This Week In Between

Reign of Christ Sunday is hardly a household phrase, much less its earlier designation (begun in the 1920s), “Christ the King Sunday.” This is a special worship day – the end and climax of the entire Liturgical Year – that points to an important head-and-heart experience for a follower of Jesus. It celebrates the sovereignty and everlasting government of God, who rules over us with both power and love.1

Among Jews back in Jesus’ day (and I think today, too), the “kingdom of God” was an essential concept. It was a way of talking about living according to God’s “way” – living under God’s sovereignty in every aspect of a person’s life. In fact, it was so important to Jesus that one of our Christian Gospels, the Book of Luke, describes it as the focal point of everything he talked about when he went public.2 It’s a way of understanding everything people of faith are trying to do today, too.

In fact, Jesus continued to talk about God’s Reign. Matthew says we are to seek God’s Reign and God’s righteousness first, and everything else will follow.3

One thing is clear to me about God’s Reign: it’s not just the fact of God’s power over our lives as Creator, Redeemer and in all those other divine roles. It is also a way of living, the manner in which we travel our life journey, as well as where we want our lives to be headed.4 This prompts me to ask myself, “To what degree do the way that I relate to people, and the priorities of my energy and time, actually point to God’s Reign or Rule over my life?” This is not a scary question because (most of the time) I trust that God loves and cares for me. But it’s a continual question that calls for honesty in my relationship with God.

How does God rule over us? Not from a distant, cosmic throne, but from the cross – from enduring pain alongside us, experiencing suffering because he dares to care for the uncared for and unwanted. Those who look to Jesus find him exuberantly giving of himself in his daily relationships, humbly living a life of service to others, and embodying the kind of care for others that transforms people’s lives.

The thing is, God’s Reign is “both now and not yet.” We see it around us now, in individual, sparkling moments and when we are relating to and through a faith community.5 But God’s completed Reign or Rule is also shockingly far from being fulfilled. There will come a time (beyond our counting of time), when injustice, suffering, and sorrow will be no more.

So here we are now, in this week between celebrating the promise of God’s future Reign of Christ, and the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a whole, new circle of worship seasons here and now. This focus on God’s sovereignty and our way of living genuinely leaves us between the first Advent of Jesus’ coming as a vulnerable human being, and the final Advent (“coming”) when all will be fulfilled at the end of history.

In the meantime, we can look to Jesus to shape our life path. We can experience this week “to contemplate his sovereign glory, pledge afresh our loyalty and renew out longing for the fullness of his reign.” 6

Your partner in faith,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – For example, see Isaiah 9:6 and Daniel 2:44. Different versions of the Bible translate the word often as Kingdom but also as Reign, Rule, or Government. This last term may be familiar to many because of the great Christmas oratorio in Handel’s Messiah.
2 – Luke 4:43 says Jesus’ entire purpose was to “preach the good news of the Kingdom of God.”
3 – Matthew 6:33
4 – A book I’ll never forget from seminary days was The Way of Israel by the Old Testament scholar James Muilenburg. It says that “the way in which we walk” is a metaphor for the way we choose to live. More than what we say, how we live is the greatest witness to our faith.
5– Luke 17:20-21. Jesus’ statement here also emphasizes the importance of living in the midst of a faith community.
6 – Bobby Gross, Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God,, p. 316.