I want to take you back. Back to this time almost a year ago. Back to the first Sunday of Advent in 2016 which was the start of the annual pilgrimage we make through the Christian year. Do you remember what I said that Sunday? Of course you don’t .. I had to look it up to remember. But whilst you might not remember what I said .. I hope this morning to help you feel it again. To feel the same call to the same kind of life I invited you to participate in. Let us journey back to where the year started and the message we heard.
I talked at the start of our Christian calendar 12 months ago about the importance of looking forward .. we set off on a journey towards and with Jesus. Just as the people of God throughout the generations have done each year before us. A journey which began with a message of hope!!
I wonder has it been easy for you to remain hopeful this year? Think for a moment about the things that have taken place this year .. the events .. all that has happened to you and those you love.
Think about it in terms of the journey of the Church and all we have celebrated together. The pilgrim people of God journeying through the expectation of Advent .. the joy and celebration of Christmas .. the wonder of Epiphany when the wise men declare Jesus is sent from God for all people … the stillness and reflection of Lent .. the despair and darkness of Holy Week .. the fear and abandonment of Easter Saturday .. the power and freedom of Easter day .. the understanding of all that follows in the events of Ascension and Pentecost and the birth of the Church … and now to a moment of celebration that Christ is King and comes with power to unite us in an eternal Kingdom with all who have gone before and will come after us. It’s been emotional!
I wonder do you feel you have made this journey this year? Have you been committed to the paths and patterns of pilgrimage with Christ and His people? Does it feel like you have remained committed to the pilgrimage we acknowledged and all that we hoped for in the looking forward of Advent this time last year? Has the Church calendar been at the heart of your personal journey?
The wonderful thing about the Church calendar is that it is simply a symbol of our personal journey through life … what I mean is that each year through the rituals and events of the Church calendar we are called to remember the essence of our life rather than be caught up in the distractions of the world we live in. When we think about it we will all look back and feel we have fallen short of God’s purposes. We have all missed possibilities and opportunities. We all feel shame and a sense of incompleteness when we think of what could have been.
But this is why the Church year is there. To allow us to start all over again next week with a new Advent and to try and do better. We will start the journey once more for perhaps our 43rd time, or 65th, or 96th time. But it is in the symbols of the calendar that we are reminded and recalled each year to remember the reality of our lives. In the rituals of each year we are provoked not to forget the true reality that life is a pilgrimage! And that we are pilgrims and sojourners not residents in this world. The repetition of the calendar is the sign of God’s grace to us that we always have another opportunity. And of course it is always God’s grace that is at the heart of our lives throughout.
That truth is central to the message in our readings from the Bible today. It is a message which says to us yes you are scattered sheep in this world, but there is a shepherd who calls you together to lead you on your journey. A shepherd who will one day see you return return through the Gate of Death to the peace of everlasting life in good and safe pasture.
This morning we celebrate Christ as King. A day when our rituals point towards the reality of Christ’s authority to judge our world. And yes there is talk of judgement and punishment in this moment. It is talk which no doubt disturbs us and concerns us I am sure. Especially when we have said we all fall short of what we would want to be. But all we can do is remember what kind of King it is who will pronounce judgement over this world…
A king of Glory .. A king of Peace .. A king of Justice but above all .. A king of Love
All judgement is meted out in pursuit of peace … and indeed the judgement we have heard from our King on the cross already spoken into history is ‘forgive them Father’!!
I invite you this morning at the end of the Church year to celebrate the promised end to our journey .. a promised end which declares we have nothing to fear and much to be hopeful about!
And I invite you to journey once again from next week through the ups and downs of the Christian calendar with us at Church. Make it your priority in the coming 12 months to observe the rituals and events of the Church so that you might be reminded of the realities of life. One day we will no longer need rituals to sustain in us the hope of Christ as King for it will be our real experience .. until then let us journey through the rituals of the year together in order to remind us of the sacred, life giving message of God to our world. Ours is a pilgrimage , and though we might travel through the valleys and the shadows we need not fear, for our destination is towards a King who loves us and welcomes us into the gates of His Kingdom with great Joy!