welcome. why "weak on sanctification"?

this accusation is often made about lutheran christians. because we focus so strongly on god's justifying grace in christ, and our continual need, as "sinner-saints," to receive god's gifts of grace through word and sacrament, people say we are "weak on sanctification." i prefer to say we are strong on jesus, whose sanctifying work in our lives is the fruit of the gospel all along our lifelong journey. i would much rather focus on what he has done than on anything i might do.

the weekly discussion

each week I set forth a topic to promote discourse about some aspect of Christianity, the church, or the spiritual life. i would love to hear your perspective and thoughts on each week's subject. these discussions are usually posted on mondays, so if you missed this week's post and would like to catch up on the conversation, just scroll down and join us.

November 21, 2009

the lord's day—nov 22, 2009

25th sunday after pentecost
christ the king

today's lectionary readings
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

today's bach cantatas
bwv 60, "o eternity, you word of thunder"
bwv 26, "ah how fleeting, ah how long"

today's van gogh
the church at auvers, 1890

today's good news
today is "christ the king sunday," the final sunday in the church year.

this feast of worship is not some relic from medieval times, when kings ruled the earth. no, "christ the king sunday" is one of most recent additions to the church calendar. it was introduced in 1925 by pope pius XI as an antidote to the rising secularism that he saw in the world. europe was reeling from world war I, facing economic uncertainty, and witnessing the rise of dictators who were promising to make everything right. the pope saw people of faith being taken in by the earthly philosophies and false promises of such leaders. respect for jesus as lord and ruler of life was waning, and so pope pius instituted this feast with three hopes:
  1. that nations would see that the church is ruled by christ, and thus has freedom and is immune from the state;
  2. that leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to christ;
  3. that the faithful would gain strength and courage as we allow christ to reign fully in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies.
today's gospel reading from john 18 underscores this tension between christ, king and ruler of all, and the political and military rulers of this world. we may make the following observations from the conversation between jesus and the roman governor pilate—
  • pilate represents many who have power in this world. he shows little interest in religion; his life is taken up with practical matters of ruling. jesus doesn't fit into pilate's paradigm of what is important in the world. pilate wants as little bother as possible when it comes to religious matters, he seems only interested in solving problems and moving on.
  • jesus represents a realm quite different from earthly kingdoms. his kingdom is "not from this world." it is not protected by military might. it is characterized by devotion to "truth," by adherence to the realities of the true and living god who made this world, who rules over it, and who will bring the history that he is guiding by an unseen hand to its consummation when jesus returns to judge and reign over a new creation.
though jesus opens the door for pilate to respond by saying, "everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice..." pilate misses his opportunity and ends the conversation with a classic question common to skeptics—"what is truth?" in pilate's mind, the subject jesus has brought up is just part of a religious mind game; it has nothing to do with the practical realities of taking care of business the world.

you and i, however, know that is not true. though the world may scoff at groups of people coming together on a day like today, to hear a word from god about jesus our king and to partake in his royal sacrament, we know it is here in worship that we taste of another kingdom. we proclaim our loyalty to christ our king, and remember that he alone has the power to deliver us from our sins and make our world right. we also remember that the nature of his kingdom is not to rule over others from above but to serve them from beneath, and so we go out into the world and represent his kingdom as we share the good news of his love with our neighbors.

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