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The King We Didn’t Know We Wanted

More than a few years ago, when opening presents on St. Nicholas Day, Rachel said, “This is exactly what I wanted, and I didn’t even know!” The gift was an unexpected delight that caught her off-guard.

Sometimes I wonder if we are still open to being caught off-guard by God. 

When Jesus came, everyone was holding him up to the expectations of the Messiah, the promised king-prophet-priestly figure who would restore the nation of Israel to its former glory and God’s favor.  They were occupied and not favored in other nations’ opinions. It is hard to imagine their perspective when we live in the most powerful nation in the world that, though tarnished, is still a beacon to the rest of the world.

The nation of Israel was a vassal state within the Roman Empire.  They longed for someone who would set them free and restore the faith of their fathers. For anyone to hold Jesus up as the Messiah was to both put him in danger and to expect certain things of him.

Jesus offers his disciples something very different.  He offers the nation something different.  For his disciples Jesus offers true freedom, to live as child of God in the Kingdom of God.  And to the nation he offered a new reality as free nation by living as God’s people, God’s ambassadors and citizens, wherever and whenever they lived, in whatever circumstance they found themselves in.

To enter in they just had to go back to their original call as a people, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” God could be their king as God wanted all along, and all they had to do was be born again and live as God’s children.  They had to be reborn as God’s children and live under his rule before all others.  This would set them free from the bondages of life, the inward bondages to sin and death that we all know. They could live free.

But, of course, people would rather have Rome defeated and our team win.  Of course, we want our sins forgiven but not everyone’s sins.  We want to make our own choices, which sure, may fall along with the old patterns of subjugation and slavery, but we know the shackles better than the responsibility of choice.  We long for freedom, but not too much.

For some people though, and usually those with the least to lose, this freedom was worth everything.  They left their nets and fields, ovens and even their homes to follow Jesus and say, “We found what we were looking for, even though we didn’t know what we were looking for.”  Or as one Samaritan woman put it, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

As we get ready for another Advent and St. Nicholas Day is just around the corner (December 6!), be ready for God to surprise you.  You may get a king you didn’t even  know you wanted, the King of Kings. Be ready to enter his reign.

Sunday we transition from the last of Pentecost or Common Time in the church calendar with Christ the King Sunday.  The following Sundays are the four of Advent as prepare for the coming of Christ as Christmas.  A lot changes with these seasons, colors and liturgies reflect the changes of our lives. 

This Christ the King Sunday we will be inducting new Daughters of the King, women living the rule of Christ through a rule of life, and blessing our pledges for the upcoming year of Stewardship.  Don’t forget to get your pledge in by Sunday!

This year, of course, more will be changing here.  On December 4th, the Daughters of the King Quiet Day Retreat will mark my last chance to teach as your rector, then we will rejoice together at Evensong and the Advent Dinner that night, and Sunday December 5th we will have our last Sunday with Christ Church.  That service will include a little liturgy of letting go, marking the end of our pastoral relationship.  

A rector has a role to play in the life of a parish that is unique and that has been a blessing these last six years. We have weathered a lot and gotten this ship through long voyages and some rough waters.  We have seen new members and new births (I got to baptize 17 day old Luke O’Connor this past Sunday), and we have seen some losses and handed back to God some dearly beloved friends and family members.  We have read the Bible and worshipped and found a deeper knowledge of God’s grace and love. 

We have been reborn.  And we who are part of God’s Reign never really are apart, because God’s love binds us.  We will still be God’s children, citizens and ambassadors of his Kingdom, brothers and sisters; just no longer priest and parishioners.  Let us mark this time and God’s goodness together.


-daniel+

The Very Rev. Daniel Paul Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona