Thursday, November 17, 2011

Time to Start Over, Yet Again

Our texts for this Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday are Joshua 24:1, 14-25; Psalm 24; and Matthew 25:31-46. You may read them here.

It's amazing to me how many different calendars we live by. There's the annual calendar that begins on January 1 and runs to December 31; there's the school year calendar, which begins (more or less) around Labor Day and ends sometime after Memorial Day; Birthdays mark the beginning of a new year in our individual lives; most organization have a Fiscal Year calendar, which sometimes starts in July and runs to June; in our congregation, we install new leadership beginning October 1, with terms ending September 30. That's a lot of beginnings, a lot of endings, a lot of starting over.

But that's not all: we come this week to the end and beginning of another calendar by which we are invited to shape our lives: the Liturgical Calendar, the cycle of seasons by which we order our worship. This Sunday, called Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday (to learn more about this lesser known day in our liturgical year, check out this site), marks the final Sunday of our Worship Year. Next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, is the true first Sunday of our new worship year, no matter what our wall and Google calendars say! On this day, we look forward to the day when Christ will be recognized and reign as king over all the nations; next week, even as we continue looking forward, we start to turn our gaze back, back to the days of waiting for Christ to come among us the first time, to be born in the flesh. Next week, we get to start the story of Jesus all over again, hear it all again as if for the first time.

I appreciate the cycle of the church year, the chance to start over and retrace our steps every November/December by going back to the beginning, and even this plethora of new-beginning options in the various calendars we live by because I need each and every one of them--how we need these start-overs! I mean, just look at our text from Joshua--how many times have the Israelites already affirmed God as Lord, affirmed the covenant since they left Egypt? They praised God at the Red Sea, agreed to what God would say from Sinai before God even spoke the first commandment, covenanted with God once the commandments had been given, covenanted with God AGAIN once the Golden Calf worship had torn the covenant apart...the list goes on and on. Yet here we find yet another ending--the end of Joshua's life as leader of Israel--and another time to start over, to begin anew with a serious community promise to serve the Lord and no other God.

The people sound earnest; yet in spite of the pomp and circumstance, more start overs will be needed in the future....many, many more. They will forget...fall short...get confused...get dulled into sleep. They will have to decide again, over and over, who they are going to serve.

And so our texts for this week are good ones for this point in our year. The Covenant making ceremony in Joshua 24 sounds like an ending, but really it's just a beginning--and this is the life we live as well. In the coming days of starting over, may we remember the grace God gives us, over and over and over...may we find the courage and space to begin yet again.

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