This last Sunday of the Church liturgical year known as Christ the King, precedes the start of the new Church year which begins next week with the first Sunday in Advent. It seems incredible that we are about to enter into that season of Advent – that time of waiting, expectation, longing and hope as we journey together towards Christmas.
Today’s Post Communion prayer is inspired by the opening of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
“Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This reminds us that today is also known traditionally as ‘Stir Up Sunday’, a Sunday synonymous since Victorian times with the preparation and making of Christmas puddings. The great cry ‘stir up’ was a reminder to congregations to get the Christmas pudding made in plenty of time to mature before Christmas. When I was a child, my mum always used to add the all-important coin to the mixture, and whoever got it on their plate on Christmas Day was supposedly especially blessed. I never really thought about it, but both my brother and I always used to get a coin!
The Stir Up prayer though is actually asking God for something much more important. We are praying that God will stir up our wills, so that we might get on with doing the good works that he has planned for us to do and be fruitful. Then, as a consequence, we pray that we might receive our abundant reward.
In an age when so much is about how we feel, and what we experience, it is interesting to get another perspective. In the end, it is our will, rather than our feelings, that is the most important governor of our actions. Feelings are not facts. Real love is not about feeling it is about choosing, by our wills, to do good to others even though we may not feel good towards them. Our feelings should not dominate our wills. And so, we pray that God will “stir up” our wills, so that they will be in charge of us, doing what we know is right. In this prayer we recognise that we need God’s help in order for our wills to function properly.
In light of this the ending of a year is a good time to assess where we have been, what has been achieved, and perhaps most importantly, where we are going with our journey of faith. We are invited to align our will with the guidance and direction of God the Father, as demonstrated by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Good endings are as important as good beginnings. New beginnings are always exciting, offering us the challenge of new spiritual adventures and development. If, when we look at our spiritual lives through the time of this past year we feel that we have made no real spiritual progress, perhaps it is time to think carefully about the choices we make and embark on more intentional prayer & Bible study. Perhaps you would like to put your faith into some kind of action, helping with the various forms of ministry exercised by this Church or community projects. Perhaps you might be able to join with us on Zoom as we do this year’s Advent course.
We live in an age of conflicting claims about the truth. The message we hear is that there are many “truths”, or many versions of the truth, and all truths are equally valid. The thing is, if we respond to people who say that, ok – then hear my truth, they often reply that they are not interested in our truth – so they don’t really mean all truths are equally valid; neither do they mean there are many versions of the truth. What does the Bible tell us? Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Whichever way you approach that passage it does not mean one way out of many, one truth out of many, one life out of many. Quoting from David Mitchell’s book Cloud Atlas “Truth is singular. Its ‘versions’ are mistruths.”
The way that we as Christians are called to determine what we believe is to seek to be faithful to the teaching and instruction of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer and our King – the King of Kings. When we read the extract from John’s letter featuring a description of an incredible vision, keep in mind that his words are not just good advice; they are words of truth from the King of Kings. We must allow the truth about Christ to penetrate every aspect of our life, our being, to deepen our faith in him, and strengthen our commitment to follow him—no matter what the cost. There are implications of the truth of Christ as King of Kings:
- We, Christ’s redeemed, are loved and freed from our sins by his blood (v. 5).
- We, through His glorious dominion, have been designated “a kingdom and priests” to serve God. (v.6)
In our second reading, we are told that Jesus said to Pilate “…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Do we hear the words of Jesus now? Words of truth, words of life…and if we hear, how will we respond? Will we allow God to “stir up” our wills to more closely follow him, the author and perfecter of our faith, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
Let us pray:
Lord of the past, the present and the future: we thank you for the last Church Year. We thank you for the fellowship and joy of our worship together – whether apart or together as a community of faith. We thank you for being with us in the time of adversity as we have journeyed with and through this pandemic. We pray for the coming year, that you might stir up our wills and benefit from the teaching and wisdom of the Church to grow in faith and knowledge of You our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer – Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Amen.