“Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts.” — Thomas Aquinas
Today is the last Sunday in this church year. When we gather next Sunday, I will wish you a happy new year, as I did on the first Sunday of Advent last year. This is the Sunday when the story comes around to complete the circle.
I remember how confused I was on my first Christ the King Sunday in the Episcopal Church. As most of you know, I was raised and formed at First Baptist Church in Archer City. When David and I met and started dating here in Wichita Falls, he was attending the Disciples of Christ church over by Midwestern State University. David is a cradle Episcopalian; he used to bicycle himself to church for some of the early services when it was his turn to acolyte. When he moved here, someone had told him about the Diocese of Ft Worth – not ordaining women, being out of step with the rest of TEC – so he went to church with his friends. One of the doctors in town was a childhood friend, their moms were lifelong friends, and David had moved here partially because of that friendship. After David and I met, we moved to Lewisville and tried out different churches. I had no desire to return to my Southern Baptist roots. We tried a Methodist church and a Lutheran church before we went to the Episcopal Church. Of course David was most comfortable there and that may have been what led to my feeling of being “home” there. I loved the vestments, the liturgy, and the seasons. Christ the King Sunday felt out of place though. I got that we were marching through the stories of the different gospels in Ordinary time, but to have Holy Week readings in November made very little sense to me.
This is the first year for me that these readings do not feel so odd. Over the years I have gotten used to this Sunday, but this year I “get” it differently than I ever have before. Maybe it is the world’s political landscape, maybe it is this church’s special circumstance this year, maybe – after 21 years as a confirmed Episcopalian – it has finally sunk in. I never claimed to be the brightest one here. J
When I read and heard our own bishop and our presiding bishop saying “Do not fear,” it dawned on me that it is the same thing I believe our lectionary planners might be saying: “Do not fear.” In these darkest nights, on these cold, stark days, after journeying through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time, we get one last reminder: Christ is King. Christ is the Truth. Christ is the Incarnation of Love who walked among us and remains among us as the Holy Spirit does – Perfect Love. Perfect Love casts out fear. After all of the stories we have heard over the last year, after all of the stories we have lived this past year, Christ is still King of all – in control, faithful to us, as we are faithful to him: a King who is willing to give his very life because he loves us that much; a King who conquered death so that we can live without fear of death, without fear of refugees, without fear of what may come tomorrow. We are His people and he is our King. “Do not fear.”