From Gian-Carlo Menotti's one-act opera, Ahmal and the Night Visitors:
The child we seek holds the seas and the winds on his palm.
The child we seek has the moon and the stars at his feet.
Before him, the eagle is gentle the lion is meek.
On love, on love alone will he build his kingdom…
His might will not be built on your toil.
Swifter than lightning he will soon walk among us.
He will bring us new life and receive our death.
And the keys to his city belong to the poor.
This is the last Sunday in Revised Common Lectionary Year A with gospel readings mostly from Matthew. What does Matthew emphasize?
Matthew begins with Jesus' genealogy as the story of a new creation. Matthew's Jesus is God-with-us, from an angel instructing Joseph to name the baby Emmanuel (God with us), to the end of his narrative when Jesus promises to be with us always, and then sends his followers out as his presence in the world. Only Matthew brings us the flight into Egypt, where Jesus becomes a refugee. Matthew's Jesus is the new Moses and the new King David.
• This Outline and Review of Matthew's gospel is considerably longer than the above paragraph, but not full of endless details.
Reign of Christ / Christ the King
Every year the church's year of grace ends with the feast of Christ the King / Reign of Christ. Just as every Sunday is Easter, every Sunday acknowledges Jesus' reign and rule. Jesus reigns at the intersection of creation's need and human response. The world knows the fullness of the reign of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ when all creation experiences God's grace-filled abundance right here and right now.
This is Jesus' final address before his trial, conviction, passion, death, and resurrection.
31"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. 32Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, 33putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:35I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.'37-39"Then those sheep are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' 40Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'"
The Message (MSG) Copyright 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson
Royals and Rulers
Talk about royalty–kings, queens, duchesses, dukes, princesses and princes? Kingdoms and principalities? In this digital age we still see scandal sheets at the supermarket checkout. Social media teaser links and TV magazine shows love stories about royals, especially British ones, but have Harry and Meghan and Archie faded into near-oblivion? British royals particularly are well aware of their positions of service to the people. What about others in authority? What about Jesus' rule? How about ours?
Martin Luther reminds us if we want to see God's power, sovereignty, and lordship, look to the Bethlehem manger. Look to the Calvary cross. This Jesus, this Christ, rules against all ordinary human assumptions of power, glory, fame. Unlike other gods of the ancient near east, Jesus reveals a god not of a particular people and place, but a God for all people and all places. Jesus' authority and reign is one of servanthood. Our presence in the world as Jesus' hands, voice, eyes, and ears also is the way of service, the way of being and acting we sometimes call neighborology.
The sacraments model our everydays outside of our gathering around Word and Sacrament on Sundays and other feast days. The sending charge at the end of the liturgy often is something like, "The service is ended; our service begins" – "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." What about Jesus' rule? How about ours? Jesus serves at the intersection of creation's need and our human response. Even during COVID-tide, we discover Jesus in those around us. Exactly as Jesus explains in today's gospel reading, we serve Jesus by responding to the needs of our neighbors. And it gets reversed! In our presence among them, in our service to them, our neighbors meet Jesus. In us! Talk about royalty!
Next week we start a new year of grace with the first Sunday of Advent and the gospel according to Mark, Revised Common Lectionary Year B.