A royal dignity – for everyone

Peter Seal, 20 November 2016

Colossians 1: 11–20; Luke 23: 33–43

Today is an important day. Together we gather to worship God on the last day of the church’s year in this, the year of our Lord 2016. The great theme of this ultimate Sunday of the year is ‘Christ the King’. Today we are invited to approach, engage with and celebrate the mystery of Jesus’ kingship.

His kingship, and the kingdom he wants us to help bring about, are not about territory. Rather, they are about what you might call royal dignity. We know from out worship week by week, and our hearing of the scriptures, that Jesus’ primary concern is for people. He met people then, and he meets people now, where they are. He identifies need and gets alongside. His gift to the people of his earthly days, and to each of us now, could be described as a royal dignity. Our heartfelt desire as we seek to reach Beyond Ourselves is that more and more people in our communities may discover that, through Jesus, they have a royal dignity.

There’s something about Jesus that cannot but captivate us. We read of him in our scriptures and we find ourselves attracted to him. In our mind’s eye we draw our own mental pictures of this extraordinary man, and we discover that we have a relationship with him.

Very early in his public ministry people recognised in Jesus an astonishing authority. John, writer of our fourth gospel, associates this life-giving authority with our heavenly Father: God the Father is the one who is the source of all authority exercised by the Son. This means, John explains, that the Son can do nothing on his own. It is out of this vital relationship that Jesus lives, speaks and acts. This is a relationship each of us verbalises and expresses, and surely thereby longs to deepen, when we say the words, ‘Our Father …’.

The paradox of Jesus’ authority and power becomes more and more compelling in the last hours of his earthly life, when he’s on trial. His authority and power derive their strength not from claims of importance, but from a complete putting aside of self and status.

Jesus’ authority and power derive their strength … from a complete putting aside of self and status.

Jesus’ life-purpose is to ‘testify to the truth’ … a simple statement in its own right, but world-changing in its implications. The kingdom that Jesus establishes is more a structure of worship than of power. Worship in which, again today, each of us can be confirmed in the royal dignity that Jesus lavishly gives, as our undeserved gift.

Here in our parish, we rejoice that, because of our individual and shared relationships with our heavenly Father, so many good and fruitful things are growing. As you will have seen from our new-style pew sheet, perhaps better named welcome sheet, there’s been lots of creative work by your PCC and our wonderful office staff.

Our calling, as Christians, is to be what’s known as ‘in the world but not of the world’. This is a challenging balancing act. It means that we need to use all the tools of modern communication, including our splendid new website, launched today, to engage with the wider world, as well as between ourselves.

An enormous amount of work, over many months, has culminated in our new graphic at the top of the welcome sheet and our website. I hope you like them and feel they are both appropriately modern and true to the way we see ourselves. The cross has soft edges, illustrating our express desire to welcome everyone. The colours are based on the four liturgical colours of the church’s year, symbolic of the importance we attach to our worship of God together, Sunday by Sunday.

The wording Pilgrims on a journey has been used for some years now, and still resonates. It describes well that we are travelling together, and alongside one another, and in the same direction; and that it is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads us and is central to what we believe. The empty cross is a powerful sign of the resurrection, keystone of our faith.

I rejoice with you that we are a strong and vibrant parish. We’re a parish where many of you are powerfully energised to work for the Lord in this part of his kingdom. My ministry, as parish priest, is incredibly wide-ranging and, increasingly, one of oversight. I sometimes say that my role is to ‘be the glue’, to seek to hold it all together. My calling is to try and ensure that the various initiatives and activities are in balance and relating well to one another. I can tell you that this is no small task!

It’s my privilege, working closely with others, and especially Mary, to be both immersed in the present and to be strongly intentional for what the future may hold for us. We remind ourselves, of course, that the future doesn’t belong to us, but to God. It’s in God’s hands. Our calling is to discern God’s wise purposes for us, both as individuals and as what St Paul would call ‘the saints’ in this place. And do you know, ‘We ain’t seen nothing yet!’

The main reason we find ourselves in a strong and vibrant place is, I believe, because we’re increasingly open to, and aware of, the love of God working in and through each of us. Our new graphic, website, weekly welcome sheet and redesigned noticeboards are simply tools, though very important ones. Their purpose is to help us in our express desire to become all that God longs for us to become. They are a vital part of our deliberate invitation to others to join us in our pilgrim journey. The message could be expressed, ‘We need you, and you need us; let’s walk alongside one another’.

In conclusion, Christ is our King. He’s our Lord and Saviour. He’s the one God gave to the people of Palestine all those years ago. He’s the one God gives anew and afresh each and every day; and everywhere; and for all people. In the man Jesus Christ, we discover renewed hope and what we can describe as our royal dignity.