Letter to parishioners, 18 November 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Sunday is the Festival of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Church’s year. Next week our journey from the proclamation of John the Baptist through to the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus will begin once again. But, this week we are invited to pause and reflect upon what difference our journey through the last twelve months has made as we continue our pilgrimage through this life.

No matter what the harshest critics of the Christian faith may say, we do live in a Christian country. Our laws are based on scriptural principles and the whole rhythm of the year is marked out by the most significant events in the gospel narrative. Whether one is a church-goer or not, it is not possible to live in this country without constantly brushing up against the life of Jesus Christ. Of course, for those who are adamant in their advocacy of a totally faithless society it is possible to waste one’s time assigning different names to moments in the year, but to what effect? For the vast majority Christmas, Easter, Harvest, etc. remain the focal points around which lives are lived in this world. This weekend we celebrate that fact by worshipping before Christ the King.

In recent weeks many people have reconsidered their view of kingship. Upon the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, after a record-breaking seventy years on the throne, we witnessed the accession of King Charles III. This moment in our national history did not come as a surprise, our earthly king’s accession to the throne was an inevitability that was laid down when he was born over seventy years ago. But, nonetheless, the change from ‘queen’ to ‘king’ has led to much debate. However, there is a great difference between the accession and proclamation of an earthly king, and the King we are called to honour and celebrate this weekend.

In our gospel reading this Sunday (Luke 23.33-43) we hear of the last moments of Jesus’ life on earth. He has been taken from his show trial to the place of execution. We hear him speaking from his agony on the cross, and not from a royal throne attended by lords and courtiers. It is from this scene of horror that Jesus speaks. He does not speak words prepared for him, words designed to tread some fine line between expediency and need. Rather, we hear two of Jesus’ Seven Last Words from the Cross, two ‘words’ that summarise the whole of his earthly teaching as well as laying down a path for us to follow as we journey through this life. Jesus says: Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing, and he says to one of those being executed with him: Today you will be with me in Paradise. The scene of crucifixion, just outside the walls of Jerusalem, was one regularly played out. Jesus’ crucifixion, however, would have been different. He had attracted much attention through his teaching, preaching and working of miraculous signs. The soldiers mocked him, the local leaders scoffed him, even one of those dying alongside him derided him, but still Jesus begged his Heavenly Father’s forgiveness for all they were doing. Then, for the one who came to him in the midst of his guilt, he offered the gift of eternal life.

This weekend we are called to reflect upon the life we have recalled and celebrated over the last twelve months. We are called to forgive as Jesus forgives, and we are called to share the certainty of his promises to us and all mankind. Let us celebrate the Kingship of Christ and then let us make sure that we spend the next year drawing ever closer to him by being the faithful disciples he calls us to be.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen