Sunday Before Christ the King

The changing, growing, dying, rising of the year are marked with the earth’s living breath. Seasons color our lives and make us part of it. There are seasons in the church, too. Sights smells sounds and stories bring us round the year and back again. Some things are constant like the sweet taste and smell of communion wine, the sounds of music and voices blending together, the words of the liturgy and prayers. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And yet so much does change as seasons move us forward. The church year tells the story of the life of God and our life with him. It is an emotional, spiritual and mental journey that becomes a part of your heart and mind and even, if you will let it, a part of the very fiber of who you are. We have come to the end of the church year. In fact, next Sunday, Christ the King Sunday, is kind of like the ‘new year’s eve’ of the church. And the year begins afresh with Advent.

Leaves turning colors.
Crows cawing at me in the parking lot.
Where are you getting pecans for holiday baking?
Frost on the ground in the mornings outlining dying leaves with a crisp, white line.
Mountains have changed out of their lush green robes and into yellows, reds, oranges and stately browns.
Clearly marked is the turning of the year.
Halloween candy is nearly gone.
Thanksgiving is chasing quick on our heels.
Small rings of smoke crown houses on my street.
Smell of the ancient earth and dampness from raking leaves.
In Advent we anticipate.
We await the coming of our Lord.
Coming as tiny helpless baby born to Mary.
Coming again to complete the renewing of all the earth.
We light candles to watch for the messiah.
Wrapped snugly in manger and riding high upon clouds.
Blues and purples fill days of mystery and wonder.
We delve deeper into darkness of fall and winter.
God shines his light of hope even brighter.

Christmas follows—the Festival of the Incarnation!
Immanuel—God with us!
Joy! The priceless gift of the Son of God!
Angels from the realms of glory sound their trumpets in celebration!
White and gold cover the altar to honor this great returning of God.
Chrismon tree glitters with golden ornaments rich in symbols of names and titles of the One.
Wise Men seek the child, bringing gifts.
Incense that surely filled the room with fragrance.
Exotic, thick, mysterious, prophetic.
Gold fit for a king of kings.
We are made hopeful: this child is for us, too.
This child is for all of us.
The Epiphany: ah ha of God-for-us shines.
Brilliant stars in the ever lengthening night sky.
Rising sun making diamond dust out of snow.
Beneath the other gifts for the Child is the myrrh.
Bitter death perfume for the tomb.
What a gift for a child! A foreshadowing.

The wheel of the year turns.
Days begin almost imperceptibly to grow longer.
The earth, as if knowing what lies ahead, cannot wait to share it.
It is Ash Wednesday and light in the world gently, slowly increases.
Lent begins our descent into penance and richer, fuller meanings.
This baby, now grown man.
Journey of 40 days in the wilderness.
Our road, deep purple, begins with cross-shaped ashes.
Baptismal cross of Christ marked on faces.
Visible to all the world.
Remember o mortal, you are dust and unto dust you shall return.
Palm Sunday.
Light spring air smelling like fresh grass and melted snow.
Warming earth all around.
We stand outside, palm branches waving.
Hymns of triumph—but a triumph as yet unfulfilled.
This is as much preview of royalty as spring is hint of summer’s thriving glory.
And yet.
There is more in this story before real triumph is here.
It is Maundy Thursday and the worship area is cruelly stripped.
All adornment, gone. All celebration, gone.
Seemingly all hope, gone. The altar is bare.
The sanctuary is vulnerable and empty.
Good Friday arrives. Black on the cross.
Stark contrasts with Palm Sunday are palpable.
The tomb closes round.

Suddenly, it is Easter!
White and Gold drape the altar as rivers of light and hope.
Halleluiahs and lilies fill the air.
Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Halleluiah!
And the Halleluiahs echo on for a very long time.
The wheel of the year turns again.
Through heat of Summer when the whole world seems buzzing, humming, blasting life.
Pentecost explodes like wind and fire!
Spirit blows through the church: filling, calling, gathering.
Brilliant red on the altar turns to green.
Color of growing things. Of life and hope.
Season of the Church, as it is called.
Season of the church, growing lush green.
Innumerable shades of green growing throughout the ancient mountains rising all around us.
Even as those mountains begin to dress in first gold and red, then brown.
A color-slide down the hills.
Even as the winds get just a little cooler once more.
Butternut squash and corn and pumpkins are ready.
Even as the great round Harvest and Hunter’s moons declare again the turning of the year.
Even so, the church remains green.
Evergreen, like our God.
Ever growing, roots deep in dark, rich earth.
Nights lengthen and light is more and more precious, golden, fleeting.
Trick or treaters and tons of candy and costumes.
It’s All Saints’ again.
Lighted candles warm the sanctuary and our hearts.
Aroma of burnt tapers, extinguished.
Salty tears on cheeks, awaiting the hand of the Lord to wipe them all away.
To make all things new.
Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord, keep watch take heart.

It is the church’s New Year’s Eve again.
The wheel of the year turns.
Winds grow colder, nights longer, but hope stronger.
Light one candle to watch for Messiah.
Pray: O come O come Emanuel! Ransom us!
With anticipation and excitement, mark off the days because He is coming!
Coming as tiny baby in the manger and coming in clouds descending.
Coming again in dark, cold night.
In star filled sky.
In gold and incense of wise men.
In greening up the mountain.
In ash marking foreheads and the purple Lenten journey.
Coming again out of the myrrh scented tomb to walk in lilies and brilliant summer riot of color.
In wind and fire and ever-green growing church.
Coming again to wipe away all tears.
Coming again to make all things new.

this is the basis for, though not the entire substance of, the sermon for 11/14/10 pentecost 25

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