A reflection on the readings for Christ the King, Last Pentecost
The other day I was doing some work around the church building. It was quiet and I was all alone. Suddenly I heard a scrambling sound and went to investigate. Down the hall from my office, I came upon a squirrel. The squirrel froze in place and looked me in the eye. Without comment the squirrel turned and bounded down the hall, tail switching. He took a left toward the entrance to the parking lot, and then because the doors were closed, circled through Bobs office and then back down the hall the other way toward the church. Following it I closed interior doors along the way, minimizing its options. I opened the exterior doors hoping the fresh air would guide it outside. I finally arrived in the church where I found the squirrel hiding under a pew in the choir loft. It scampered past me down the stairs and into the church hiding under pews in the front couple of rows. Around and around we went; me and the squirrel. Jan arrived and we worked together to minimize the direction the squirrel could take. Suddenly it went out the door, down the hall, and down the stairs toward Chapel Day. Then, suddenly there it was, behind me once again, heading toward the church. With a swish of its tail it made it a right hand turn out of sight. The last I saw of it, the squirrel was jumping off the ramp into the grass.
I'm grateful the squirrel found its way out the door I propped open. I really didn’t want to lose it in the building, call animal control and set traps, or worry about what mischief or harm might ensue from its captivity.
Since Pentecost we have been in the season of Ordinary Time, also known as the Season after the Pentecost. Today we celebrate the last day of this season and of the liturgical church year – which is known as “Christ the King.” Christ the King is a relatively new feast day established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a response to increasing dictatorships in Europe, the end of World War I, and the church’s loss of power.
The feast was initially set for the last day in October, the day before All Saints Day. Later, in 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the feast to the last Sunday before Advent. Placing it on a Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year increased its importance.
The feast day was created to remind people that salvation comes through Christianity. However, now, in an increasingly global world, this concept is complicated.
Perhaps it helps to know that every tradition claims - at least in principle - that salvation comes through that particular faith. Hindus see Jesus as a manifestation of the timeless Brahman; Buddhists claim the universality of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path; and Muslims freely interpret Hebraic and Christian scriptures in light of Allah’s revelation to Mohammed. [i]
Claiming Christ the King - in the context of other world religions - reminds us that God reveals God’s self in the world in many ways. Different cultures and ages experience the divine in unique ways.[ii]
By the creativity in the world around us,it seems that God loves diversity. Take for example, the many different kinds of squirrels, which come from a rodent family called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are divided into five subfamilies, with about 58 genera and some 285 species. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa.
We have some very brave squirrels around the church property – not only the one that found its way into the church, but a whole variety of tree squirrels, chipmunks, and woodchucks that live in the backyard of the rectory and entertain us endlessly with their antics.
Variety is an expression of God’s self –in creation, of which squirrels are just a tiny example - and in the varieties of religions and religious experience.
In light of global world religions and cultural diversity what can we claim on this feast day of Christ the King?
Our scripture readings this morning remind us that God’s love for us and all creation is formed in an everlasting covenant of love and compassion. God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. As Christians we know God’s love as it is manifested in and through the life of Jesus. Jesus expresses God’s love in acts of compassion for all people.
Today we come to the end of our year of learning what it means to know God’s love in Jesus through the lens of the Gospel of Mark. Since Advent last November, we have read Mark, and we have pondered the question Mark’s Gospel seems to address – “Where do we find God?”
Where have you found God this last year?
In what act of compassion has God been revealed to you?
When were you the hands and heart of Christ to another?
[i] Bruce Epperly, The Adventurous Lectionary: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2012/11/the-adventurous-lectionary-the-reign-of-christ-sunday/