Today marks the last Sunday in the church year.
How has this past church year gone for you?
Do you feel closer to God?
Did God teach you some new insights?
Did the Holy Spirit move your heart to love others in deeper ways?
Did you learn some new lessons from the Bible?
Do you feel that God is working in your life in some new ways?
Is God speaking to you even now in some profound ways?
How has this past church year gone for you?
The poet Annie Dillard once said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
Through the church year we spend our time together by remembering the life of Christ.
During the church year we remember yes, but we also walk with our Lord as we remember, for we believe that he is with us even now, as we recall his birth, his teachings, his miracles, his love, his forgiveness, his death, and his resurrection.
During the church year we worship our Lord as we follow him through the changing seasons of the church year.
Today the church year comes to an end. Next Sunday will mark a new season in the church year. Beginning next Sunday we begin once again a new journey with our Lord.
The next church year begins with the season of Advent. During Advent we await the coming of our Lord as he comes to us as a baby on Christmas.
But for now, for this Sunday we remember how Jesus was forced to testify before Pilate. On this day we anticipate his eventual death on the cross.
It seems a difficult way to end the church year. Jesus before Pilate, Jesus anticipating his death on the cross, Jesus suffering on the cross.
Why would we not end the church year with the resurrection or at the very least a healing story or maybe a miracle story.
No, instead each and every year on Christ the King Sunday we hear the Scripture lesson of Jesus preparing to die on the cross.
For me this Sunday is a great reminder and it is a reminder for each one of us here today of Jesus’ faithfulness to us. At the end of his life Jesus was faithful to us even to the point of death on the cross.
Last Sunday we heard the Bible reading of Jesus talking about the end times and how life will be hard and that there will be struggles. The Scripture reading for last week from the Gospel of Mark ended with little hope for us.
But today’s reading from John one week later points to a central teaching of Christianity. A teaching and a truth that is so amazing that it continues to stir our hearts even today some two thousand years later.
Jesus was and is willing to give his life for you and for me.
His love for us was that strong -even to the point of death. Jesus’ love for us is unconditional. Now I think that that is a hard theological truth for us to understand.
Our love for others is often very conditional. I love you but… I love you if you are a certain way. I love you unless you upset me.
I love you but if you do what I say. I love you if… and you can fill in the blank. Our love for others is often very conditional.
Rarely do we show unconditional love to other people. Our love is conditional. But not Jesus’ love for us. Jesus’ love is not dependent on our actions.
Jesus’ love is not dependent on what we do.
His love is unconditional. He loves us no matter what. His love is always there even if at times we do not feel it or even want it… Jesus’ love continues for us. He remains faithful to us.
He certainly is a true king and more than that he is our savior.
In Jesus giving his life for us he asks us now to voluntarily give our lives for others.
Jesus now calls us to volunteer our lives for the work of discipleship -to follow him, to walk with him each and every day, each and every week, each and every month, each and every year.
One of the radical things about Christian discipleship is that it is a volunteer position. Jesus asks and then we respond to him. Jesus knocks on our door and we decide if we are going to open the door or not.
It is what theologians call -free will. We have the freedom to choose Christ or not. It is a different theological idea to explain.
God does what? God gives us free will? What does that mean?
I wish I could tell you but the truth is that we must find out for ourselves what that means.
You must find out for yourself through self-discovery what it means for you to follow Jesus through the year.
I cannot tell you what that journey will mean for you.
I wish I could but I cannot the most I can do is to continue to speak to you about the Scriptures and to remind you that God is faithful.
I can recall when I was starting out in seminary in Dubuque, Iowa feeling the tremendous gravity and the weight of the call to professional ministry. In response to my uneasiness I spoke with a professor at the seminary about this.
I don’t think I will ever forget what he told me. To my concerns he said to me, “Tom, if God is truly calling you to become a pastor then it is important to honor that call.”
Through my own searching I discovered that when God speaks we are to honor what God is saying. God speaks to each one of us in different ways.
How is God speaking to you? What might God be wanting to say to you in the new church year?
How can you honor the voice of God in your own life? How will you respond to this great gift of freedom in your own life?
As the days continue to get colder and shorter this is a perfect time of the year to do some reflection. To think about what God is doing in your life and how you might deepen your walk with Jesus.
In the end no one can give you a sufficient understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. We must find out for ourselves as the Spirit speaks to you.
As you walk with Jesus remember that Jesus is with us even to the end of the age.
He is our constant companion. Remember that as you walk with Jesus you need not walk with him alone, God has given us community to share life with Jesus together.
I was reminded of this truth this past week as we joined with our brothers and sister in Christ for the community Thanksgiving service.
It was a powerful gift of the Holy Spirit to move across three churches in such a way as to bring us all together.
Our collective voices singing and praising God within a full church was a visible reminder that we walk together.
During worship there were several moments were the presence of God in that place was palpable and very real.
And as we closed our time together with the hymn: Great is Thy Faithfulness I was reminded once again that God is faithful that God’s love for us is indeed unconditional.
May the coming new church year be a blessing for us as we rejoice together in the faithfulness of God and as we find joy in the love of Jesus.