Last Pentecost in Year A – Time to Take Stock

Title:Last Pentecost in Year A – Time to Take Stock

 Eucharist on the River, Nov. 22 -(full size gallery)

The sycamores leaves have turned and most are on the trees. The river bank had been cut so there was more visibility.

We had 21 in the service on a mostly cloudy day. It was warm for November in the 60’s but the wind made it feel cooler.

The sermon used the Ephesians phrase “The eyes of our hearts!” as the basis with an illustration about Bill Pelke.

“The best way we could ever prepare for Jesus’s return is to open our hearts more and more widely as time passes. When we have the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we come to see with our eyes and know in the very depths of our hearts that other people are members of God’s family, and therefore, members of our family as well. People with enlightened hearts are people who act wholeheartedly from a place of loving kindness for all around them.

“What we do for others and with others matters deeply in God’s heart.
“So on this last Sunday of the old church year, the story Jesus tells about the judgement of the nations and the separation of the people causes us to look back and reflect.

“Have we lived in this past year as people of enlightened hearts? Have we been open hearted people?

“And the gospel passage also causes us to look ahead prayerfully to see how we might become more open hearted in the year to come.

“In today’s gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that only with the eyes of our hearts enlightened can we see that the creative power of God lives and moves in every part of the universe, in every piece of creation, and in every human being.

“So that hungry people, and thirsty people and strangers and naked people and sick people and people in prison all have the creative power of God moving in them, even if that creative power is all but snuffed out, due to the hardships and challenges of this life.

“And seeing with the eyes of our hearts, we can look beyond the things about these people that keep us from even wanting to reach out our hands in love to them.

Gospel reflection

This is a "summing up" Sunday as well as the last Sunday in Year A. Since last advent we have encountered Christ in many forms in the lectionary. Jesus as Good Shepherd, Jesus as Human and Divine, Jesus as King/Judge, Jesus as Teacher/Rabbi, Jesus as Sacrificial Victim, Jesus as Savior /Redeemer. King Eternal, Rule of the Jews and Gentiles, King of Kings, King of the Ages, King of the Earth.

We call this Sunday, "Last Pentecost" or "Christ the King."Christ the King Sunday was a Catholic idea. Pope Pius XI wanted to specifically commemorate Christ as king, and instituted the feast in the Western calendar in 1925. Pius connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. Secularism was on the rise, and many Christians, even Catholics, were doubting Christ’s authority, as well as the Church’s, and even doubting Christ’s existence. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. Ironically today in Adult Ed we concluded the "History of Christianity" which mentioned him.

The Gospel is the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Canon Lance Ousley of the Diocese of Olympia writes about this Sunda. "While a parable is always simply a parable and not a one-to-one literal analogy, Jesus paints a vivid picture of how an integrated life of Christian faith is lived in the world. Those who respond openly to the needs of others (both as individuals and as congregations), active in right-making in the world are living into the present reality of God’s kingdom being established on earth… The kingdom of God is ours for the living, but we must live into it to experience the joy in our lives. Outside of this, in a world wrought with unmitigated hunger, thirst, alienation, nakedness, disease, loneliness, and oppression, there are many tears and headaches from anxious grinding of teeth – disconnected from right-relationship in the world. Note, this is not about the King doling out punishment, but it is the eventual reality of a life lived without compassion for one’s fellow humanity. Jesus clearly connects the lives of those marginalized with being a part of the community of God’s beloved. Therefore, Jesus connects those given the responsibility of proclaiming and establishing God’s kingdom (the Baptized) with the relationship of meeting the needs of all whom God loves (read as, every person), especially "the least of these," stewarding our lives and resources for this kingdom work. Jesus simply is telling us, if we love him we will love everyone, even and especially."