A letter has been written to the Church of the Brethren by Annual Conference moderator Carol Scheppard and general secretary David Steele, calling the church and its members to renewed discipleship to Jesus Christ on Christ the King Sunday, Nov. 20. The last Sunday of the church year, before the start of Advent, is called “Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ” Sunday and invites Christians to be reminded--before a season of waiting--of whom we await.
Here is the full text of the letter that has been sent to each district in the denomination:
Christ the King Sunday
November 20, 2016
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This Sunday is the last of the church year and is called Christ the King Sunday. Since the season of Pentecost the scripture passages of the lectionary have followed Jesus’ teaching and ministry. Now, on this last Sunday, we return to the theme that was proclaimed over Jesus as an infant--he is the savior of all nations. And as Mary proclaimed so boldly, he is the one to feed the hungry, care for the weak, and bring down the proud.
This year has been a difficult one, both within the church and in the culture around us. Within the church we have grieved the loss of leaders and the loss of community amidst contentious decisions. We have lived as faithful disciples as best we could, and yet at times we have failed to live up to Christ’s prayer that we may be one. At the same time, the culture around us has been mired in violence, fear, and hatred. This year in particular the electoral process has introduced an unparalleled rhetoric that sought to divide the nation in the name of victory.
On this last Sunday of the church year, we invite each one of us as disciples of Christ to return to our baptismal confession--Jesus is Lord!
As we once again proclaim the reign of Christ in all things, we come to know that our fear, grief, and anger are all rooted in our sinful nature. Yet, in proclaiming the Lordship of Christ we celebrate the very grace of Christ’s reign. As we read in Colossians, through Christ “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).
Under the reign of Christ, we are raised up from the roots of our sin, lifted from fear, grief, and anger, to take part in God’s ongoing reconciliation of all things. In Christ we are restored to the loving embrace of God and we are reconciled one to another.
To proclaim to the world that Jesus is Lord is not a head in the sand avoidance of the realities of sin around us, but rather a call to another way of living in the world. When we live as followers of the Christ King we seek the welfare of those on the margins, we advocate and protect the lives of the vulnerable, and we seek the well being of our neighbors. To say Jesus is Lord is a political statement, a truth made plain in all the prayers and lives of the martyrs. Yet, it is a political proclamation that sends us into the world as participants in God’s reconciling love.
On this coming Sunday, we invite all Brethren to renew their baptismal confession by asking the three profound questions that have been a part of our practice of the Lord’s Supper:
Are you in right relationship with God as you professed upon your baptism?
Are you in right relationship with your sisters and brothers in Christ?
Are you in right relationship with your neighbor?
Upon searching our hearts through these questions, we invite Brethren around the country to create spaces of hospitality and conversation with others. We hope that each of us will step beyond our church doors and seek out those in need, whether they are living from paycheck to paycheck or are in fear for their own safety. We ask that each of us build relationships with our neighbors and actively take part in the important work already underway in our communities to support people on the margins. For we know that as citizens of the Kingdom of God the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole selves, and that the second is like it, that we love our neighbors as ourselves.
When we live from these two great commandments, we stand within the world as embodied witnesses to the reconciliation of Christ and we boldly proclaim that Jesus is Lord!
Carol A. Scheppard
Annual Conference Moderator
Church of the Brethren
David A. Steele
Church of the Brethren
-- For more worship resources suitable for Christ the King Sunday, go to www.brethren.org/discipleship/one-people-one-king.html .