Worship at Gloria Dei Saturdays 5:00pm, Sundays 9:00am and 10:30am

Christ the King

Hello Gloria Dei,

This coming weekend is Christ the King weekend. It is the final Sunday of the church year. After having shared the story of Jesus all year long, from his birth, to his public ministry filled with teachings, healings and miracles, to his death on the cross and glorious resurrection, we lift up Jesus as King.

Every Christ the King Sunday I think about the almost five weeks I was able to spend in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during my seminary internship year in that country.

On top of Corcovado Mountain, jutting up almost a half mile above the ocean, stands the magnificent statue of Christ the Redeemer. With its arms outstretched, this 120-foot-tall statue is visible day and night from anywhere in the entire city. Cristo Redentor, as they say in the Portuguese language, or Christ the Redeemer, is the symbol of Rio.

I think of the natural beauty of Rio: The luxurious green rain forests, the tropical flowers, and the famous snow-white beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. I loved my time there. At times it seemed like heaven on earth, with vendors selling fresh pineapple and coconut drinks. God’s creative beauty was all around. Jesus standing high above, Christ the King.

Yet, when you look at the Christ statue high above Rio, you see that it is standing with its arms outstretched, as if on the cross. And as I think of my year in Brazil, and those five weeks in Rio, I recall vividly much more than just the tropical beauty. Right alongside the beauty, I was able to spend time in the favelas, or slums. So many people with no electricity or running water… with no paved streets… they are the often-forgotten people of Rio. I recall the thousands of street kids, trying to survive by any means possible.

Spend any amount of time there and look beneath the beautiful surface and you will see there is lots of pain. And Jesus, Christ the King, is right there in the midst of it.

Gloria Dei, I know the same is true, in different ways, for each of us. There is so much beauty in our lives. And as we approach Thanksgiving, we thank God for it. Yet, at the same time, to put it mildly, these are challenging times: Everything from a crazy political environment to the stuff of everyday life to the spike in COVID-19 cases especially here in the Dakotas, but also around the country and the world. Standing above not only Rio de Janeiro, but above all of human history is the towering figure of Jesus of Nazareth.

In the gospel of John, Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you a King?” Jesus responds, “You say that I am, yet my kingdom is not at all like the kingdoms of this world”. So we must ask, “What kind of kingdom does Jesus have?” As Christians, we are citizens of this kingdom. What’s it like?

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter and the other disciples drew their swords; they wanted to fight. Jesus said “No, put away your swords.” You see, our King, King Jesus, rules out of love, not out of force and might. Jesus strength is found in his sacrificial giving of himself for the sake of a hurting, suffering, hungry world. And we’re part of that kingdom – a kingdom that gains its membership not out of coercion, but out of the love of Christ for us.

At Gloria Dei we are using Jesus’ call to love our neighbor as our metric in responding to this pandemic. As I said last week, we are monitoring the increasing case numbers and hospitalizations and continue to be regular communication with health care officials. We also continue to be in communication with many other area churches regarding safety practices.

For this weekend we will gather as planned for worship, both in person and through livestream. Our in-person numbers allow us to be spread out and distanced appropriately. A vast majority have been wearing face coverings. Thank you. Following the advice of our Mayor and city officials, we are now expecting everyone to be wearing a face-covering while in the building.

I do, however, anticipate some changes to our current practices to be forthcoming next week. Please watch for updates and announcements via email and social media. Also, in a normal year we would have posted our Christmas Eve Service times by now. Due to current situation I ask that you remain patient as I, together with the staff and church council, make the best decisions that we can.

And finally, I want to say thank you for your understanding of the difficult decisions that we are continually needing to make. Your love and care for one another and for Christ’s church is remarkable and inspiring. Jesus is our King. He is with us. He is ruling with the power of love. And he is guiding us as together we move through the present and into the future he has in store for us.

Together in Christ,

Pastor Tim
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