We begin a new liturgical year today – a new church year brings with it a time of hope and possibilities… As our lessons remind us, God’s time is a gift. God’s time for us here passes ever so quickly for many of us… The reality is, it does… except if we’re the ones left waiting…
…for a doctor to call with test results – or talk to a family about treatment plans. Except if we’re the ones studying for exams or waiting for acceptance letters…or a phone call about a new job. Or if we’re sleep deprived new parents or wrestling with toddlers… Those days are long – but the years, fly by.
This season of Advent is a time of new beginnings. It’s a time of preparation as we look ahead to who we are…and the possibilities what we can become as God’s people. Advent is a time to reflect at how we come to live as the Body of Christ, and how we share God’s message. How we live into that hope and expectation.
Let’s face it, for many of us – the busyness of life can be a distraction – often causing us to look far ahead toward the end…the goal – whatever that means for us. Far too often, we often miss the immediacy of the need of the here and now that exists today. We miss Christ already present in our lives. We waste time on things that we have little control of. Advent reminds us of God’s constant presence with signs of preparation; with waiting and commitment to be the people that God needs us to be, in the brokenness that surrounds us.
Christ the King. Sounds regal and ancient. Actually, it’s not. It’s a modern-day festival, one with much background and history. A bit about that historical perspective… It was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, as an answer to increasing nationalism that surrounded the church. It was in response to the secularism and modernity that surrounded God’s people. It was a response in the face of Mussolini and Hitler and others like them, that the Pope said no, wait a minute – Christ is the King. A message we still need to hear today.
And so our very last Gospel reading of the church year, we have Matthew telling us – reminding us of the gifts of God – and of Christ’s call to be the servant people that Jesus by his life showed us to be. And the Easter people that by his death Christ makes us. After all, it is what the King wants. It is what the Kingdom is about.
Our lessons this morning are clear and straightforward. Ezekiel describing God as a shepherd who seeks out and cares for the most vulnerable of the flock. Paul reminds us that Christ is Lord of all – despite current appearances and despite views to the contrary. And our Gospel is descriptive of Jesus’ ministry and serves as a blueprint for ours…with one of the easiest verses to remember, to understand, and one that gives a clear picture of what it means to be a baptized Christian – to be the church – the servant Body of Christ.
Saints are those special people who make a difference throughout our lives. Sometimes we find them – or they find us – when we least expect it. They are those faithful children of God whose Christian identity to be the Body of Christ is a gift. And today, they’re the ones whose lives we remember and they’re the ones whose lives continue to inspire.
The words of the Beatitudes from Matthew’s Gospel remind us that we are bound to God in Christ by our commitment to servanthood and care for God’s children. They remind us of the essence of this community of faith. But all that hasn’t been without a cost. Just a bit of history about our congregation, about this special Family. It was on All Saints Sunday 35 years ago that something changed here at Faith. It was Pastor Mac’s first Sunday with us. Right from the start, there were questions about him. Doubts about this young city kid – about what he could possibly know about this comfortable, suburban life here in Murray Hill. Some thought – and more than a few said it out loud – ‘there goes the neighborhood’ and did their best to run him out of town.