From Pastor Preuss…
About the time school starts, the Gospel texts for the final Sundays in the Trinity Season of the church year take on a decidedly different tone than the rest of the year.
The church year has begun with Advent and the expectations concerning the birth of the Messiah (not in 2016 but in 6-4 B.C.); and the Messiah’s “second coming.” Following Christmas, in the Season of Epiphany and its early focus on the Visitation of the Magii and Jesus’ baptism by John, the Gospel texts are about miracles or other revelations of who Jesus is.
In Lent, the Sunday texts are from Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem; while on Wednesday nights in our congregation the sermons are on Jesus’ Passion (suffering and death). The Easter Season includes not only the Easter Gospel itself, but other appearances of the Risen Lord to his disciples. Ten days after we celebrate Jesus’ Ascension we mark the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Birth of the Church on Pentecost.
Then for about four months we read about miracles and teachings and parables from Matthew, Mark, or Luke, with some passages from John interspersed in Mark.
But in the fall things change, as more and more the texts are about our discipleship, and what it means that we who are God’s children are called by our Lord to grow and mature in his grace and so become his disciples. What does it mean to follow Jesus? With whom are our lives connected if and when we do? Who needs help? How can we love anyone Jesus has given us to love? What does it cost us—not only in dollars and cents, but time, commitment, energy, intellect, and concern?
For some of us these can be among Jesus’ most challenging words. Is it a coincidence that at this same time of year we ask each other to re-examine our commitments and make new ones to the life and ministry we have been given and called to share? Is it somehow so very appropriate that with these Gospel texts read aloud, followed by sermons on these texts and hymns sung that intend to drive home the message of God’s love and God’s calling us, that Sunday School and confirmation and Adult Bible studies also begin?
The church year concludes with two worship services that in a most profound sense can be seen to truly complement each other. We know that from both the Old Testament and the New, before Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday, it was called by God and God’s people the way for us to live. This is because we recognize life is a gift, as are the blessings we receive— some of which we claim to “earn,” and others that we don’t. All of life is a gift, “a trust O Lord from thee” as we sing in the hymn. The child of God who knows that might think also to ask “why has God blessed us?” and begin to see connections with discipleship, and God’s love for us all.
It is with those same two truths that the church year ends on Christ the King Sunday, when we are reminded with the Gospel of what sort of king, Jesus is. That he is a “king who washes feet;” or a king who forgives sinners and prepares a place for us in his kingdom is the message of love and grace that really is an appropriate conclusion to the year. Because the truth is we do belong to the One who “came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”