the grace and peace he extends to others, he knows the faithful witness of Jesus. John knows the love and freedom that comes from the forgiveness of sins. He knows what Jesus did while he was on earth for he was there.

John received a glimpse of Jesus’ coming again; the arrival on the clouds and every eye will see him. In the first coming, as a baby in the manger, it might seem easy to overlook but there will be no mistaking this King’s return.

John’s Gospel presents us with another vision of Christ the King; maybe one that we are no more comfortable with but maybe more familiar. John gives us a picture of the human Jesus stood before Pilate; tired, beaten, exhausted. Again, not a great picture of a King!

Pilate has been put into a difficult position, he is puzzled over the charges brought against Jesus but has to decide whether Jesus should be sentenced to death or not. As Pilate is trying to work this out he asks Jesus point-blank, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus gives a rather vague answer, ‘My kingdom is not from this world’.

Pilate takes this as Jesus’ admission to being a king. Pilate is probably unsure about what kind of king Jesus is meant to be and likely doesn’t care. Pilates concern is more about whether Jesus is challenging his power or not. Is this Jesus supposed to be a king in a military-style way to come in and wipe out the enemies (those being the Romans) of the Jewish people?

We know the rest of the story: this King that goes on to be crucified. Again, this is not a great or comfortable view of a King!

Both the readings this morning give us two different perspectives on Jesus and his kingship. I wonder if there is one you relate to more deeply than the other? We have the huge vision of John and the glorious return of the King. We also have a very human Jesus standing before Pilate on his way to his death. In between this, we are to prepare to again celebrate and remember the first Advent, Jesus in the manger.

It is important to our faith to understand how we see Jesus. Where do we place him? Is he the tiny baby that comes out only at Christmas for some warm and fuzzy memories? Is the cosmic Jesus a little too different, too distant? What about Jesus the man? The human ‘king’ standing before Pilate.

Christ the King Sunday gives us the opportunity to adjust our eyesight so that we can see Jesus in all his fullness. If we have diminished Him in any way we can ask for Him to expand into our lives, our relationships and our understanding of who He is. We need Him! We need Him in this church badly!

We share in his Kingship in the practical matters of feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, being present with those in need. We also share in the hope of the King that is to come in all his fullness and glory; both the baby in the manger and the Son of Man who will return. The Son of Man who will descend on the clouds; who loves us and freed us from our sins and made us to be a kingdom.

Until then we have to wait and watch. Take the time to be prepared. As we stand on the cusp on another church year – which promises to be eventful – let’s look again at Christ our King.