This Sunday, November 23, is known as “Reign of Christ” Sunday or, formerly, “Christ the King” Sunday. It marks the end of the year on the Christian calendar. Each year of the church calendar starts with Advent and then moves through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and the season after Pentecost.
The Lectionary Readings follow the church calendar and this is the final Sunday of Year A in a three year cycle. Year A focuses on the Gospel of Matthew; Year B (which starts next week) focuses on Mark with a large dose of John (since Mark is so short); and Year C is about Luke. Next Sunday, with the start of Advent we will begin the Gospel of Mark.
Our lessons for this Sunday are:
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 – In the Old Testament the kings were considered to be the shepherd of the people. In the first 10 verses of this chapter, the prophet Ezekiel lambasts the kings as bad shepherds who didn’t feed the flock but used the flock to feed themselves. Beginning at verse 11 God declares that he will become the shepherd who will care for the sheep. Note that in the skipped verses, God also rebukes the sheep, rams, and goats who abuse the pasture and foul the waters. If God is our shepherd, are we being responsible sheep, caring for the pastures and waters for future sheep?
Psalm 100 – Five verses of pure joy and celebration of being the sheep of the Good (God) Shepherd.
OR Psalm 95:1-7a – A celebration of God’s goodness who has created all. We are glad to be the sheep of God’s pasture. (Are you sensing a theme going on here?)
Ephesians 1:15-23 – Paul says that he has heard how faithful the church in Ephesus has been and he gives thanks for them in his prayers. Paul prays for several things for the church: a spirit of wisdom and revelation; that their hearts may be enlightened; they may know the hope to which they have been called; to know God’s riches of inheritance; and to know God’s power for believers. That power was revealed in Christ’s resurrection who now sits above all earthly power, authority and riches. Christ is now the “head” of the church and the church is his “body”.
Matthew 25:31-46 – After talking with his disciples about the end of the age (Matthew 24:1-44) Jesus tells four stories, none of which are identified as parables. The four stories start like this: “Who then is the faithful and wise slave . . .?” (24:45); “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids . . . .” (25:1); “For it is as if a man, going on a journey . . . .” (25:14); and “When the Son of Man comes in his glory . . . .” (25:31). What will the “Master”, “Bridegroom”, “Master”, and “Son of Man” find when they return? These are stories of faithfulness in waiting and in action. Is the last story, our reading this week, to be understood as a literal description of the “last days”, divorced from the other three stories? Or is Jesus getting at something else? On its face value, this week’s lesson is about “works” that make us heaven bound no matter what you believe (“When did we see you . . . ?”). Where does faith play a role? If Jesus returned today, what would he find us and the church doing? Are we feeding, giving drink, visiting, caring, welcoming? Are we?
May the Lord bless you and move you this week; you who are the sheep of God’s pasture.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor