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The Reign of Christ: Ingathering Sunday..

In 1925, Pope Pius XI declared the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar to be Christ the King Sunday, a day to counter the influential secularism of the times with a reminder of the lordship and rule of God in Christ. In Christian vernacular, we speak a great deal about the kingdom, or reign, of God. We speak about the tension between the ways that we experience God’s rule in our lives and the world now, and the hope in God’s promise to bring to fullness the reconciliation of all things in Christ through the Spirit. This liminal space is the space we are formed as disciples, where we learn to recognize and bear witness to the inbreaking of God’s reign. It is where we learn to embody God’s “NO” to the violent, oppressive, and destructive ways of the world. When asked by Pilot about his “kingship,” Jesus told him that his kingdom was not of this world. Those who belong to it would be freed from the greedy cycles of power-grasping that Pilot and his position represented. 

Living under the reign of God in Christ means that all aspects of our lives are made subject to God, to the ways of Christ, and to the transformative power of the Spirit. The ways in which we live, the ways in which we gather, the ways in which we understand who we are and why we are, are determined not by metrics of best practices but by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news of Jesus Christ is that we need not be burdened any longer by the weight of our social injustices and sins. There is an alternative way of life characterized by grace, truth, freedom, wholeness, and restoration. The place where this is supposed to be most evident is in the gathered community, the Body of Christ in all of its diverse, local expressions. In John’s account of Jesus’ final meal with his friends, Jesus gives them a new commandment to love one another and tells them that it is, above all else, this characteristic that will demonstrate to the world that they are disciples of Jesus Christ. In other words, the way we treat one another, the love that we share with each other, in the tangible context of our parish community, is supposed to be a sign of the alternative way of life under God’s rule.

Last week, I facilitated several focus groups meetings. We spent time reflecting on our core beliefs and the ways in which we live into those beliefs in our own lives and in our common life as St  Paul’s. I hope that it was a fruitful exercise for all who were able to participate. It certainly was for me! It was inspiring to listen to the ways that living into our core beliefs impacts those in our community and in our neighborhood. It was inspiring to hear the passion we possess for growing in God’s grace and for seeking understanding in our faith. After three, hour (plus)-long meetings, I came away with a deep sense of God’s presence and activity in and among us! Here are a few examples:

We are a community that believes God is active and present in the world. Through Daily Prayer, intentional practices of discernment, and paying attention to the needs around us, we seek to be a place where people can learn to tune their ears to hear the melody of the Spirit’s movement and find the support and encouragement to chase after it. 

We believe that there is power in beauty to draw our attention toward God, to express our reverence for God’s glory and splendor, and to inspire us to love God with our whole beings as we are sent out into the world to share God’s love with others. In a world that is filled with distorted visions of beauty that objectify and degrade, St Paul’s seeks to be a place where beautiful sounds, images, smells, and connections draw us deeper into the divine life of mutual love and unity.

We believe that God desires to be in communion with us and with all creation, and that through the sacraments we are formed as Christ’s body to be conduits and reflections of his love and compassion in the world. We believe in the power of common prayer and see it as the ground of our life. In a world filled with violence, with hate and division, St Paul’s seeks to be a place founded on mutual care and concern, where manipulation, coercion, and subjugation are eradicated in our shared life. 

We believe that the rituals we practice and the habits of prayer we cultivate form us according to the pattern of Christ’s own life, death, and resurrection. We believe that the life of discipleship is a life of intentional formation in the way of Christ and through continual growth in God’s grace. In a world undergirded by fad consumerism, by “alternative facts,” and by an “anything-goes” spirituality, St Paul’s seeks to be a place of learning, a place where our faith is the catalyst for seeking understanding, where Truth is defined not by a proposition but by a person. Through prayer, we seek to be a place of discernment, where we can discover together where the Spirit is leading us and who God is forming us to be.

We believe that Holy Spirit equips all people (including our children!) with unique gifts and that we are called to steward those gifts for the life of the world and for God’s glory. In a world that prizes competition as the primary relational category, St Paul’s seeks to be a place where anyone can discover and cultivate their God-given gifts so that they might live most fully into being the child of God they are. 

In these ways and more, we are living into our call to be ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a community of an alternative way of being together that is grounded in the love that Jesus has for us. Living under the reign of God draws us deeper into life together, with and for one another, united in the unbreakable power of the Spirit. We are empowered to stand against all the realities of this world that contradict the loving-mutuality that characterizes the very core of God’s own nature. 

It was perhaps a touch of providence that led to the timing of our annual giving campaign and our Ingathering Sunday to fall on this “Christ the King” Sunday. For what better day to offer to God what God has so graciously given to us so that we might live more fully into the reign of God in Christ. The pledges we are about to bless represent ourselves, our lives, our livelihoods. And they also represent our trust in the faithfulness of God. They symbolize the alternative way of Christ’s reign. 

Today, as we place our cards in the basket at the front of the church, I wonder if these pledge cards might also symbolize the “new thing” that God is doing in our midst. Perhaps our giving this day might represent the step of faith God is inviting us to take as we step into the future of what God is doing in, among, and around us.