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The Call to Worship Based on Psalm 100
Muslims, [Jews], Christians, Pagans, Atheists
ALL: Gladly serve the good
Rejoice in the gift of life.
Highest above, deepest within
Around us in nature, present in each.
ALL: We are yours, You are ours
We enter your presence with Thanksgiving
With chants and songs
ALL: With grateful hearts and open hands
And know a flash of eternity.
Loving God we give you thanks for this time together. We are grateful for the access to technology that allows us to meet together. We acknowledge that we are privileged to have this opportunity. Open our hearts so that we may be in true communion with one another making a place for the in-breaking of the Christ into the world. Amen.
The Wisdom of A Course in Miracles
Christ’s Second Coming, which is sure as God, is merely the correction of mistakes, and the return of sanity. It is a part of the condition that restores the never lost, and re-establishes what is forever and forever true. It is the invitation to God’s Word to take illusion’s place; the willingness to let forgiveness rest upon all things without exception and without reserve.
It is the all-inclusive nature of Christ’s Second Coming that permits it to embrace the world and hold you safe within its gentle advent, which encompasses all living things with you.
A reading from the Gospel of Matthew (25.31-36, 40)
31“When the Son of Humanity comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed…inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me… Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral
Click on the audio bar below to hear the recording. Text follows.
Our gospel reading today reminded me of my childhood sitting in small Baptist churches in the rural south listening to my father preach sermons about Jesus coming back. These sermons, like our gospel reading, can scare a person to death. All this talk about Jesus descending on a cloud like some cosmic elevator and proceeding to separate us like sheep from goats. Let’s remember that when Matthew’s gospel was written people were still expecting Jesus to return triumphant and take his place as the king of the world.
This Sunday just before the beginning of Advent is called Christ the King Sunday. The writer of Matthew’s gospel did not yet have an understanding that the risen Christ is already here. Jesus himself told his disciples more than once that the realm of God already exists here on earth within our hearts. There’s no need to wait, the Christ is already here with us. And our first reading makes clear that the presence of Christ here with us has the power to wipe out all past mistakes, all error, it can literally repair the world.
The reading from the Course in Miracles also sets us off on the journey toward wholeness for ourselves, a wholeness that allows us to live out our calling to work for justice. That first step is forgiveness. Now forgiveness can be trap for us as Christians and perhaps particularly as progressive or liberal Christians. We see injustice all around us perpetuated in the name of the same God, the same Jesus, that we follow. And it’s sometimes difficult for me to restrain myself from becoming just ever so slightly self righteous in my indictments of those who I believe are misusing scripture, tradition, and reason. I sometimes feel that my Jesus, or my image of God is the RIGHT one and fail to take into account the diversity of humanity that imagines God in various ways.
This reading from the Course reminds us that to be part of the Advent of Christ, to really participate in Christ’s second coming we must find “the willingness to let forgiveness rest upon all things without exception and without reserve.” That says to me without elevating myself above the one I seek to forgive.
This quote by Louis B. Smedes said it best for me, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Learning to become willing to forgive is what releases us of the bondage of judgment and hatred. As we call to mind today the thousands and thousands of our transgender brothers and sisters who have been the object of hatred and misunderstanding for millennia, let us take a moment to consider these beloved of God who’s only crime is to dare to refuse to conform to the constructed gender norms in society. Gay men, bisexuals, heterosexuals, and lesbians do not always stand up for the rights of our transgender siblings. And I want to say very clearly here today, that we are duty bound to work for justice on their behalf.
Our gospel lesson today is very clear. Where we have privilege we are to use that privilege to help others. Period. That means if we can work to alleviate hunger in the world, we are to do that. And if we enjoy civil rights for ourselves, we are duty bound to work for the civil rights of everyone and that surely includes our Transgender siblings
Even as we work against oppressive and violent forces in the world this topic of forgiveness is very close to my heart at this point in my life. For reasons I cannot explain this coming holiday season is very different for me than the past two decades plus have been. I can feel the joy of the season already. And the dawning of the Advent season of the church is very much on my mind.
This year I want to learn what it means to prepare myself, my internal private self, for the Advent of the Christ. Our gospel lesson provides us with a list of actions that will bless our lives and set us free from the bondage of judgment and self importance that most of us live in day to day. Making sure that we work to ensure that everyone has food, clean water, clothing, shelter, access to healthcare is our work as Christians. And we are called to welcome the stranger and visit those in prison. No where does it say that we are to make distinctions about which strangers or which prisoners.
This Thanksgiving and Advent season my prayer for all of us is that we can exercise our will and be given the grace to really KNOW that all people are equal. ALL people deserve to be treated with dignity, even those who have lost the capacity to treat others with dignity. It is our task to find that place within us that knows that each and every person is worthy of God’s love and the promise of freedom from the bondage of hatred.
This isn’t easy this week as the news from Israel details a terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, more beheadings by ISIS, the war in Syria raging on, and peace talks and negotiations stalling. I have no magic potions or easy answers. But I do know that I am duty bound to do my best to right whatever injustices I see around me and remember the words of the Talmud, Pirket Avot 2:21 Rabbi Tarfon says, “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it either.” We are not expected to make everything in the world right, we are simply compelled to do what we can where we can. This is my prayer for all of us as we stand on the edge of this Advent season. It is, I believe, the path to a truly happy life.