On Ascension Day, with the readings from Luke and Acts in danger of being embalmed by archaism, the reading from Ephesians is a gift.
Season after Pentecost | Reign of Christ (Year A)
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; (Psalm 95:1-7a;) Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46
The humanitarian plight of Syrian refugees and the terrorist threat of ISIS seem likely to dominate the cable news channels for weeks to come. But it’s unclear whether Christian preachers will continue to discuss these issues now that the season of Advent has arrived. On the surface there is little connection between ISIS’s campaign of terror and a season that invites us to prepare for the return of Christ.
Isaiah 64:5 speaks to God, saying, “You were angry when we sinned; you hid yourself when we did wrong” (Common English Bible). It took me a long time to come to terms with the idea of God’s anger. In my own faith, the most helpful idea here is that God is slow to anger. If we forget that God is slow to anger, then God is reduced to a cruel monster out to get us. If we forget anger altogether, then God is reduced to a puppy dog who wants to lick our face no matter what terrible things we continue to do. Both God-the-monster and God-the-puppy-dog are idols: images of God that don’t match what the Bible says.
Ezekiel 34:21-22 provides a particularly poignant image of God the shepherd’s care for the “least of these”:
Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged.Reading these verses reminds me of a day several years ago, when our family visited a local petting zoo in Atlanta.
On Reign of Christ Sunday we praise the way that God has put "all things under his feet." Shouldn't we be worried about such a portrayal of absolute power?