Worship Start Time: 10:30am
Theme: Reign of Christ
Whomever you love, however you identify & express yourself - you are welcome here.
Come to Scarboro as we worship together every Sunday at 10:30am. We will have the coffee on at 10, so come early and catch up with your community. There will be more time for coffee, tea and conversation after the service in the Marilyn Perkins - Memorial Hall.
There will be a short congregational meeting next week. It is also the first Sunday in Advent, come and join in the Hanging of the Greens! Stay for the annual Turkeyburger Lunch!
Turkeyburger tickets are now on sale, get your while they last! This annual lunch will be on Sunday December 2nd as we sing in Advent together.
Reign of Christ Sunday
Rev. Lee Spice
I’ll be honest with you. I have had issues with Reign of Christ Sunday for a long time. And, no, it’s not because it falls on Grey Cup Sunday this year…it’s because of what “Reign of Christ” seems to imply, and what, historically, it symbolizes in terms of the actions of the church. Reading that beautiful hymn from the early church, in which followers of Jesus proclaimed their faith and suggested that “every knee should bow.” That passage, and others like the one that says the church should “go to all nations,” has resulted in humans turning the church into yet another imperial power. In the name of Christ, or, perhaps under Christ’s banner, but in the name of various kings and rulers, civilizations have been trampled and eliminated. In the name of Christ, cultural genocide has been perpetrated, as well as murders of vast numbers of people.
Perhaps more subtly, in our society, Christianity has been the norm – organizations, holidays, language, assumptions…the invisible strings that hold society together are mostly built on Christian understandings. It is so standard that it’s almost invisible. There’s a kind of Christian prejudice – that might be surprising to the huge number of North Americans that don’t actually attend church. But I don’t need to tell you how being tacitly Christian can harm people of other faiths – the Holocaust is the prime example, and the rise racism in the Christian right, mostly in the US, is another.
I can’t believe that this whole thing is what Jesus had in mind.
A decade or so ago, the United Church had a study, “Who is Jesus for you, today?” The question, I think, is still valid. What does Jesus mean for those who follow in his Way? What does Jesus mean for a church that exists in a multi-faith, pluralistic world? I wonder – if one cannot accept the triumphalist view of Christ – and hence, the triumphalist view of Christianity, is there another way to think of the Reign of Christ?
Of course, I’m going to say, “yes!”
The Gospel of John begins with this, “In the beginning was the Word.” The writer of this gospel had an understanding of Jesus that was articulated quite differently from other gospel writers. It’s a much broader view than the historical Jesus – the man who walked around in Palestine and hung out with the common folk.
In John’s gospel, the spirit of Christ – “Christ” meaning “the anointed one,” – is in existence from the beginning of time. Christ is named as “Logos,” the Word. It is a word spoken by God that is God.
In 2000 years of Christian history, people have struggled to understand what this all means – how the Christ fits in with God, how to explain what it means to be fully human and fully divine.
It IS hard to explain. How do you put into words the experience of The Holy that is made evident through Christ? Over the centuries, the people who seem to have been able to share their experiences the best have been the Christian mystics. The dictionary defines as mystic as, “ a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.”
What the Christian mystics came to understand is that this Spirit of Christ that they knew and loved so well – their brother, Jesus, who was their friend and saviour, was connected with all of Creation…from the beginning of time. And, because this Spirit of Christ is manifest as a human being, humans are connected, with Christ, to all of Creation.
The 12th Century Benedictine, Hildegard von Bingen has been called, “one of the great Creation-centred mystics of the West” (Matthew Fox). She wrote, “The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.” And, yes, she believed that this verdant, greening “Word” was the same Word that John referred to – that Word that existed as Christ.
More recently, contemporary thinkers like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry have articulated a cosmology – a view of the whole cosmos - that everything – EVERYTHING- in creation has both a spiritual and physical dimension. Brian Swimme and Bruce Sanguine go a little further, saying that all of Creation is evolving…and along that, faith and Christianity are evolving.
These evolutionary theologians describe Christ as, “a radiant expression of the Heart and Mind of God,” and that, “his love and compassion for the other, and commitment to establishing God’s realm on Earth is an expression of the purpose of this evolving universe.” (from the study guide to Painting the Stars).
Maybe we’re evolving and maybe we’re not – but our faith, over time, as church and as individuals, is certainly changing. Most Christians will tell us that their view of Jesus has changed over time…if, indeed, they still call themselves Christian. And the church, these days, seems to have room for broader, more mystical, body-mind-spirit understanding. The hymn that we will sing describes Christ as the “Song” that is sung by God, the Singer.
What does this all mean, then, on this Reign of Christ Sunday? How does Christ reign? If we’re not buying in to the triumphal way of force-feeding Jesus to others, what is it about?
Hildegard of Bingen said:
most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.”
Could it be that simple? Perhaps the first step in following the Way of Jesus is to open one’s heart to this creative life-force that has existed since before time. To open one’s heart to this Christ energy is to enter into the concerns of Creation – life, justice, healing and abundance, for the whole world.
That’s the path of following Jesus. That is The Way.
Make no mistake, following Jesus is not always an easy path, for, even though we have a verse that says, “Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” God has a way of knowing exactly when you’ve rested enough. As soon as contentment settles in, Jesus has you up and out of your comfy chair.
Here are some words from the most recent faith statement of the United Church, “A Song of Faith”:
We sing of Jesus,
born to a woman in poverty
in a time of social upheaval
and political oppression.
He knew human joy and sorrow.
So filled with the Holy Spirit was he
that in him people experienced the presence of God among them.
We sing praise to God incarnate.
Jesus announced the coming of God’s reign—
a commonwealth not of domination
but of peace, justice, and reconciliation.
He healed the sick and fed the hungry.
He forgave sins and freed those held captive
by all manner of demonic powers.
He crossed barriers of race, class, culture, and gender.
He preached and practised unconditional love—
love of God, love of neighbour,
love of friend, love of enemy—
and he commanded his followers to love one another
as he had loved them.
Because his witness to love was threatening,
those exercising power sought to silence Jesus.
He suffered abandonment and betrayal,
state-sanctioned torture and execution.
He was crucified.
But death was not the last word.
Jesus’ footsteps are hard footsteps to follow. For sure, they will take you from contentment to uncertainty, from comfort to adventure, and from complacency to full-on service, in Christ’s name. They may take you to places of sacrifice, and places of joy. They will take you into a connection with God, and with Creation, and with humanity, that you never thought possible.
So what do you say? Do you want to follow Jesus? Do you want to be a part of this movement of love that began before time, and sings in your heart today? Do you dare claim the most royal greening verdancy that is described by Hildegard of Bingen?
I invite us into a time of silence, to be with God in heart-to-heart companionship.
A prayer from Bruce Sanguin, based on Philippians 2: 1 – 11:
Christ, our Brother.
Christ, our Beginning.
Christ, our End.
Known in Jesus,
Word made flesh;
known as Logos,
Pattern within the Chaos;
Wisdom, calling from city streets
for justice and compassion.
Christ, beyond all names,
Depth of Our Own Being,
awaken us, enfold us, impel us
to realize the dream
that is ours to birth. Amen.
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