Archbishop William Temple was quoted in yesterday’s reflection in Forward Day by Day, a reflection from 1936 about the involvement of the church in what today we call social justice ministry:
The Christian’s duty in regard to slums is not merely to tell the inhabitants that their squalor is of small consequence because soon they will pass to the house of many mansions.
It’s easy to imagine that if Archbishop Temple were here today, he would tell us that our duty with regard to climate change isn’t merely to say that the effects of climate change on our planet won’t matter because our home is in heaven.
In the great circle of the liturgical year, we come this Sunday to the Reign of Christ or Christ the King. The collect for Christ the King talks about all the peoples of the earth being brought together under Christ’s rule. The kingdom is both the end of the story that we tell each liturgical year and the beginning, as the following Sunday we begin our preparations for the birth of the King in a stable.
Whatever other interpretations we might place on the Scriptural passages about the kingdom of God and the rule of Christ, it’s evident that when we truly believe that Christ is everything described in Colossians 1:11-20, we experience an inner transformation that re-orients us radically. In the words of this passage, such an encounter with the reality of Christ transfers us to Christ’s kingdom. This radical shift makes it possible for us to live into our identities as citizens of Christ’s kingdom even while we are living in Nebraska in 2010.
This passage from Colossians emphasizes that Christ is the king of all things, both on earth and in heaven. This Sunday we celebrate Christ as the “firstborn of all creation”; next Sunday we are preparing for the birth of Christ, for the Incarnation, where God’s love for creation brings God to be born as a human being, living as one of us on earth.
Christ is not only the king of heaven, but also the king of all creation, both heaven and earth. How we treat one another and the environment that sustains life becomes doubly significant when we remember that the kingdom is both eternal and now, both infinite and right here. Paul tells us that Christ himself “is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Honoring Christ and his kingdom as we do this Sunday entails honoring all of creation. Looking toward a time when all the peoples of the earth are brought together under Christ’s reign entails caring for our brothers and sisters in all parts of our world. We honor Christ as our King when we tend carefully to our connections through Christ to one another and to all of creation.