Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ our King

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: we pray that as we meditate upon your Word you will lead us deeper into all truth that we may better know and do your will and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

Today is the Sunday when we celebrate the Kingship of Christ. What that kingship entailed in his first coming is laid out for us in our Gospel reading this morning: the word made flesh, suffering and dying for our sins. What it will comprise of in his second coming is laid out in our reading from the Revelation to St John the Divine: 'Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.' The wailing that is foretold is because when he comes again Christ will 'judge the living and the dead,' as we pray each Sunday and on every other occasion when we recite the Creed And we know, for Christ himself told us in the parable/prophesy of the Sheep and the Goats, that at that judgement many will be found wanting.

And for those found wanting his judgement will be severe: Christ often speaks of such as they being cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth or into the fires of hell; and his parable of the ten minas, where the ruler returns to reward those who have used his gifts to them well, punish those who have not, and utterly destroy those who have fought against him in his absence, is a sobering vision indeed of the day of his return.

But this is not to say that Christians are to live their lives in fear and trembling, afraid to enjoy themselves in any way in this life in case they are punished for it in all eternity in the next. That kind of thinking would be to adopt the type of false view of our faith put about by those who hate religion. God gave us the good things of this earth and intends us to enjoy them. For evidence of this, we may look to Genesis. All that he created God called good. And then he set the man and woman he had made in the beautiful garden of Eden and told them they might enjoy everything there – as long as they kept within the limits he had set. They did not, as we all know; and that was the sin of our first parents, what we call today Original Sin.

Those instructions essentially hold true today. We may enjoy all God has given us in the world, but within limits. And those limits are that we should use God's according to his will.

Therefore, for example, there is nothing wrong with a good dinner, whether at home or even occasionally in a fine restaurant. But we are not eat and eat and eat to the point of gluttony; and if we stuff ourselves endlessly while others go hungry, then we offend against charity. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with a glass or two of wine, or whatever you're having yourself, but we are not to be drunkards. When it comes to money, there is nothing wrong with working hard in order to provide a comfortable home for yourself and your family and have a decent standard of living; but avarice, or greed for money, is to be avoided … and from your plenty, you must share with those who do not have enough.

And the marital embrace, to phrase things delicately, is a good and wholesome thing, where the couple, to paraphrase from the Prayer Book, with tenderness and delight may know each other in love and through the joy of their bodily union they may strengthen the union of their hearts and lives. But that bodily union was ordained by God to take place within the bonds of holy matrimony, and there only.

We could go through all areas of life, but if I did we'd be here a very long time indeed! And I think the examples given are sufficient. Christians may indeed eat drink and be merry – but not to excess and not as if that was all there was to life and not in ways that do not conform with God's law. But otherwise, by all means enjoy yourselves! Good news, I think, as we draw near to Christmas, and all the parties and festivities that come with it.

The reason, of course, why we celebrate the feast of Christ the King this Sunday is because it is also the last Sunday before Advent. And Advent is the season when we remember both the time when Christ came first; and that he will come again in order to help prepare ourselves for that day. St Augustine of Hippo had something very appropriate to say concerning our Lord's first and second coming: and that was that we should not resist the first in order that we may not dread the next. To put it another way: if we embrace his first coming by doing all we can to live good Christian lives we have nothing at all to fear on the day when he shall come again. But why should we resist? For he came to suffer and die that we might be saved. And why should we dread? For it has been his hope out of all eternity that we would be saved. And therefore my prayer for you this morning is to say again those words of St Augustine: that you may not resist the first coming so that you never never dread the next.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all honour and glory, now and unto the ages of ages: Amen. 

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