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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading |John 18:33–37

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (NRSV)

Today is Christ the King Sunday, which marks the final Sunday in our liturgical year and the fulfillment of the promises that we will hear once again in the first Sunday of Advent next week. Emphasizing Christ as king or reminding ourselves of God’s sovereignty may seem like a strange place to end our liturgical year, but our passage today helps us set this day in context.

When Pilate challenges Jesus, asking him if he is “king of the Jews,” Jesus responds by saying that his “kingdom is not of this world.” Rather than completing our liturgical year in a neat circle, Jesus’ words instead point beyond our lived experience here on earth and beyond time itself: the kingdom that Jesus has come to build lies beyond any of us, and Jesus alone will be responsible for its fulfillment.

I’ve always loved the words of the Catholic bishop Ken Untener (often attributed to the Archbishop Oscar Romero): “It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. . . . We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”

As we prepare to begin another liturgical year, buoyed by fresh hopes and expectations, I hope that we keep these wise words in mind—sowing seeds of faith, hope, and love because that’s what we are called to do in this world, even if we may never see them bear fruit.

Eternal God, on this day when I am reminded of your sovereignty, I pray that you help me step back and take the long view and faithfully claim my small role in the kingdom you are building. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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