As you will recall last week I asked folks in Dorothy’s Bible study if their reading on St. Benedict had informed them about a Christian perspective on work. I asked this because last week Paul spoke about how no one is to be lazy and everyone is to work. Dorothy replied and with her permission I am sharing her insights with you.
“ I think the epistle is Benedictine inasmuch as work is definitely part of the Benedictine day .-Listening first with the ear of the heart, practising hospitality, a balance of work and pleasure, studying the scriptures using lectio divina, prayer at many times during the day, – as I understand it –there is much to learn- all this is what we study and more.
I know this may not be about this Sunday’s readings specifically but just want to share it with you. You probably already read about the installation of Justin Welby as the Archbishop of Canterbury in Fred Hiltz’s column. The part about the anthem sung at that service especially touched me. The words were from the rule of St. Benedict. Justin’s parents had commissioned the musical setting.
“The third was the grace of an anthem. It began as a gentle whisper.
“Listen, listen, O my child,
Listen carefully to your teacher’s guidance.
Incline the ear of your heart,
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving Father’s advice”
The gentle whisper swelled into a chorus that reverberated in every alcove in that vast cathedral. And then, as powerfully as it had spoken to everyone in that great congregation, it quieted to a whisper again.” To me this as so powerful and so beautiful.”
Thank you Eleanor for this.
My first thoughts on the readings for is that everyone will get a nice break and change because Dorothy is preaching. I thought I was going to be away working in another parish so I asked Dorothy to fill in for me. That meeting has been postponed but Dorothy had become very engaged and excited about the readings so she wanted to still preach anyway. I thought that was great.
I can see why she is excited to preach because will be Christ the King and on that day we will declare in praise that Christ is our King. We will celebrate as Paul says in our Epistle reading from Colossians that “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”. And we can declare that “in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross”
On the last Sunday of the Church year a year in which we have celebrated our Lord’s great salvific actions; Christmas, Good , Pentecost and the Ascension we want to declare Him our King. On the last Sunday of the Year, a year in which we have pondered our Lord’s teaching, miracles , healings , compassionate love and stern rebuke of evil in all its many colours we want to declare Him King.
It really is a wonderful because it is a designated to praise our King and to recommit ourselves to His Kingdom.
The Old Testament reading is a rebuke by Jerimiah of the Kings of Judah. Many scholars think that when Jeremiah speaks of shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep he is thinking of contemporary Kings who have put themselves first and forgotten the needs of the people especially the poor and destitute and who have forsaken God’s ways. But there is a note of relief because God will raise up for the people
real shepherds. Leaders who will care deeply for the people. But our reading ends on an extremely hopeful note because Jerimiah says that even better yet God will raise up for David a righteous Branch. He will be a wise king full of justice and righteousness.
For me this text is pointing to Jesus the King of Kings.
Psalm 46 is a favourite Psalm as it speaks of comfort in God who is our refuge and strength. When the tumult of nature, political unrest and war engulf us God is even more powerful. Even though it never directly refers to God as King it is a great Psalm to sing out on Christ the King because in doing so we declare that God ultimately reigns and His kingdom is forever.
The Gospel reading seems at first a strange reading for Christ the King because a man being crucified does not look much like a king. But for us as Christians we believe that Christ’s throne is the cross. It is on the cross where Christ puts on the royal crown. It is through sacrificial loving obedience that Christ overcomes all powers and becomes our king. In the accounts of our Lord’s crucifixion there is a tremendous amount of irony. Many people mock Jesus ridiculing him for ever thinking he was a king implying that his death on the cross was proof he was a nobody when in actual fact it was while dying on the cross he truly became king.
There are two stencils over the altar at St. John’s. One is of a cross and one is of a crown which are perfect symbols for. In fact in July when we had our combined service I preached on these stencils and I told the story of our visit to the Perquiman Museum in Berlin. While there we saw a Roman Temple , complete with a massive gate. It just screamed “ We are in control, we are worthy of praise and majesty and beware if you try to ignore or defy our power. Caesar is king. In fact there were busts of Caesars with the inscription Caesar son of God. I was struck by the fact that the first Christians expressed their faith in this context. In this context the first Christians declared that Jesus was king and that Jesus was the son of God. They must have been very brave to have done this. Connecting back to our Gospel reading , I discovered upon closer examination a stone that had Caesar Son of God inscribed on it with a cross over it. Some brave Christian graffiti artist declared that Caesar was not his or her king but the one who died upon the cross. That person or group of people understood the message of Christ the King .
What would you say if you were preaching? In what ways could we live that would reflect our loyalty and obedience to our king?
Yours in Christ,