Sunday, November 25, 2012

Is Christ our King ... or Caesar?

The day dawned like I felt - miserable ... a freezing fog hung over the town as I struggled out for my round of services, still hacking away with a cold I haven't been able to shake in nearly a week now.  Being just a little bit under the weather is one of the peculiar tortures of this vale of tears ... not sick enough to cry off work, but still ill enough to feel pretty rubbish while carrying out your duties. Wah, wah -woe is me! 

Oddly, this is one of my favourite Sundays of the year - the Sunday I like to think of as the Sunday of many names ...  It is the Sunday before Advent, the last Sunday of this liturgical year, reminding us that we are about to enter into the penitential season of Advent, a time when we naturally remember the first coming of our Lord at Christmas, but also look forward to his second coming … the reason why it is traditional during the season of Advent to preach on the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, & hell. 

It is also called 'Stir up' Sunday ... not because of the custom of starting & stirring Christmas puddings, but because of the Collect that was traditionally read on this Sunday, that begins: 'Stir up O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people' … the original Latin is even stronger 'excita' - excite ... that collect can still be used at morning and evening prayer during this week; and for Holy Communion it is the post-Communion prayer … and that collect is a reminder to us that Advent, like Lent, is a penitential season and it is particularly appropriate at this time of year to make special efforts in relation to our spiritual life ... that it is more than merely a time for presents & shopping & parties & and drinks after work … it is, for Christians, a time of prayer, fasting, spiritual reading and study … in short, a time to 'stir up' or even excite our faith …

And this Sunday is also called 'The Kingship of Christ' or 'Christ the King' … this is a relatively new Christian festival, dating back only to the 1920's … but I must say that I think that the cusp of Advent is a particularly appropriate time to think of the Kingship of Christ, our Lord and Saviour, because it is the time when we think of his first coming, the Incarnation, that led to us all being gathered here this morning, declaring ourselves to be followers of his … and the time when think also his second coming … the time when he will exercise an aspect of his kingship that we perhaps sometimes prefer not to think about, his role as judge. 

I like the 'three names' thing because I like trying to tie things together ... it's a reminder that things are not always straight-forward, that real life can be a little messy, & the challenge is to try to hold everything in balance.

I won't bore you with my sermon ... you pretty much got most of it above! I also talked more on what it means to have Christ as our King, as opposed to Caesar, & how the values of the world are constantly competing with the Gospel values. Not that the values of world & the Gospel are always necessarily incompatible. But it seems these days that when those values don't line up, people inside & outside the Church are increasingly willing to think that it is the Church which has got it wrong ... 

It seemed an appropriate observation in a week when the Church of England was told in the House of Commons that they had to reflect the values of the nation … parliament, as we all know, consisting almost entirely of a highly qualified theologians … 

The early didn't Church feel constrained to reflect the values of the society in which it found itself ... It challenged those values … unto death if need be. Because Christ was their king, not Caesar. As he must be for us.

I emerged from the final service to find that the freezing fog had cleared away ... to a steady down-pour. It was as if the weather was mirroring my health by getting worse ... I was feeling a little light-headed at this point ... I fortified myself with a small sugar-rush from some cough-sweets & headed for home. As Zebedee used to say at the end of the Magic Roundabout, it was time for bed.

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