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The Reign of Christ – Proper 29 (34), Year C
20 November 2022

 

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

 

Yesterday was the last day of training in Godly Play.
Godly Play was developed for the spiritual formation of children.
The Diocese of New Westminster offered the training and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to experience it and to learn it. I also took it also because there is another program for adults that uses a similar approach.

Godly Play is divided into three modules. They are sacred story, parables, and liturgical action. Yesterday was the day for the liturgical action module. And the story was the liturgical year.
It began like this:
Time, time, time . . . there are all kinds of time.
There is a time to get up in the morning. There
is a time to go to bed. There is a time to go to
school and a time to come home. There is a time
to work, and there is a time to play. But what is
time?

Some people say that time is in a line. But I
wonder what that would look like? Ah . . . wait a
minute! What is this? Time. Time in a line. This is
time in a line. Look at this. Here is the beginning.
It is the newest part. It is just being born. It is

brand new. Now look.
Look. It is getting older. The part that was new
is now getting old. I wonder how long time
goes. Does it go forever? Could there ever be an
ending?

It ended. Look at the ending.

The beginning that was so new at the beginning
now is old. The ending is the new part now. We
have a beginning that is like an ending and an
ending that is like a beginning.

Do you know what the church did? They tied the
ending that is like a beginning and the beginning
that is like an ending together, so we would
always remember that for every ending there is
a beginning and for every beginning there is an
ending.

A little later the story teller says,

Here are the three great times. This is Christmas.
This is Easter. …This is Pentecost.
Each one of these is a great mystery. Sometimes,
people miss these mysteries. They walk right through
them and don’t even know they’re there. We need to
get ready to come close to them every year.

The telling is paced beautifully. There is no rush, rather story and actions are paced for the listeners to pay attention and to enter the story themselves.

What struck me in this particular story is the word mystery. The story teller has a large round wooden disk in front of them with small wooden blocks in the appropriate liturgical colours, arranged in a circle for each Sunday of the year. We enter the liturgical year by first paying attention to the three great times, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. What follows is the explanation of Advent, Lent, and the season of Easter, each times to prepare for what lies ahead, the Easter season being the time to prepare for Pentecost.

The introduction to the three great festivals went like this:
Here are the three great times. This is Christmas.
This is Easter. … This is Pentecost.
Each one of these is a great mystery. Sometimes,
people miss these mysteries. They walk right through
them and don’t even know they’re there. We need to
get ready to come close to them every year.

What we call sacraments, the Orthodox church calls mysteries.
Our modern use of the word mystery suggests that a mystery is an enigma, is a riddle, a problem to be solved. Murder mysteries understand the word in that way. You have to figure out who did it and then it’s no longer a mystery.
We also use the word mystery for things we cannot understand, as in that’s a mystery to me.

And yet there are experiences all people have that are greater than whatever frame of reference we possess. Only that we have substituted the word magic for mystery, as if we believed in magic.

The story we practiced yesterday spoke of mysteries, mysteries that can be missed, but mysteries that are present – even when we miss them, mysteries we want to be attentive to, for it is God who is present in these mysteries.
Mysteries are about God’s presence gifted to the world. Baptism and Holy Communion are mysteries in which God comes to us. But while God’s presence is promised for the sacraments, God’s presence is not restricted to the sacraments, which is why we speak of some things or actsas being sacramental, like the sharing of a meal, or the attention we pay to each other, especially perhaps when we serve one another, acts that remember that being Christian is a way of life.

Our reading from Colossians speaks of mysteries, though it does not call them that. The reading affirms that ‘God the Father has enabled us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light because he has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.’ (1:12-13) Note that the tense is present perfect, which means this isn’t just something ancient but it applies to us today.

In the days when I had a spiritual director, someone with whom I would speak about my own walk of faith and who would guide me, she always began our sessions with the striking of a bell before which she said that we now made ourselves aware of the presence of God. And we would spend a few minutes in silence before we would talk.
As simple as it sounds, this is quite profound, for while we believe in God with our head and believe that God is present, we often spend our day as if God was an absent deity we consult only when we need to but most of the time we’re doing quite well on our own. That is, more or less, the situation Colossians speaks into, except that these people were new converts from a polytheistic culture and when things weren’t going so well, they’d consult a few other deities as well. But the bottom line is similar: Who do we rely on, what does our life depend on, what is it that holds us and grounds us? And that is also the theme of Christ the King Sunday. Is Christ our king and if not, who is?

Our reading invites us to enter into the mystery of Christ, of redemption and salvation, of God’s presence in all of our life and all of our moments. Our life, rightly understood, is also a mystery, for it is given to us by God, and it is imbued with the promise of God’s presence. Our life is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be received even while we work on embodying the presence of God with our whole lives.
And so our reading reminds us of who Jesus Christ is for the world and for us, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. In him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (15-20)

This sounds a bit like a creed, and passages like this we often call a hymn, not because it was necessarily sung, but because it was part of a liturgy the church recited and by quoting it, Paul has us enter into the liturgy, into this song that ascribes all things to Jesus, and thus reminds us that our lives have been made holy, that God is present, that the mysteries of God are present to us every day and we are invited to meet them and enter them, not miss them.

Thanks be to God.

Christoph Reiners

Pastor Christoph was ordained in Vancouver in 1994 and have served congregations in Winnipeg and Abbotsford before coming to Our Saviour in the fall of 2016.