Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Stir Up" Sunday

 Last after Pentecost: Christ the King
Baptism of Phillipa Sproles Marmorstein

Good morning, and grace and peace.  This morning the last Sunday of the Church Year, and in our 1979 Episcopal Church Prayer Book collect and lectionary readings we observe what is popularly known as the Feast of Christ the King, which is a new observance as these things go,  first introduced in the Roman Catholic calendar of the Church Year in 1925, and which has gradually been adopted formally or informally by some other branches of the Christian family.  Officially on our 1979 calendar this is simply the "Last Sunday after Pentecost, but the Altar Guild calendar indicates white or gold, which would suggest a major feast.

On the traditional calendar in most of the Anglican world the day is more as a prelude to the new rather than a conclusion of the old year--officially called the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, and the Sunday next before Advent,  and by custom with the wonderful popular name, Stir Up Sunday, taken from the Collect appointed for the day in Prayer Books from 1549 on, and still in most parts of the Anglican world, Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  A prayer that God will move in us with what we would call his “prevenient grace,” to give us ears to hear and hearts to love and hands to serve as we would take our place among the followers and friends and servants of Jesus.  Before we call, he answers.  Before we turn to him, he opens his arms to us.

The Epistle appointed in the old Prayer Books for “Stir Up Sunday” very much an anticipation of Advent and Christmas and the new year just ahead, and I think also worth recalling even as we have “Christ the King” today—from Jeremiah 23, with royal language indeed: “Behold, the day shall come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 

“Come, thou long-expected Jesus,” indeed, as we can hear it echoing out in the distance of the new year, next Sunday, Advent Sunday. “Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.”    And so the Old Testament appointed for this Christ the King morning in our new lectionary, the vision of Daniel, in the seventh chapter, “and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

“Hark! The glad sound! The Savior comes, the Savior promised long; let every heart prepare a throne, and every voice a song.”

Quite a day for a baptism, Pippa!  In case there was any wondering what this is all about—a prayer, a splash of water, a touch of holy oil on your forehead. 

"The King shall come when morning dawns, and light triumphant breaks; when beauty gilds the eastern hills, and life to joy awakes."

A transformation and a renewal of your life as a citizen of this world, as you bow your head now and become subject to a new Sovereign.  Born in that quiet midnight in the Bethlehem Stable, just a baby cradled in Mary’s arms, and small enough to rest in the Manger.  But we aren't to be misled by the fact that this is all happening out on the margin of the world.  So silently, so silently, the wondrous gift is given.   For unto us a child is born, to us a son his given; and government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for ever.

Quite a day for a baptism—for you, Pippa, and for all of us, as we share this today with you and as we are renewed in our baptismal life all of us, each of us individually and the whole church together.  The Sunday next before Advent.  Christ the King! 

When you had your accident last year, Pippa, you became in a very special and tender way a part of our prayer life here at St. Andrew’s, as with your mom and your sister our hearts and our minds lifted you up to our Father in Heaven with prayers for your healing and recovery.  And so this is very special and joyful for us today.

Standing at the font with you at this turning of the year, dying in reference to the old life of sin and death and rising with Jesus to the new life of his Kingdom—which is now and will be forever.

He was born in Bethlehem to bless you, Pippa.  For your healing and renewal.  To be your forgiveness, with mercy and love, and to lift you up to a new life in his grace and his peace.  In this water of the baptismal font, it is all Advent and Christmas, and a New Year.  A New Year begins!  He loves you, and he has great things in mind for you—as he has great things in mind for each of us and for all of us this morning as we stand here with you before his Throne, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

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