Reading Ramblings – November 26, 2017

Reading Ramblings

Date: Christ the King Sunday – November 26, 2017

Texts: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 95:1-7a; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46

Context: The last Sunday of the Church year celebrates the reality of our Lord’s present and future reign. While this is often something that gets pushed to the peripheral of our Christian lives, it should be the centerpiece of how we interact with the world around us. We are not without hope! We are not reliant solely on our own efforts or the efforts of those around or above us. We have a Lord and a King who reigns now and will reign eternally! While this should not push us to disengage with the world, it frees us to engage in a more healthy manner. We are not to be slaves to pundits and talking heads, to statistics and demographics. We are not to live in fear, but in hope and anticipation.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 – We receive a steady news diet from our Internet feeds, newspaper headlines and nightly news. We can choose media that either supports or is antagonistic to current leadership at all levels. While it is important to be informed, we should realign ourselves constantly to the promised king to come. This is where our hope lies. We must do the best with the institutions and leaders we have available to us. We should avail ourselves of whatever rights we may possess at the moment to sway the global and local tides in directions that honor God and are therefore a blessing to all of his creation. But we must never mistake our temporary measures for his final reckoning, and we should not expect those in power no matter how well-intentioned they are to do perfectly what only God can do. His judgment will be perfect and holy and righteous, and tempered with mercy in the perfect proportion. In that day those who have fattened themselves at the expense of others will be called to account for their selfishness, while those they deemed irrelevant and expendable will receive the Lord’s tender care and restoration.

Psalm 95:1-7a – What a beautiful song of praise to God the creator as well as God the great king of creation! In him is our salvation (as opposed to our own hands), and to him (rather than ourselves) should praise and honor be given. How is God greater than any other king or any other so-called God? God alone is creator of all things, master of the heights and depths of all creation. We might be inclined to fear before such a powerful God, but we know our God’s intentions towards his creation, his intentions to restore and offer life and salvation to all who will receive it. He makes his intentions ultimately known in his willingness to cause his eternal Son’s suffering and death on our behalf and in our place, that we might have the promise of forgiveness and grace and life. Such an action is truly a demonstration of a shepherd’s heart, a shepherd who cares for his people and seeks their good and restoration as only He can know these things perfectly.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 – The Kingship of Christ comes at a particular cost – his life on the cross for us. This is not a theological musing. It isn’t philosophical whimsy. It isn’t a helpful construct to get us through the day. The Son of God died and was buried – according to his human nature. He rose from the dead, victorious over death and all the combined powers of hell and humanity that conspired to keep him in the grave. This was witnessed by hundreds of people. Christ’s Kingship is grounded in the historical and geographical reality of the empty tomb. His right to rule is won through his perfect obedience to God the Father’s plan to reconcile creation to himself, to save us from the evil within our hearts and that swirls around us aching to devour us eternally. It is not a matter of whether you want this King or not. He is. There is no vote because there is no one who can challenge him for this title.

And He’s coming back. In glory. With power. To cast down the pretenders to his throne that scrabble with one another like dogs under the table. He comes to claim what is his own, what came into being through him, and what Satan has sought to wrest from him since Eden. He comes to claim you. On that day no one will be forgotten or left out. No one will be too insignificant to stand before the Creator of the Universe in judgment, and to either receive the crown of life through faith in Jesus Christ, or to spit out their final blasphemies. Death and Satan and all who have opted to follow their crooked, rebellious and spiteful ways will be banished, and peace will once again be restored. The Triune God is perfectly unified in purpose and work. Heaven and earth will be reunited perfectly.

Matthew 25:31-46 – Through Matthew 24 and 25 we have considered how we spend our time waiting for our Lord’s return, actively waiting rather than paying lip service to this reality, and being about our Father’s business rather than spiting him out of fear and distrust. But on the day of his return judgment will come. God who knows our hearts and minds more perfectly than we ourselves will separate his own from those who are not. The dividing line may appear surprising, but none will be able to question God’s perfect and righteous judgment. None will be able to fault his division.

Who we are is revealed in part by what we do, how we live our lives. The part we cannot see in others is the motivation, the rationale, the reasons for why they do what they do. We may appear to do the same things, but there is a critical difference in the why. Sometimes these motivations are unknown even to ourselves. Our knowledge – self and otherwise – is limited and imperfect but God will make all things plain in his judgment. Who we are is evident even when we ourselves are not aware of it, not aware of our motivations, not aware of the Holy Spirit within us that guides and leads and equips us. A great many – perhaps all of us – will be surprised on that day at what God sees that we didn’t see in ourselves. But we should never doubt for a moment that the critical thing to be found within us is faith in his Son, Jesus.

It is this faith that separates the faithful from the unfaithful, even if their works look identical on the outside. It is this faith that motivates the faithful both consciously and subconsciously, so that even the simplest and inconsequential acts of kindness and care are infused with holy and divine favor. This parable comes at the end of three other parables that give us better inklings into what God sees in us beyond our actions or inactions. It culminates his response to his disciples’ inquiries in 24:3. And it reinforces that the timing – what the disciples were curious about – is of least concern. When the final day comes is not nearly as important as how we wait for it, and how our moment-by-moment waiting shapes us for eternity. We do not look to our actions to save us. But we cannot reasonably claim to be waiting for our Lord’s return in glory without serving him as we are led and enabled to day by day.

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