Reign of Christ Sunday is not
the most approachable lectionary theme. Should the focus be on the reign or the
one reigning? Should preachers assume each year that most people have no idea
why the feast exists? Is there a case for just glossing over it, preaching on
whatever suits you, and getting on with Advent?
Our eternal destinies hang on two phrases: “I was a stranger and you took me in” and “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me.” Jesus gives us two options when relating to strangers: we can welcome them into our lives or not. The Matthew 25 parable is about nations, not individuals.
In the marketing world, a high "Q score" means that an item or brand is
well known and regarded. I'm not aware that anyone rates biblical
passages in this way, but if you did, Matthew 25 would have to have one
of the highest Q scores—not far behind Psalm 23 at the top.
As we approach the season of Advent, we find Ezekiel being outrageous in true prophetic style. If we pride ourselves on being spiritual seekers, Ezekiel insists that it is God who seeks us out and not the other way around. Can’t we prize the maturity of knowing who we are and of finding communities where we feel at home? Ezekiel informs us that we are in fact so lost that God must take the trouble to find and rescue us.
As a child, I studied many different images of the Good Shepherd. I saw the official version every Sunday in the stained glass window above the altar at First Congregational Church in Tempe, Arizona. That shepherd was a tall, friendly-looking, 30-something man dressed in a full-length white robe. The image is probably the most familiar representation of the Good Shepherd. Yet the beautiful and peaceful image didn’t jibe with my own experience.