Reading Ramblings – November 25, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Christ the King Sunday/Last Sunday of the Church Year – November 25, 2018

Texts: Isaiah 51:4-6; Psalm 93; Rev. 1:4b-8; Mark 13:24-37

Context: The final Sunday of the Church year is traditionally celebrated as Christ the King Sunday, which concludes the liturgical year triumphantly on the note of our Lord’s present and future reign over all things. The year which began in anticipation of our Lord’s arrival 2000 years ago concludes with the reality of what that Incarnation accomplished – the defeat of sin, death, and Satan that is already a reality and will be revealed fully as such in God the Father’s perfect timing. So we begin the new liturgical looking back, but with the glorious vision of what we look forward to still very much present and forefront. Only gradually will the readings for Advent turn away from this Sunday’s reality to look back to the birth of our Lord and begin the cycle of readings and seasons that deal with his life.

Isaiah 51:4-6 – Isaiah’s suffering servant continues to speak in this chapter of Isaiah, Christ himself addressing creation 700 years prior to his birth. Here the servant assures his people of the rule He will institute, a rule based in justice. It is a rule that has not begun yet, but a rule that He can speak about with certainty. It isn’t a matter of whether or not He will reign, but rather what his reign will be like. It won’t be like the faithless kings that have ruled over God’s people, nor the violent predations of the various empires that will control her destiny after the Assyrians. The suffering servant’s reign is characterized by justice, righteousness, and salvation. Judgment will be rendered, and those that place their trust and hope in his reign will not be disappointed. It is to this promised reign that God’s people are to look. Looking to the earth – to human hope and promise – is foolishness and hopeless disappointing and insubstantial. Only this divine king can promise to rule forever, and to rule perfectly forever.

Psalm 93 – The reign of God is not a future creation but a current reality. While the enemies of God appear to have their sway and rule over creation at the moment, this is an illusion. God’s reign has never ceased, and it can never be disrupted or interrupted. This is not a God who can be imagined or described, so He is described dressed in attributes – majesty and strength. The language of his throne being established means that there is no threat to it, no doubt as to its continued existence. So sure is his reign that not even the wildness of rampaging flood waters can disturb his rule. The waters rise and roar – perhaps in praise of the God who created them? But if they raise their voice to challenge him, God’s voice is without question stronger and more powerful than the mightiest of sounds in all of creation. But when God speaks it isn’t simply meaningless noise, nor is it a rule based in might alone. Rather when the Lord speaks, what He says is true and worthy of trust, and is characteristic of his holiness. As such we need not fear our God, but rather can trust that He will do what is right for his people.

Revelation 1:4b-8 – St. John greets the recipients of his letter, the seven churches addressed in Chapters 2-3. But he addresses them as a man who has seen the glory of God in the heavenly places. He has already composed his Gospel of the life of Jesus, but now he speaks of the glory and majesty of the Godhead unveiled. What John knew from hearing and watching Jesus during his ministry and his death and his resurrection, and from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost has been bolstered by the revelation of mysteries almost too wondrous to describe. He who glimpsed Jesus in his glory on the mountain before his suffering sees him fully in his divine splendor and power. John describes God the Father, then God the Holy Spirit, and finally the visible one – God the Son, Jesus the Christ. He then focuses on Jesus as the one who frees us from our sins by his blood. His suffering and death makes possible our life. For this reason all glory and honor and power belong to him forever. And this reality will be revealed. He is coming, and there won’t be anyone who can claim that they have not witnessed his power and glory. Some will see it in fear and trembling and anger, resolute in their rebellion. Others will see it in hopefulness and joy as the final fulfillment of their lifelong desire. All of this will take place within the context of creation and God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the authors of all creation from start to finish.

Mark 13:24-37 – Many, many, many people have attempted to decipher the signs and symbols Jesus gives in this chapter with an eye towards forecasting the date of his return. Scholars argue and debate about which of his signs are related solely to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and which might be yet to be fulfilled, and much interest is shown in the words of this passage that talk about the celestial bodies. But the last few verses should temper these efforts significantly. The importance about watching is that these signs are not intended to be sufficient to alert us to something new and different, like hearing a car motor coming down the street before we see the car, or noticing a plume of dust being kicked up by an approaching vehicle. If that were the case we could relax in relative ignorance until we noticed the signs and then we could leap up and look busy!

People regularly ask if these are the end times. And of course the answer is yes. But the end times have been going on since Jesus’ ascension. We are to be waiting and watching for our Lord and King to return, for his reign to be fully revealed and completely effective. And we should be fairly confident that if we think we’ve deciphered some secret Scriptural code to triggering his return or identifying the precise timing, we’re undoubtedly wrong.

Rather, our time should be spent in watching and waiting. This doesn’t mean idleness or other odd behavior, but rather in fulfilling to the best of our abilities the summation of the Commandments – to love God and love our neighbor. Doing these things is enough to fill our time and attention so that there isn’t much time left for speculating on the return date of our Lord! Doing these things are the waiting we are to engage in. Active. Full of hope and joy and certainty, despite the situations of the day. This should fill our attention rather than endless talking heads and pundits on talk radio or television news! Our Lord reigns, and we will see that reign very soon! Come Lord Jesus, Come!

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