A different kind of king- a different kind of kingdom- Pastoral letter 20-11-2020

20th November 2020

Dear Friends,

First, as I always do I ask you how you are, this is not an idle question, I am genuinely interested, and that causes me to reflect that when I am asked that question, that my default response if quite often “I am fine”, which is sometimes not the truth! Along with that of course is the reality of what we are living through, the stresses and pressures of life in a pandemic, and that as someone said to me today it feels like being on a roller-coaster, sometimes I feel up and at others down, and that can change very quickly. So, I encourage you to take a moment and allow yourself to answer the question; how am I today?

Second, I want to ask how on earth it is that we are almost in December, I have shocked my children because I have managed to do some Christmas shopping, mostly because I am not running around putting together Carol Services and Nativity Plays! I am following a Celtic Advent this year, which is a 40 day lead in to the Christmas season, looking at the Universal Christ, the word that was with God and is God from the beginning, the incarnate Christ, the babe who took on flesh, and the Christ of Revelation, the Alpha and the Omega who makes all things new, or Christ the King.

This coming Sunday is celebrated as Christ the King Sunday, this is the reading:

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ (Matthew 25: 31-46)

I must confess that it is a reading that has made me uncomfortable over the years, with its theme of judgement, and the almost military might of the coming of Christ. A closer reading however leads me to a deeper place, because it challenges how I serve and treat others, it tells us that everyone should be treated with love and respect, the sick, the imprisoned, the outsider, all served, the stranger welcomed, the naked clothed. It reminds us that we all bear the image of God, the fingerprint of Christ.

Christ the King looks for his followers to take on the nature of a servant, Christ the King is the one who knelt before his disciples and washed their feet and then charged them and us to do the same. How do we do that in a time of lockdown, as I write this I am listening to Reverend Jongi Zihle on All We Can’s 1:17 broadcast, he has talked about the need for us to develop the attitude of loving, of loving, and being open to being loved, and to love with a deep integrity, to respect the other, and is sharing stories of people bringing the little they have to a food-hub in London halving their meal so that those who have nothing get something. Love we are told is costly.

So, ask yourself what are the ways that you could put on the mind of Christ and reach out to those in need? Can you give to a Foodbank? Could you support the work of All We Can or another charity to support those who have so little? Ask yourself are there lonely people you could reach out to, maybe you could write a letter, send a card, make a phone call? You can probably come up with many more ideas than me, and I would be happy to hear of them!

As I finish I find myself less uncomfortable with Christ the King, who calls us to be his kin, to take his had and to walk and work with him, to treat others with respect, but I have to accept that the passage ends with judgement, that there is a consequence for choosing not to be Christlike, for disregarding those in need, and for serving only ourselves. I wonder how you respond to that. In my heart of hearts, I find myself wanting to rescue the goats!

I will leave you then with a hymn to reflect on while you ponder the questions this passage raises:

Jesus Christ is waiting,
Waiting in the streets;
No one is his neighbour,
All alone he eats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am lonely too.
Make me, friend or stranger,
Fit to wait on you

Jesus Christ is raging,
Raging in the streets,
Where injustice spirals
And real hope retreats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am angry too.
In the Kingdom’s causes
Let me rage with you.

Jesus Christ is healing,
Healing in the streets;
Curing those who suffer,
Touching those he greets.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I have pity too.
Let my care be active,
Healing just like you.

Jesus Christ is dancing,
Dancing in the streets,
Where each sign of hatred
He, with love, defeats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I should triumph too.
On suspicion’s graveyard
Let me dance with you.

Jesus Christ is calling,
Calling in the streets,
”Who will join my journey?
I will guide their feet.”
Listen, Lord Jesus,
Let my fears be few.
Walk one step before me;
I will follow you.

© WGRG, Iona Community, 1988.

May we be those who see Christ in the friend and in the stranger, in rich and poor alike, may we act with love and with integrity, and may we know that we are loved, and be open to love. God bless and keep you, if you want to talk please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Peace and blessings

 Reverend Sally Coleman   

Quiet Streets- Sheffield City Centre

About Sally C

How do I describe myself, I am not what I do, (I am a Methodist Minister), I am not who I am related to (I have 5 wonderful children, 2 lovely granddaughters and a grandson). I am a seeker truth, a partaker of life in all it's fullness and a follower, sometimes stumbling, sometimes celebrating of the Christian pathway. I seek wholeness, joy and a connectedness to all things through a deep reconciliation with the God whose love blows my socks off!
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