Most of us are familiar with the idea of the Christian Year: the repeating seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost & Trinity. It’s become a tried-and-tested way of marking the story of our salvation through the turning of the year.
But, in recent years, the Church of England has added another season, right at the end of the Church’s Year. It’s called the Kingdom Season. I think it’s a really useful addition to the Calendar.
The Gospels talk a great deal about the Kingdom of God. It’s not a place, of course, but an idea. Some people call it the Reign of God, giving us the idea of a way of being, a state of the world, where God reigns. We all long for such a reign in one way or another. For example, on Remembrance Sunday – in the Kingdom Season – we remind ourselves of the need for peace and justice in the world; how we need that! Such peace and justice are, we read in the Gospel, states that come to exist when God reigns, when the Kingdom of God is present on earth. Alongside those two wonderful gifts to the world, when God reigns in Scripture, we see mercy, compassion, forgiveness, freedom and countless other things. These are things that every person of goodwill would want for the world. The world put right. When we pray ‘Your Kingdom come, your will be done’ in the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying for these beautiful gifts to come to us, to our community and to our world. We pray too that we would play our part in making the Reign of God come.
But, as well all are only too well aware, the Reign of God is not yet come. And we wonder just how it might. What the Kingdom Season can remind us about is that God’s purpose in bringing his Reign into being is achieved by a King for the Kingdom. Bishop Tom Wright, one of our leading biblical scholars, offers a way of seeing the story of Jesus – his life and teaching, his death and resurrection – as the way in which God’s Kingdom gains its King. This Kingdom comes not through military power or political agitation, but through the loving suffering of Jesus and God’s vindication of Jesus’ path towards the Kingdom in raising him from the dead. It is not for nothing that the Kingdom Season ends with the Feast of Christ the King. The goal of our service and the heart of God’s mission is to see ‘all things hold together in Christ’. (Colossians 1.17)
So listen carefully to the bible readings this November: they point to the King and the Kingdom. And when you pray those words in the Lord’s Prayer, pray that you might be a vessel through which God might become King of our world.