“Reign, oh reign, Jesus, forever.”

A Sermon for the Feast of Christ the King

Preached at

Trinity Episcopal Church

In Easton, Pennsylvania

November 21, 2021

We give to you our sadness, despair and hopelessness.

We give to you our anger, hurt, and rage.

We give to you thoughts, words and actions which are racist, prejudicial,

 and discriminatory,

We give to you our tendency to look down on others and speak ill of others.

Help us to see each person for who they are — a beloved child of God.

We give to you the lack of faith we have in Your mercy, love, and forgiveness

 for us, and for others or your ability to transform our hardened hearts.

Heal our wounds and shatter our doubts.

Jesus, heal our wounds with Your Heart and open our hearts heart to love with the love of Your Most Sacred Heart.

“Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

Chorus:

Sacred Heart of Jesus,

living flame of love and light;

tender friend of Bethany,

teacher and model of virtue.

Reign, oh Reign, Jesus forever!

reign here, oh beloved Redeemer!

Pour out your grace into our hearts, divine Jesus.

May we live only in your love.

Chorus:

Be enthroned throughout the world,

wherever your heart finds a home;

Seeking your protection, we seek you dear Jesus;

May we, one day, reign with you.

Chorus:

Bless our beloved country,

be the Ruler of our land.

May this cry resound throughout the whole earth:

Live forever, reign forever, Sacred Heart!

Dear friends, over the course of many years, we have heard a lot of sermons. Coming, as we do, from a tradition which values both Word and Sacrament, week after week, we have heard God’s word proclaimed, preached, and applied. But, if you are anything like me, I doubt that you can remember more than just a few of those sermons. We tend to remember the ones we didn’t like, appreciate, or agree with. But it feels as if though all the good ones somehow run together! We would be hard pressed to name more than just one of two.

When we do remember a sermon, though, it is often because it touched us in an unexpected way. Perhaps it provided some insight at a time of confusion, or of loss, or of mourning. Perhaps it gave us hope in a time in which we struggled to persevere in faith. Or, perhaps it gave us some new insight which caused us to see things in a different way.

One of the most powerful sermons which I ever recall hearing, took me by surprise. One morning, I was channel surfing, and just happened to come upon a televised mass from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio in Texas. The preacher, as it turned out, was Archbishop Patricio Flores, and he was preaching on the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Later, I learned a bit more about Archbishop Flores. It turns out that he was the first Mexican American priest to be appointed as bishop in this country. He was also the co-founder of the Mexican American Cultural Center. But on that early Sunday morning, I knew nothing about the archbishop.

Almost from the moment that he began to speak, I sensed something very different. He spoke from years of pastoral experience in difficult places and situations. It was clear that he had witnessed a lot of hurt, pain, and sadness. He had ministered in settings which many would have regarded as dangerous and to people whom many others would have dismissed as not worth their concern.

The surprising thing, though, was that rather than seeing reasons for concern, worry, and even despair, Archbishop Flores was one of the most hopeful and encouraging speakers I had heard in some time. This was all the more surprising because he clearly was not naïve. He spoke about realities, and situations which were far from pleasant.

He began by speaking about the complex lives which those who live in poverty in run-down inner cities experience. He described the violence, crime, problems with poverty, addiction, and lack of good education, healthcare, and opportunities for employment. He spoke about the single mother working two jobs, and struggling to provide for her children. He spoke about the elderly grandmother afraid to walk to the store or to the doctor’s office because she had been robbed and beaten in the past. He spoke about those who lacked a place to live, food and clothing, or any sense of security.

He spoke about communities in conflict, about prejudice, and racial hatred. He spoke of the experience of immigrants who struggled to lean another language, to fit into a society which did not want or welcome them, and of their desire to hang on to their own pride in their native language, and food, and music.

He asked difficult questions: “What is the source and origin of these wounds in our society? Where does this hatred, violence, and fear come from? Why is there injustice, oppression, exploitation, and abuse? Is there anything which can be done about these problems which so often feel insurmountable?”

The good Archbishop then did something completely unexpected—he said, “We are not the first persons to encounter these problems. We are not the first persons to ask these questions. We are not the first persons to seek meaning, and hope!” He then paraphrased the fourth chapter of the Letter of James. And his point was this, all the problems which we see on the outside have their origin in our own hearts. It is in our own wounded, hardened, and divided hearts that we find the path to understanding the chaos and confusion which we find all around us!

The solution, which Archbishop Flores found, was not in some theoretical proclamation that if we only allowed Christ to be our King, everything would be fine. No, Flores spoke of the reality of Jesus as Ruler—not as King on some distant heavenly throne, or even as a passive victim on an ancient cross. No, he spoke of the hope, healing, and promise which may be found—here and now–in the broken, wounded, and bloody Sacred Heart.

Here is the great paradox—from that wounded heart flow water and blood. From those gory wounds flow the Sacramental Life of our Church: the waters of baptism and the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. This bleeding, pierced, heart offers healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope. Jesus’ Sacred Heart offers the possibility of the healing of divisions, hatred, and distrust.

In recent years I have asked myself if Beloved Community—which is inclusive, affirming, empowering, just, and honest—is really possible? The words of Archbishop Flores, as well as those of Presiding Bishop Curry, give me hope that it is! Beloved Community is not just a dream, or a fond hope!

  • We begin by asking Jesus to heal our own wounded and bleeding hearts.
  • We begin by asking Jesus to heal our broken and divided families, our troubled places of worship, our chaotic villages, towns, and cities.
  • We begin by asking Jesus to fill our hearts with love for the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the marginalized, the exploited, and abused.
  • We begin by asking Jesus to fill our hearts to overflowing with such love that we want to love, to encourage, and to help every single person we meet to know the same transformative love.
  • We begin by committing ourselves to eradicating misunderstanding, fear, hatred, and prejudice.

If we undertook these projects on our own, we would probably not accomplish very much. But, when Jesus reigns in our own hearts, in our homes, and in our communities, nothing will prove to be impossible.

“Reign, oh Reign, Jesus forever!

reign here, oh beloved Redeemer!

Pour out your grace into our hearts, divine Jesus.

May we live only in your love.”

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