Today is the last Sunday of the Christian year — or Church or liturgical year. This Sunday is called Christ the King Sunday. In anticipation of what is to come, we recognize that even today Christ is king, we celebrate him and his reign.
I remember way back in the way back when I was a new campus minister at the University of Illinois. One day I met an Episcopal priest at a campus-wide religious meeting. He asked me if our campus ministry was followed the lectionary.
I had never heard of the word lectionary and I have no idea how I answered the question. He may as well have asked me, “Did you make sure to have the penguins check the control system for the fuel thrusters before you came to the campus-wide campus ministry meeting today?” (I would love to have been a little fly on the wall when he asked about following the lectionary. I have no idea of what I said.)
I had grown up in a good church out near the Kansas/Colorado border. Those church folks were strong Christ followers — hard workers, thankful people, the salt of the earth. But they didn’t follow the Christian year. It wasn’t their tradition.
So, I had no idea that a season called Advent preceded Christmas, or that 12 days of Christmas (Chrismastide) followed December 25. I knew nothing of Epiphany, or Ash Wednesday or Lent. I did know about Palm Sunday but not Holy week, and I had never heard of Maundy Thursday or Holy Saturday. I liked Halloween but didn’t understand that Halloween was All Hallows Eve that preceded All Saints Day.
I had heard people dismiss observations from the Christian year as “too Catholic,” even my professors when I was studying for the ministry. Even if I had been aware of a planned pattern of scripture readings called the lectionary, I probably would have objected to an orderly list of readings someone else had planned.
I have changed, especially when it comes to celebrating Advent and Lent. I now look forward to submitting my life to the ancient rhythms of the Christian year, and giving my mind and heart to the readings in the lectionary, as they guide me through these periods during the year.
What I now know is that the “liturgical” calendar dates centuries back, as the church followed the rhythms of the Christian year to help center their lives and life together around the life of Jesus. The older I get the more I can understand and appreciate why our church fathers and mothers did this so help their church people understand who Jesus was, and what he did for them.
So today — Christ the King Sunday — is the last Sunday in the Christian year. One of the readings is from Psalm 21. “In your strength the king rejoices, O Lord, and in your help how greatly he exults.” V. 1 The image in Psalm 21 is of crowning the king is Israel. We readers see something of the future as we ponder this reading from Psalm 21.
** One day Jesus will be crowned king of all creation. Every creature in heaven and earth will bow before him. (Philippians 2:9-11).
** On that day God’s peace will fill the earth. the wolf and the lamb will dwell in harmony. (Isaiah 11:6).
** Wars will cease and weapons of war will be turned into tools for farming. (Isaiah 2:4).
** Indeed God’s justice will prevail throughout the world. (Isaiah 42:4).
Whether or not you or I I follow a church calendar with all its predetermined texts, I still think we all do well to ask, “How am I experiencing Jesus in my life today?” and “What parts of the future kingdom await me, the ones for which I most long?”