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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, November 26, Year A

November 20, 2023

● Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
● Psalm 100
● Ephesians 1:15-23
● Matthew 25:31-46


There is often discomfort in churches around Christ the King Sunday. The explicitly political nature of kingship raises alarm bells and many prefer to locate themselves in the safer "spiritual" elements of Christianity. This temptation to withdraw is strong when news headlines contain nothing but destruction and death, as we see now with violence overtaking the land of Jesus's home. Yet Jesus did not withdraw from political tensions in His community. I contend that God never wants His people to ignore the world but calls His people to engage deeply and compassionately with the world in the service of building God's kingdom on earth. Christ's kingship is radically different from earthly kingship.

By my reckoning, the Bible has never been entirely apolitical. Today's lesson from the prophet Ezekiel, comforting words for people spiritually adrift and helpless, directly arose from the exile to Babylon, which was initiated by political intrigue and warfare. For Judeans forcefully removed from their homeland by remote kings, a spiritual explanation of political events and a message of hope and justice from God must have been a challenge and a comfort. More than that, God's message of hope explicitly promises a king for His people. No sense of political impartiality here - just governance is part of God's plan, and He wants us to have earthly rulers executing God's will on earth. God understands more than we do that we can't separate politics and our "secular" lives from our spiritual lives, that God's will combines prayer and worship with action and service, and God continually prompts us to seek justice from our rulers.

Doing the will of God is not a small task, but it can be quite simple. In our Gospel reading, Jesus gives a brief distillation of what it means to do God's will. Helping the hungry, imprisoned, naked, and thirsty is not complicated - yet imagine what our political landscape would look like if these were priorities for every country on earth. Jesus is explaining to us how He will rule when He sits as king on His throne on the last days and He calls us to make this rule happen now, doing His will by helping those most in need. Paul further develops the theme, pointing out that the first days of Christ's rule are underway because Christ has already accomplished the most important feat: defeating death in rising from the dead. Even now He rules on His throne and is calling us to join Him in the growing kingdom of God.

Doing God's will means hard work and prayerful intention in our existing communities, not just withdrawing into isolated inward-focused prayer. We cannot safely remove ourselves from the world of politics and follow a solely "spiritual" path and do God's will at the same time. Prayer and communion with God feed us and prompt us to action in the world as it is today, with great hope and joy for the growing kingdom of Christ's reign. — Betsy Noecker



● The feast of Christ the King was established in 1925 as a response to growing secularism and ultra-nationalism (per Wikipedia), to remind Christians their allegiance is to Christ alone. In what ways have these trends changed in the past century?

● What is your initial response to the word "king"? Do today's readings change your response?

● Are there parts of your life where you are working to build God's kingdom?


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