Reign of Christ 2017 Where Were You Lord
November 26, 2017
based on Matthew 25: 31-46
This is the last Sunday of this church year and in Anglican churches we mark this day as “The Reign of Christ” also known in some churches as “Christ the King” Sunday. This special day was “instituted by the Roman Catholic Church in 1925 to celebrate the all-embracing authority of Christ”1, and the Anglican Church agreed in principle with the idea and so adopted it. “Since 1970 (the Reign of Christ Feast Day) has been kept on the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent.”2 So this is a feast day in our BAS. But, you won’t find it listed in the BCP. And who says things never change in church land? This Sunday is listed in the BCP as the Sunday Next before Advent. In the old tradition of the Church of England, this Sunday was nicknamed ‘Stir Up Sunday’, which came from the Collect for this day beginning with the original 1549 Church of England Prayer Book. The collect is the opening prayer said at the beginning of the Eucharist Service, so called because it ‘collects’ up the theme of the readings for the day into the introductory prayer to the service.
And the collect for the Sunday Next Before Advent? From page 259 of the BCP. ‘ Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Mouthful, isn’t it?
And guess what else traditionally happened on Stir-up Sunday in good English households? The Christmas pudding was made—five weeks apparently being just about the right amount of time for a good fruit pudding to age — in rum or brandy, to keep it from spoiling while it aged! The Christmas pudding was made after the family returned home from Church. And if made in true tradition, the pudding was made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the disciples. The mixture was always stirred from East to West in honour of the 3 Wise Men. Each person in the family would take a turn at stirring, and make a secret wish. 3 The British Christmas pudding is the origin for our North American styled Christmas Cakes. In honour of Stir Up Sunday, we’re not making Christmas pudding at coffee hour after church, but I did bring in some Christmas cake for with your coffee!
Today we celebrate this last Sunday of the church year as the Reign of Christ. Our gospel reading from Matthew reflects Christ’s Kingship—the son of Man coming in his glory, surrounded by angels, sitting on the throne of his glory. This selection of scripture is a reading with so much in it, it is so complex, it could conceivably take a month of sermons to get really unpack it all. This story is near the end of Matthew’s gospel. It’s as though he wants to sum up all the teachings he’s been writing down for those in his community who are learning to be disciples of Christ, before he tells the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. Now, Matthew’s audience was made up mostly of Jews. So Matthew naturally uses images from the Hebrew scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, so as to put Jesus into a frame of reference his readers can understand; like putting Jesus in their context. Much like I try to do for you each week. In Matthew’s gospel, ‘son of man’ is a term Jesus used to describe himself. So gives Matthew brings to his readers an image that was familiar to them, an image of the Son of Man from the book of Daniel (7: 13-14):
I saw one like the son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
Also recall that Matthew is the “Kingdom of Heaven” writer, and when there’s a kingdom, well, it needs a king!