A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For November 26 2017, Reign of Christ Sunday
Based on Matthew 25:31-46
This morning’s passage is titled by scholars as “Matthew’s little apocalypse.” In 15 verses Matthew describes the final day of judgment. The Messiah is seated on a throne surrounded by angels, assessing humanity. In describing a far-off future, the writer intended to instruct people about their current responsibilities. Listen for God’s still-speaking voice in these familiar words.
These are two of my grandchildren. Weston is 7, and Kinley is five. This is a picture of Weston from about 4 years ago. As they prepared for baptisms, they went as a family visiting a number of congregations of different sizes, worship styles, and even denominations. At the end of one of these visits, Mom and Dad asked Weston what he thought. “I really liked the music,” he said, “but why do all the words have to be about Jesus?”
Dear Weston, this sermon is going to be my attempt to explain why all the words in the songs are about Jesus. So imagine with me that 7 year-old Weston sitting in this sanctuary. For some reason he did not leave with the other children to go to Sunday School but instead has remained in worship.
We believe that God, the one who has made the entire universe, became human. That human being was Jesus, a man who lived a long, long time ago in place called Nazareth. And that is why the words of our songs are about Jesus.
Jesus was a kind man. He healed a lot of people. He taught people. He fed people. He helped people know God. When he died, something special happened. After three days he came back to life – sorta like we are alive but also living in a way that is different than how we live.
By now I suspect I may have already lost the attention of 7 year-old Weston. I have already said too many words for his 7 year-old ears. I am more comfortable teaching adults and teenagers, and even then I know exploring theological concepts can be tough. That’s why I appreciate those whose teaching gifts allow them to reach pre-schoolers and elementary school students.
And yet I marvel at the great insight Weston has, and realize in his observation about church he is asking a second question: Why is all the music about Jesus?
For all the words I and any other pastor or any other person of faith may use to explain who Jesus is and why Jesus is important, at some point our words find their limit. Even the most eloquent become confounded by some parts of our faith. But thanks be to God we human beings are not limited to words to express ourselves. Some things are just better when they are sung or painted or sculpted or danced. Some things are better acted out or acted upon.
What I am trying to say is that sometimes faith does not need our words: it needs our willingness to make it fleshly, to use our muscles rather than our words. Sometimes we need to follow the example God gave us and make our faith incarnate so that others can experience it with us.
One of my seminary professors shared that in a Bible study he was asked to describe God’s love. Instead of trying to use his own words, he turned to the others and asked, “When have you known you were loved?” When I come home late from work and my spouse has dinner ready for me. When I hugged by a close friend. When I sat on my mother’s lap and she read a story to me. God’s love, my professor said, is like each of those – and yet it is also more.
I am learning from my grandchildren how important it is to be with others because the way we are in the flesh together is one way that God shares love with us and with all of creation. The way we are in the flesh together is a way that God uses to show the world Christ’s reign. We must ask “How do our lives demonstrate the reign of Christ?” Are we fulfilling our call as followers of Christ? Are we living, lively, en-fleshed examples of God’s grace for the world? Can others discern from the words we speak, the songs we sing, the behaviors with which we interact with others that Jesus Christ is lord of all?
This day of proclaiming, exploring, accepting the reign of Christ is a day of challenge to us as Christians, for the reign of Christ is revealed among the least of these. Amen