Lo! He comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of His train.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ the Lord returns to reign.
The last Sunday of the church year is this weekend, which also marks the end of the longest season of the church year, the season after Pentecost, or, Ordinary Time. We’ve been in Ordinary Time since way back at the beginning of June. Ordinary Time challenges us and our priorities, because it is a season that continually reminds us how we, as disciples, are called to follow Jesus in our lives and actions - in our ordinary lives. It continually asks the question: after all the amazing things God has done for us, what are we being called to give back to God?
We’re about to start the new church year with Advent, followed by Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. These are the seasons that once again turn our attention to the amazing things God does and has done for us. And the Sunday that provides the pivot between Ordinary Time and Advent is the “Reign of Christ” Sunday, coming right up. It is a Sunday that reminds us that although all summer we have been following the person, Jesus, he is also more than just a person, and has a cosmic kind of reign. In other words, this is no ordinary leader.
The lyrics of a hymn often used on this Sunday (above) come in part from our reading from Revelation this Sunday. (Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him - Rev 1:7) Now I’m going to admit, that I’m not expert on the strange book of Revelation. But one thing I do know about it is that through its imaginary, symbolic and often wild and poetic storytelling, it paints amazing images of the unseen glory that is simmering under the surface our corporate worship. John of Patmos wrote the Revelation to the earliest churches to encourage their liturgy and worship. It is full of imagery about angels and seraphim and heavenly creatures and scrolls and rivers and beasts. It is not logical. Not in the least.
As strange, and as often discomforting as the book of Revelation is, when I read it I’m reminded that even though we do very simple things together on Sundays - sing hymns, read Scripture, say prayers, confess, pass the peace, eat bread, drink wine - there’s something much bigger going on between us. We are enacting something out of time and space that we somehow embody and ‘re-member’ in our worship together that mystically brings God’s own powerful self among us. That’s not really very logical, either, I realize. But when we join together in worship, we are working at a level that is far deeper than the mind can grasp. We are enacting ancient rituals that join us together with all times and places, with all paradigms, all mystery.
That is pretty awesome. We bring our own, ordinary, conflicted selves into worship, and we pray ourselves right into the cosmic battle between good and evil, trusting God will bring us into light and healing. We bring our own, limited human ability to love with us into worship and pray ourselves into the unconditional and eternal love of God. We enter a single building made of stones and find ourselves in none other than the city of God.
So get ready to enter into the worship of God’s realm for the next few seasons, learning about God’s amazing acts toward us throughout history, by worshipping the reign of Christ the King.
Our readings for this Sunday are HERE. Note that in ordinary time we’ve been using the readings from “Track 2”