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Sunday, November 20, 2022

When We All Get to Heaven


"When we All Get to Heaven"
A Sermon preached for the Feast of Christ the King
St. Peter's, Lewes, DE at 5 PM 11/19/22
St. Martha's, Bethany Beach, DE at 9 AM 11/20/22
(the Rev Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton


Please pray with me (sung)
"When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing there will be.
When we all see Jesus,
we’ll sing and shout the victory.”

In the name of God, Amen.


Today, besides being Sunday and the day after Diocesan Convention and the day of Annual Meeting, is the Feast of Christ the King. On the liturgical calendar, this marks the end of the liturgical year. Next week, the first Sunday of Advent, begins the new church year.


Once again, we will follow the life of Christ set out for us in the seasons of the year: Advent (pregnant with anticipation), Christmas (the joyous celebration of the birth of Jesus), Epiphany (celebrating Christ the Light of the World), Lent (His adult life, suffering, and crucifixion), Easter (his resurrection), Pentecost (the gift of the spirit of his resurrection and birth of the church), All Saints (evidence of Life eternal), concluding with Christ the King.


Did you notice that our celebration is called the Feast of Christ the King? It’s not Jesus the King, but Christ the King. I have two stories for you that happened just this week that I think will help you understand why Christ – and not Jesus – is the Sovereign of our lives of faith.  


Some of you know that I’m a Hospice Chaplain. Besides activism, Hospice is my real passion. I feel like I’m finally old enough, and after 36 years of ordained ministry, have enough experience to know some stuff that, more often than not and to my surprise, actually does some good.

Mostly, I've learned that it's often best to just shut my mouth and open my ears. It's been a hard lesson to learn, but I'm getting there.


This past Thursday I got a chance to work with one of our Hospice docs who works in our inpatient unit in Milford. His specialty is symptom management and he’s especially good at it – especially pain management as well as respiratory ailments. It’s a real gift which he shares lavishly with our patients. 


When he calls the team together around a particular case, he always begins by saying this (my best impersonation of Dr. D: “Okay, so we’ve got one shot to make this right.” And, someone will always mutter, “But, no pressure, right doc?” And we all giggle softly.


He’s right of course. In this life, in that situation, the pressure is on. Odds are good that this patient will die before we will. So, the clock is ticking on how quickly and well we can make this patient pain-free and at peace before s/he takes their leave. We want to make sure that the patient knows that he is loved and cherished, and that they face death with dignity and respect.

As a pastor and a theologian, here’s what I see: The Jesus in the doctor is face to face with the Jesus in the patient and the time is now – today, right now, this now, now now – for a little modern miracle to manage the pain or the breathing or the restlessness or whatever the symptom so this person will be able to leave this world in peace.


In that situation, Jesus is Sovereign. It is the teaching of Jesus which leads us to walking the way of sacrificial love. It is the teaching of Jesus which guides that Hospice doctor and the Hospice team to lay down everything we’ve ever learned or experienced in service of that patient, so that their life will come to its end knowing that their life was so valued that it was worth every effort to make certain that they received the best care possible.


It’s a beautiful, spiritual thing, which may give you a bit of an inkling as to why I’m so passionate about Hospice Chaplaincy.


So, here is the story of why Christ is not the surname of Jesus but Christ is the sovereign of our lives.

My spouse has been in contact with one of her cousins – it’s one of the positive aspects of Social Media – which has been especially comforting since her mother, my spouse’s aunt, recently died.


Her cousin – I’ll call her Jane – just sent a note which told a fascinating story that left us all slack-jawed. As Jane was cleaning out her mother’s home, she found a cookie tin which her mother had conspicuously left on her perfectly made bed. She thought it probably contained all of her bills and other financial information. Clearly, this cookie tin was meant to be found.


Turns out, it was not filled with bills. Rather, it was filled with love letters from the man who was obviously the love of her life. And, that man was not her husband; it was not Jane’s father.


As Jane read the love letters – which her mother obviously meant for her to find and read – she began to piece together the stories she recalled her mother told her about a former boyfriend, “her first love,” as she called him, whom she didn’t marry because he was from a foreign country and she didn’t want to leave her mother and move so far away from her family.


So, she married – “settled” as Jane called it – for another man and “settled down” and made her life and her family here. Jane said that as she looked over the pictures of her mother and “her first love” she compared them with the pictures of her mother and her father and there was no matching the different smiles on her face.

“My mother beamed when she was with her first love,” she said. “I never saw her smile like that. She was obviously so happy with him – that man she called her first love – but I realize now was the love of her life.”


Jane’s grief was filled with regret. “I wish I had asked my mother more about him. About them. I wish I could let her know how much I loved her for what she did and how much I wish she didn’t have to make that sacrifice. Today, that wouldn’t be an issue. But then, it was the only choice she felt she had to make.”


Then she said something quite remarkable. She wrote, “My hope now is that these two will find each other in heaven and finally celebrate in heaven the love they couldn’t have on earth.”


And that, my friends, is the power of Christ the King.

The word Christ comes from the Greek word Christos meaning ‘the anointed one’. The Hebrew word meaning the same thing is Mashiach, or as we know it—Messiah. We know without a scintilla of a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the one anointed by God because of the miracle and gift of His resurrection.


So, when Jesus says to the criminal hanging next to him on the cross, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise,” he was saying that because he knew that in three days there would be absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was The Christ.


And, because Jesus is The Christ – because of his resurrection – we, too, will be with Him and with each other in Paradise. Jesus could promise life eternal because he is the Christ.


When Jesus is Christ the King in our lives, we, too know that we don’t have just “one shot to get this right”. We know that we have the gift of today – this day, this one precious moment in our lives – but because the Christ is Sovereign in our lives, we also have the gift of the resurrection.

We, too, will be able to leave behind all of our regrets, all of our memories written down on yellowing paper and left in a tin with old, fading pictures. We know that we will not count the cost of the sacrifices we make for love in this life because we will have life eternal with all the saints who dwell in Light Eternal.


So as we end this year in the church with all of the seasons of the life of Jesus, we end it celebrating that Christ, the anointed one, the Messiah, the resurrected Jesus, and we can sing with confidence that old, old hymn:

“When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing there will be.

When we all see Jesus,
we’ll sing and shout the victory.” 


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