24 Nov God’s Lavish Love
Thanksgiving week is here and for many of us, it will be quite a different holiday than in years past. Like everything else in our lives, the novel coronavirus has upended our normal traditions and routines. If you are feeling a sense of loss and grief, please know that you are not alone. Many of us are experiencing the same. We are missing our loved ones and missing our cherished traditions. This is natural. But it is also not permanent. As my mother keeps reminding me, “This, too, shall pass,” and indeed it will. We will get through this, and we will get through it with more joy and sanity if we do it together.
Which is why worship was such a powerful experience for me this past weekend. Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday in the church’s liturgical year, the final “hoorah” before we begin the new liturgical year by preparing for the birth of Christ. Throughout the year, the church’s liturgy follows the arc of Christ’s life as we recognize and celebrate the significant milestones in Jesus’ life: his birth, baptism, and transfiguration; his suffering, death and resurrection. Forty days after Easter comes Pentecost and then a long section of “ordinary time” that is punctuated with significant events in the life of the Church—Trinity Sunday, World Communion, Reformation Sunday, and All Saints Day. It all culminates with Christ the King (or Reign of Christ) Sunday.
I don’t know about you, but I needed this timely reminder that God’s promised reign is “already, not yet.” While God’s kingdom is not yet fully established, it is already here which makes a huge difference in how we understand our lives and our world. It is glaringly obvious the part that is not yet here. Poverty and disease, war and global pandemics, systemic racism and human trafficking, lies and cheating, consumerism and abuse of the planet—they daily news is full of these painful reminders of how different things are from what God would have them to be. It can be discouraging. At times it may even seem hopeless. How are we to make an impact in a world that seems so bent on pursuing the ways of destruction and evil rather than the ways that make for peace?
And yet. Not only is that not the end of the story, it’s not even the main story line. The overwhelming thrust of the story is God’s lavish outpouring of love for us. Despite all the ways we manage to mess up, there is no reason to lose hope. God’s love is always being made manifest in the world, God is ever and always working for the salvation of all people and the earth itself, God’s kingdom is already breaking in every day, in ways big and small (though usually small). We already know how this story ends—with Christ making all things right, reigning over a kingdom that is nothing but love, joy, peace, patience, and generosity. None of these things is in doubt. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.
Between here and there, between the partial “already” part of the kingdom and the kingdom fully come, fully alive, there is work to be done. This is where Jesus’ admonition to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, etc. comes into play. We have been invited to actively bring about the kingdom by recognizing Jesus in every human being we encounter, but most specifically in those who are in greatest need. What better time than this season of thankfulness to put feet to our gratitude by sharing with others out of the abundance of our blessings?
I am thankful for you, friends, and grateful for the privilege of sharing our journeys of faith together. My Thanksgiving prayer for you is that God will “give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of God’s great power” (Ephesians 1:17-19).