Monday, November 21, 2011

Christ the King

May my words be in the Name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit – Amen.

Today is the feast of Christ the King & today our Gospel reading shows an aspect of that Kingship … judgement!

I Preached on this passage three years ago … spoke about it as a parable … after asked training rector what he thought … he said he disagreed with me completely, because he thought the passage was Jesus speaking prophetically!

So which is it, parable of prophecy? Both have similar elements, the use of metaphorical language, for example … so I thought I'd do some more research & looked to a few commentaries … one was not of much help: it described the passage as a 'word picture of the end times' … which may be true, but didn't help me decide! But other works seemed to agree that the passage was neither prophecy or parable but an example of apocalyptic scripture … the main examples of the apocalyptic genre in the Bible are found in Daniel and the Revelation to St John the Divine … it is called 'Apocalyptic' for no other reason than the word in Greek for Revelation is 'Apocalypta' and the genre as a whole takes its name from the book of Revelation …

Now despite what movies like to portray, or doom-sayers like Hal Linden says in his book 'the late, great Planet Earth', apocalyptic literature is not a type of prophecy, it is a completely different genre … it is something that is written or spoken at a time of trouble or persecution that is intended to give comfort to those to whom it is addressed … for example, Revelation was written at a time when the Church was undergoing severe persecution by Rome and it's message was to provide comfort to those who suffered so that they would know that what they endured was not in vain …

so what are the implications for the passage if it is one genre or another? If it is a parable, it falls into the category of example story, & it tells us how Christians should show kindness … if it is prophecy, it shows us how things will be at the end of days, & how there will be reward or punishment according to how we have followed the commands of our King … and certainly the passage works as both …

but as I said, most of the scholars seem to agree that the passage is essentially apocalyptic … what are the implications for looking at the passage in that way … well as I said, apocalyptic is intended to provide comfort to those for whom it is written … so what comfort is there to be taken from this passage? Well, clearly there is comfort in idea that our faithfulness will be rewarded … but also, I think there is comfort in the realisation that faithfulness can be a lot simpler than we realise …

sometimes it can be easy to be discouraged … being a Christian is not easy … and being a perfect Christian is all but impossible … and the temptation can be to throw the towel in, to give up … who can attain the level of self-denial and self-sacrifice required, who can avoid all the temptations and pitfalls, who can be in the world but not of it when there is so much to compete for our attention, so many day to day worries to distract us …
and that is how this passage gives comfort and hope … you don't have to be perfect … you just have to give bread to the hungry stranger … you don't have to turn your back on the world … you just have to visit the sick …

all of the things mentioned are simple and easy to do … or at least they should be easy … and they will be easy if we are faithful to the commands of our King … and our open to the Grace that he provides to make all things possible … because he promised that he was always with us … and we can take encouragement from the fact that we can see him with us in all we help and all who help us … and so I pray that our King will provide that Grace we need to follow his commands to you and I and all God's Children, this day and forever more. Amen.

(Sermon notes: 20 October 2011 - Christ the King)

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