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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The Readings for Sunday, November 21, 2010:

First Reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm: Psalm 46

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Luke 1:68-79

Second Reading: Colossians 1:11-20

Gospel: Luke 23:33-43


Today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, which is the last day of our liturgical calendar. The readings are familiar: we're back in the land of Good Friday, with our king crucified on a cross. Perhaps not the image we'd expect for Christ the King Sunday, but those of us who have been reading through this cycle (either for the first time or for the umpteenth time) will be familiar with these strange twists of imagery, with the upheaval of all our expectations.

I have always loved the cyclical nature of the lectionary, with its readings that loop around and remind us that all of life is cyclical. When I'm having a bad day (or week or month), it's important to remember that everything can change. When I'm having a good day (or week or month), it's important to express profound gratitude and to try not to dread the next downturn too much. With every downturn comes an upturn. The life of Christ shows us this.

Christ's life shows us that being king requires something different for a believer. It's not the worldly experience of kings, who are venerated and obeyed. Being a Christian king requires humbling ourselves and thinking of others before we think of ourselves. But our rewards are great. If we could emulate Christ's behavior, we'd have a wonderful community here on earth, and whatever we might experience in the afterlife would just be icing on the cake. We'd have already had a taste of heaven right here on earth.

Maybe we feel grumpy as the holiday season approaches. Maybe we've had a season of sorrow, and we can't quite manage to feel festive. Maybe we're tired of humbling ourselves and we'd like someone to humble themselves for us.

Well, here's some good news. Someone already has. Maybe in this season of thankfulness, we can concentrate on our good fortune, even if we don't feel it. We're alive to see the sunrise and the sunset, some of the best shows on earth, and they're free! Even if we don't have as much money as we'd like, there's always someone who is in worse shape (and if we give some of our money away, we won't feel as constricted about money. Trust me. If you're feeling tight and pinched, now is the time to return to tithing). If we are having trouble keeping everything in perspective, maybe it's time to volunteer at a food bank or an animal shelter--or if we're not into organizational activities, we could do our part to pick up litter. We could smile at the janitorial staff. We could thank them for cleaning the communal bathrooms.

If we start working on our spirit of gratitude, the gift of generosity often follows. If we pray for those who need our prayers, our hearts start to open. If we work on forgiveness, our spirit soars. And soon we realize what it means to celebrate Christ the King Sunday.

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