Preacher: The Rev. Kate Wesch
My first experience with a king happened when I was eight years old, in my hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma. His name was Dave Hart and while he repaired copy machines by day, at night, at least for a few months in the spring of ‘89, he was a king, the King of Siam. You see, our community theatre was doing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, The King and I. You probably remember Yul Brynner famously playing this role in the 1956 film version.
It was also my theatrical debut as a royal princess, one of the dozens of children in the cast. I remember being in awe of the king, bare chested and bronzed in thick pancake makeup, thinning hair in a little knot on top of his head, and baggy pants in the style of 19th century Asian royalty, I guess. He sang and danced. He entered the stage and we all bowed to him, playing the part of royal and obedient children with our noses scraping the ground. When we exited, we backed off the stage slowly, shuffling our feet, and inevitably leaving behind flip flops bejeweled with gold plastic adornment.
Now, I know you’re curious. Yul Brynner…..Dave Hart……Broadway musicals….and Jesus. They do tie together, I promise. It’s Christ the King Sunday.
So, what is that, “Christ the King Sunday?” It’s the Christian New Year’s Eve. Our liturgical year BEGINS with Advent, which starts next Sunday. We spend half of our time living the incarnation that is Advent through the Feast of Pentecost and the other half in “Ordinary Time” which is only now ending. Christ the King Sunday marks the end of Ordinary Time.
You see, Advent to Epiphany, is preparing and waiting, celebrating the incarnation of God in flesh. Lent is considering your soul and Easter, the celebration. But the season after Pentecost, what we call “ordinary time” is for contemplation and action. It is about eternal life.
Six weeks from now, it will be the New Year, 2015. After surviving the holidays, we will emerge worn out, over fed, and excessively partied. Eager to start fresh, we will make New Year’s resolutions we will never keep. Gyms will be crowded once again, produce snapped up at the grocery stores, and we might even vow to attend church more often. But will it stick? Probably not. By the beginning of Lent only 6 week after that, we’ll once again be swearing off chocolate and booze, attempting to do the “right” things once again.
But, as Christians, we have the opportunity to avoid all of that. Our New Year’s begins this week. We make promises too, but we have a whole liturgical cycle to support it. So, as we consider the Christian New Year, let us first reflect on how we have done this past year. As we embark upon a new season, we are called to account for our actions. How have we done this past year? How did you do? What was 2014 for you?
For me it’s pretty easy to remember. My son was born a little over a year ago. I had some time off when he was a newborn. Nobody slept much. There was a lot of crying, and not just the baby. I was grumpy, tired, and a little depressed. I took out my frustration on the adults around me who didn’t deserve it. I learned I’m in fact NOT Super Woman and I can’t do it all myself. I learned to ask for help. I started praying more, a lot more because I needed it. This past year changed me. My heart grew and my soul matured a bit. I wasn’t always kind and I probably still owe my husband some apologies. I’m full of gratitude — for you, this church, my friends, and family for supporting me. And my faith and trust in God is deeper and wider than ever before. That was 2014 for me.
Consider your life, your circumstances, what has the past year been for you? And who are we corporately as the community at Epiphany? How have we done this past year? How have we grown? How have we changed? People have come and gone. We continue to gather weekly for prayer, for study, and to build relationships. Many things abound on this campus, including the formation of souls through singing, studying, laughing, and crying. We are a location and a community prepared to greet souls wherever they are on their spiritual journey.
This is what Christ as King means. It is the time when we are called to account. Because of Christ, God no longer makes grand, universal proclamations like we see in the Old Testament. God doesn’t enter stage right and send us all scurrying to bow down with our noses pressed into the floorboards like the King of Siam. BUT, God is King. And although you are God’s favorite, particular and unique, God may judge you. God is also a Shepherd as we see in the gospel of Matthew.
Now, I have never been a shepherd and I’ve never even met a real shepherd, but I have heard a few things about them. Shepherds are intuitive people. They KNOW their sheep. They are astute observers and some would argue it goes beyond that. They actually have a mystical connection with their sheep. A shepherd knows the elderly sheep, the lazy ones, the aggressive ones, the troublemakers, and the one that is always wandering off. God knows each and every one of us that well if not better because God is our Shepherd.
This year end, we are held accountable for our authentic relationship with God. How goes it with your soul? How are you and God doing these days? This is also the time to stop and ask, “Who am I?” and “Where am I?” I am a priest in the church. I am a wife and mother. I am a daughter, friend, and colleague. Who are you? Do you have that image in your head of your identity?
Now, think about this: Where are you? I am in an intensely busy phase of life. 24/7 it is go, go, go as I take care of small children. Many of you have been there and some of you are there right now. It is a season. What is your season? What actions fill your days? The seasons of life change as we change and it’s important to hear God’s call in each season. The way we spend our time changes drastically from one season to another and that is okay.
The reading from Ezekiel depicts an Old Testament God of action. In it God DOES a lot of things. These few verses say God will: search, seek, rescue, bring, feed, and make them lie down. God will bind, strengthen, destroy, judge, save, set up, and speak. Our God is a God of action. Action God doesn’t call you to action; rather, God calls you to where you are. God commands you to be aware of your presence, your identity, your location right now.
As we head into Advent, SLOW DOWN. Be honest with yourself. When Christ the King steps out on stage and interrupts your song and dance, where are you? Who are you? Do you throw yourself to the floor, nose to the ground? Do you back away slowly, shuffling your feet and losing your slippers? Or do you hold yourself with confidence and tell God who you are and what you are? God already loves you, knows you, and leads you. With God as Shepherd, King, and guide, reach into yourself, consider the past year, and prepare yourself to move forward with intentionality and grace.
How does our self-awareness change or influence our relationship with God? God knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows WHO we are and WHERE we are, even when we are lost. But, when we can be honest with ourselves and claim that identity, when we can do that we are more intimate with God. Our faith is deeper and our souls wiser. Know thyself because only then can we be authentic beyond the walls of our own kingdom.