2021-11-21 Christ the King Sunday
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Many years ago now, Regan and I went on a little short term mission trip along the west coast of British Columbia. We took the “Queen of the North” Ferry from Prince Rupert down to Port Hardy through the glorious inside passage. It was indeed a beautiful trip. There are unbelievable waterfalls cascading down the mountains and from the ship’s deck you can see whales and dolphins and seals swimming in the ocean. It truly is a sight to behold. Imagine our amazement when about six months after we took that majestic ferry ride, on March 26, 2006, she sailed off course, ran aground and sank! A 17,636 pound ship smashed into Gil Island and went under, taking two people down with it. When the crash was investigated, it was deemed to be blamed on human error, specifically the helmswoman who was at the wheel of the ship as well as the ship’s second and fourth officers who were in charge of navigation. It remains somewhat of an “unsolved mystery.” No official accountability for the crash was ever brought forward, and one is left to speculate what that crew was doing on that night shift watch – were they on drugs, were they drinking or did they just simply fall asleep? We may never know the truth.
Staying awake and alert can be a very difficult task sometimes. And usually, it is very important that we do so, lives may even be depending on it, as they were the night that the Queen of the North sank. Jesus urges His followers to “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come” (MK 13:33). He is referring to the end times, that great and terrible Day of the Lord when our Lord will return to earth “coming in clouds with great power and glory” – such a different image than that of what we will soon consider in Advent and Christmas with the Christ child mildly sleeping in a manger! Soon we will behold this image of baby Jesus and treasure it in our hearts, but today we must be alert and mindful of the Second Coming of Christ. “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me,” declares Jesus in Revelation, “to repay everyone for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).
Christ Jesus is on His way, coming soon, and we “do not know when the time will come.” What this warning is supposed to do is make us prepared and alert and watchful – not in a sense of fear or anxiety, but in joyful expectation! However, it seldom works out this way. The world laughs and mocks this warning. And even Baptized Christians forget these words of Jesus and become more focused on temporal matters – phone bills, hair appointments, and satellite TV. We become more like the grasshopper from Aesop’s fable who spent the summer singing away and lounging around while his friend the ant worked hard to store up food for winter. When the snow flies, the grasshopper finds itself dying from hunger and the ant offers nothing but a stern rebuke! No sympathy is extended to that miserable, selfish, evil grasshopper. He flaked away the summer like a fool, and now he’s getting what he deserves! He’s reaping what he sowed! He’s getting what’s comin’ to him!
St. Paul too mentions it in Galatians “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:7-9). It’s the “if” part of that last verse that causes us some anxiety. It should cause us to be mindful of the Lord’s warnings in scripture to not grow complacent about our faith and His promise to return. It should cause us to be alert and not “asleep at the wheel.” It should cause us to “Stay awake!” spiritually speaking, recognizing our sin and need for God’s forgiveness.
We get sucked in to thinking that we have lots of time. Jesus said He’s “coming soon” – 2000 years ago. So we figure that we’ve got time! We can live for ourselves, we can live for today. I’ll have time to repent later. I can seek God’s kingdom tomorrow, or next week, or sometime when I get around to it. This is how faith erodes like the topsoil in the dirty thirties, bit by bit it is carried away. And soon, the soil becomes hard, dried up and useless for growing anything. And then, it’s suddenly too late to dig it up and make it fertile again. This is how Christ’s coming will be. Make no mistake – God is merciful and patient, yet we are warned that there is a season for everything under the sun and God’s long-suffering will eventually grow short. The end of the church year brings a message of “will we repent before it’s too late?” Will we get our priorities straight before we have no time left? Will we reap our own self-absorbed sinful corruption or will we reap from the Holy Spirit eternal life?
We do very well to heed our Lord’s warning and “stay awake!” spiritually speaking. We do very well to “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 21). We just never know when Christ will come back or earthly life as we know it will cease. We just don’t know if we will slip on the ice and wind up in a coma. We don’t know if we will be driving down the highway and have a deadly crash. We don’t know about the day when we might choke on our lunch. We don’t know when that tiny little blood clot will get lodged in a blood vessel. Life is filled with the unknown and uncertainty! And it can be very frightening indeed. Yet the Gospel message is one of hope, it is one of waiting on the Lord and His mercy, shown once and for all on the cross and in the empty tomb. This victory in the Gospel is what quells all our our fears.
St. Jude reminds us to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” We have many, many members in our congregation who have forgotten Christ’s promise and have let the world lull them to spiritual sleep – and what will amount to eternal death. Will it be too late for them? Will they return to the Lord “saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (LK 18:13)? Will they put aside their sin and kneel before Christ the coming King in repentance? All we can do is pray in the Holy Spirit and gently remind them – and ourselves – that “Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2Cor 6:2).
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25).