Depending on what calendar you consult, this coming Sunday has some different meanings. On most calendars it’s “the Sunday before Thanksgiving” but on the liturgical calendar, or “Church year calendar”, it is known as “Christ the King/Reign of Christ” Sunday. In essence, it is the last day of one liturgical year, as the next Sunday, November 30, begins a new liturgical year with the First Sunday in Advent.
So, will we celebrate “The Sunday before Thanksgiving” or “Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday?” The answer is, we will celebrate both! Our service will include the Harvest of Offerings, during which worshipers process forward, bringing their weekly offering, time and talent sheets, and financial pledges for 2015. We will also bring forward gifts of food for People Helping People and/or checks to help PHP provide Thanksgiving turkeys for local families in need. As we do all that, we will be expressing our deep Thanksgiving for the Presbyterian Church of Burlington and all it means to us, but we will also be expressing our gratitude to God for the gift of Jesus Christ.
Our Old Testament Lesson, Deuteronomy 8: 6-17, will tell us of God’s commandment to the Hebrew people about how they (and we) should express our Thanksgiving.
Our New Testament lesson will probably surprise you: Luke 23: 32-34, 39-42, which is about Jesus’ crucifixion. What does Jesus on the cross have to do with Thanksgiving or even with “Christ the King/Reign of Christ.”. The answer is, it has everything to do with Thanksgiving to God–and everything to do with the kind of King that Jesus is. Jesus speaks twice during the lesson, the first time in prayer to God when he says “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”. The second time Jesus speaks is after the dying thief next to him says “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus then says, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The Rev. Dr. David Lose, President of the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia tells how our Thanksgiving is related to Christ the King: “What kind of king is this, who welcomes a criminal into his realm and promises relief and release amid obvious agony? It is a king who refuses to conform to the expectations of this world, who will be governed neither by its limited version of worthiness nor its diminished understanding of justice. It is a king who is not content to rule from afar, but rather comes to meet us in our weakness and need. It is a king willing to embrace all, forgive all, redeem all, because that is his deepest and truest nature. It is, finally, our king, come to usher us into his kingdom even as he implores us to recognize and make more manifest that kingdom already around us.”
My sermon will be “On a First Name Basis with the King”, and we will show our thanksgiving for that king by presenting our gifts, our time and talents, and our contributions so that all God’s children may be fed.