Today is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and for many years it has been known as Christ the King. More recently, the politically correct liturgical police have renamed it “The Reign of Christ” because the imagery and idea of Christ the King has become increasingly problematic in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It offends our notions of democracy and egalitarianism; it smacks of violence and militarism; it seems to encourage gender stereotypes. For all of those reasons, and for others, including the image of a crowned Jesus robed in splendor, seated on a throne, judging between the good and evil; for all of these reasons I find the commemoration of Christ the King problematic. Continue reading
This Sunday’s texts are available here.
Canadian sculptor Tim Schmaltz has incited controversy with his bronze statue “Jesus the Homeless.” The image gained notoriety when it was rejected by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. The latter image was installed at the Jesuit School of Theology in Toronto and another cast was purchased and installed at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, NC. The statue depicts a homeless man sleeping on a park bench. His facial features are partially obscured by the blanket that covers him but the marks of crucifixion on his hands and feet clearly identify him as Jesus. After the statue appeared in Davidson, the police were called by a woman who thought it was a real homeless person and others complained that it demeaned the neighborhood. One woman was quoted as saying, “Jesus is not a vagrant; Jesus is not a helpless person who needs our help.” (A story on Huffington Post with images of the statue is here).
This Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, is Christ the King Sunday, a day when we are encouraged to reflect on the reign of Christ. Often, such reflection takes the form of images of Christ ruling in majesty or coming in triumph. Today’s gospel from Matthew 25, points in a very different direction. We read the familiar parable of sheep, goats, and judgment. For all its familiarity, it continues to challenge us at the core of our existence and at the core of our faith. The king divides sheep and the goats on the basis of how they responded to the deepest human needs: to the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, the naked and the prisoner. But when told of their respective fates and the basis for the judgment, sheep and goats answered alike, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked?”
The Kingship of Christ, the Reign of Christ, is not primarily about recognizing Christ in majesty and triumph. It is about being Christ—in the weakest, lowliest, and most vulnerable of humans; in feeding and clothing, ministering to and being with the stranger, the sick, the friendless. In acts like these, the reign of God is announced and made present. The reign of Christ is proclaimed in a homeless Jesus.
This Sunday’s collect, the collect for Proper 28, is one of my favorites:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
A Federal Appeals court threw out a lower court’s decision in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s suit challenging the legality of the IRS tax exemption for clergy housing allowances. More here. The court said the FFRF lacked standing to bring the suit. In other words, it did not rule on the merits of the case.
In place of pious platitudes, some statistics:
- Veterans make up 7% of the US population, but account for 20% of our suicides
- In 2012, suicide was the number 1 cause of death among US troops
source: Mother Jones
In January 2014, almost 50,000 veterans were homeless (source: Department of Veterans Affairs)
I hate waiting. I especially hate for appointments that are delayed. In fact, there was a time in my life when I scheduled doctor’s and other appointments for the first thing in the morning so that if I had to wait, I knew it was the doctor’s fault for not getting to the office on time. Doctors’ waiting rooms are especially annoying because the reading material available is usually year-old copies of magazines I would otherwise not read. Cellphones and the internet have made things somewhat easier still but if an appointment is delayed, I still find my anxiety rising. Waiting can be fun, even exciting, if the thing we’re waiting for is a joyous event. Think of children looking forward to Christmas. But waiting can also be a burden as we face a looming challenge of one sort or another. Continue reading
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.