This is the season when we are very much concerned with time. We are constantly reminded of our limited time thanks to the early fall of darkness each day. But at this time in the churches year we are also reminded of time in terms of our human mortality. So we are taken up with remembering during the festivals of this season which include All Saints’, All Souls’, and Remembrance Sunday when we commemorate the dead. This is the Kingdom Season – and time is a key component of it, and especially that mysterious space between our time and God’s time, the space between earth and heaven.
The Kingdom season is celebrated at the end of the church year, a time when we honour Christ as the King of earth and heaven. A time when we can reflect upon the transient and temporary nature of our own kingdoms compared to the eternal wonder of the kingdom of God.
So this kingdom season serves us very well in leading up to Advent, a time of reflection, of penitence, of expectation of watching and waiting for the coming of the kingdom of God. (It wasn’t too long ago when Advent was kept, like Lent, for six weeks, not four). We wait not only for the Christ child, but also for the resurrected Christ in glory.
Time, then, is a most precious commodity, because it symbolises a completeness of Christ’s ministry on earth, and yet, somehow an incompleteness. If we study this paradox further we may well understand the mission to which we are called by God. There is a tension between that which Christ has completed for us and that which we are asked to contribute. We are under a time pressure, we are told by Jesus that the servant will not know when his master will return. We are at this time of year focussed on the possibility that the kingdom of God on earth could be a reality – but only through our faith, trust and courage.
The gospel readings this Sunday point towards the figure on the cross which arrests our attention. This bloodied, abused and vilified wretch is seen by the least expected as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is the criminal who understands, who discerns, the majesty of the crucified Jesus. In that very moment at Calvary, God’s grace invited a little light to penetrate the darkness of that place. The promise of paradise was given to the criminal, continuing God’s promise from long ago. This was the Covenant-God living out his message of relationship. The cross, the throne of kingship, ensured that God would never be separated from his people even unto death.
I was greatly inspired some years ago by a sculpture placed upon a plinth in Trafalgar Square – just for a few, short months. It was a statue of Jesus by the contemporary sculptor, Mark Wallinger. The sculpture was entitled, “Ecce homo” meaning, behold the man. The plinth, twice as big as the sculpture, portrays Christ looking undersized alongside the huge war heroes in the square. Yet there was a wonderful, graceful dignity about the sculpture. It was honest and truthful, not trying to be something other than that. Some of the major Christological themes shone out of this small, humble model of love. It speaks to me about the real nature of God and about the majesty of his love:
“He emptied himself taking the form of a servant… he humbled himself and became obedient unto death… at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2: 7, 8, 10)
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(Today’s blog is a gathering of some of my sermons, thoughts and meditations reflecting on the Feast of Christ the King).