Towards the End
written by Rev Gary Heard
The Liturgical Calendar throws up some old and apparently odd thoughts into a 21st century context. Today is the last Sunday in the liturgical year, in which the focus for celebration is the Feast of Christ the King, which points to the final judgment of all creation. It is a time to gather our thoughts of the past year – reflecting on the ways in which we have encountered Christ afresh, and those moments of absence – where even now we may wonder where God’s hand might be found in relation to those situations. It is a time of sifting, gathering and discarding, and a time of giving thanks.
Traditional evangelical thinking has the judgment of Christ pointing towards that eternal evangelical clarion call: “Will I get into heaven?” – a reminder of the eternal life which God has prepared for all who love Him. It is the door of escape – leaving behind the realities of our world and entering heaven’s perfection. Only one Gospel story addresses the final judgment, and it is one of the best known, coming from Matthew 25. The focus of that story is not on the future benefits for all who pass judgment, but on the assessments made at that time, which comes as a surprise to all hearers. To those welcomed into the coming kingdom, there is appreciation for feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked. It is a lived faith, expressed towards human need which finds affirmation, and a lack of compassion to human need which finds exclusion.
For a long time it seemed that the best test of being a good christian grew out of an ability to articulate a theology or pray a prayer using the right words. But as I look back on the past year, I find that the moments which made the deepest impression were not in wise or creative words uttered, but in moments of presence and in other practical expressions towards need. In a world facing a signficant crisis the depth of impact which is yet to be plumbed, it is action and compassion which is most needed, and which people in crisis most welcome.
The purpose of our call in Christ is expressed in this judgment – in the actions towards which we have committed our energies. At the end of a liturgical year, we do well to pause and reflect on how we measure up to this call.
November 23, 2008