JOYFUL AND GRATEFUL
Today marks the end of our church year. On this last Sunday of the church calendar, many are celebrating “Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ” Sunday. We celebrate this day each year, but does it really mean anything anymore? If so, then what?
Do you/do we actually recognize and proclaim Jesus as our “King”?
What does it mean for us to see and claim Jesus as our “King”?
Intellectually we “know” that Christ/God is supposed to be the ruler, the head, of our lives. But, logically, emotionally, and putting that into practice is a different thing for many of us.
Our Colossians text reminds us that Jesus is to be the center and of primary importance in our lives (Matthews). That means, Jesus should come first – and everything else (yes, I do mean everything) that we think, say, or do should be filtered through the lens of Jesus and the ways he teaches us to live and love.
As Christians, we say we are “believers” and “followers” of Jesus. Let’s take a closer look at those terms. There is a difference between being a “believer” and being a “follower” or “disciple” of Christ.
Which are you? Are you a believer or a follower/disciple – or do you fall somewhere in between?
Choosing to believe in and follow Jesus is a big-time “game-changer” (Matthews). Living a life patterned after Jesus isn’t easy. As Neta Pringle states “being a Christian is not simply a matter of fitting Jesus into our present way of thinking (or living).” Instead, it means taking on a whole new way of life – of how we see, think, feel, and act towards everyone and everything (Matthews).
Too often we prefer to “fit Jesus into” our life. We mold and shape Jesus and stuff him into a box where it’s “easier” for us to believe, and where there isn’t much expected of us to do, think, feel, or speak differently. We want to pick and choose when and how we act in ways Jesus teaches us.
Today, we are reminded that there is more. There is more to being a believer and follower of Christ. When we claim the title/name of Christian, we are saying that we are willing to be part of Jesus’ team; we are willing to change our focus of the way we see and approach life. We are willing to take “risks” for others on Jesus’ behalf. We are willing to do our part to help heal and transform our world.
When we intentionally change our focus from what the politicians, society, and media/social media of this world tells us we should be looking at and what’s important – to zero in on what God tells us, through scripture, that we should be focusing on, we are transferred, moved, and transported from earthly kingdom of the US to the kingdom and reign of God. Life in God’s kingdom is very different than what we are used to, and when we focus on living in God’s kingdom – on earth as it is in heaven – our lives as we have known them in this world change for the better (Matthews).
We have allowed ourselves to relax our focus and have slid back more towards believers than followers or disciples of Jesus. Our doing is more of the giving – money, things – rather than actual hands-on and face-to-face assistance of others. Or when we do engage, it’s because people come us, rather than us meeting them where they are and how they need us to be there for them.
Maybe we needed a break. I get that, and so does God. Every form of ministry has a life cycle. They ebb and wane based on the energy level of those supporting them. Once ministries start to wane, it’s often time to set them aside for a while and find new things that give us energy and joy. As Christians – as believers and followers/disciples of Jesus – we are called to not sit back and wait for others to come to us – but to go out, reach out, and meet others where they are in their need.
So, while we may be in a time of “resting” we also need to take do some reassessing and planning for our next run. We need to re-examine what is important to us, listen for what ministries God is calling us to participate in, and then re-engage with our community with more energy and love. We will be doing some of this in the 1st quarter of 2020.
As we read our Colossians text, we don’t only hear words of challenge. We also hear words of comfort. These same words that comforted the people of Colossea almost 2000 years ago, still offer comfort to us today: “in Jesus, we see God’s plan for Creation – that all suffering and brokenness and sin in the world can be gathered up in Christ, who has room for all of us, for all the brokenness of the universe as well.” Not only is that brokenness and sin gathered up, but it is “properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies,” through Jesus’ death on the cross (v19-20, the Message, E. Peterson).
Kate Matthews, in her commentary, tells us that Elizabeth Barrington Forney uses a wonderful image of “the fine print” – like the small print of a legal contract that represents the comprehensiveness of Jesus’ reign over every detail of human existence. In the fine print, we are reminded that none of us – not one single human being – is too insignificant to be watched over by Christ. We are all important and precious in God’s eyes.
I don’t know about you, but that is the best news I could ever hear. I can let down my guard and finally admit that I need someone else’s help, that I cannot go it alone, and if left to my own decisions I will make some major mistakes – some that I don’t feel I can recover from. But in Christ…..all things are recoverable. All things can be made well once again. And only Christ can make that happen.
This is truly something to celebrate. I think Eugene Peterson says it best, “You don’t walk away from a gift like that!” You would be crazy too. Instead, “you stay grounded and steady in the bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted.” We can rest and gather our energy because the one who creates, us, is the One who has redeemed us, and is the One who will faithfully stand by us through thick and thin, seeking to strengthen us, guide us, and help us transform the world through love.
Today’s celebration of Jesus’ role in and rule over our lives is even more poignant when we remember that next Sunday beings a new Advent and Christmas season – a time of anticipation and joy of God’s love for us. God loves us so much that God was willing to enter into our lives, taking on flesh in all its vulnerabilities, so that we could be brought to wholeness of life once again.
May the week ahead be one of celebration and joy for the gifts of life and love we have been given. As we gather with our families and friends around the table once again, be sure to take the time to count your blessings and give thanks and praise in all things for what God has given.
Matthews, Kate. Commentary and Bible Study “Reign of Christ”, based on Colossians 1:11-20, for November 24, 2019. www.ucc.org/weekly_seeds
Peterson, Eugene. “The Message” (MSG) transliteration of scripture, Colossians 1:9-23. The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson