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Christ the King Sunday

Nov 25, 2018

By

I hope that your thanksgiving holiday was wonderful! We enjoyed our trip to New England to visit family. It was a big feast in a little country home, filled with extended and blended family and friends and two overexcited dogs. And one granddaughter plus one new baby, who ruled the roost and graciously accepted our adulation with equanimity. For a few hours before the feast, the kitchen was mildly chaotic, with people moving about, and things going into/coming out of the oven, and Justin trying to fix something with a screwdriver while the Yorkie yipped. The peaceable Kingdom it was not, and we felt the love in the room. We had a wonderful time putting the fun into our family dysfunction.

This Sunday we are transitioning back to regular life. It is the end of our liturgical year. Nothing in our liturgical calendar or our solemnities is accidental. Our celebrations are carefully and intentionally planned to illuminate what we believe. Next week, it is fitting that we begin a new annual cycle with Advent, anticipating Jesus’ humble birth in a stable, because that speaks of a fundamental truth about God and the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ. And today we reach the culmination of that truth, celebrating Jesus Christ as the King of glory.

What can a 21st Century American Christian see in all this king-and-kingdom stuff? Although we rejected divine right kingship in 1776, just one hundred years ago monarchs ruled eighty percent of the world. Today, kings and queens and emperors seem to be anachronistic – perhaps a quaint reflection of British television programming. Why do we continue to talk about Jesus as a King and the reign of God as a Kingdom? Aren’t we far more comfortable with the Good Shepherd metaphor, with a loving, protective, gentle Jesus?

And yet – is it possible that through the very strangeness of the image of Christ as a King, we may perceive something about what it means to have a relationship with God in the person of Jesus? Week by week, we pray that as we say Thy kingdom come.  Do we not mean that?

Whether we want to confess it or not, there are powers that rule over our lives, to which we offer our allegiance. During this past year, who or what has been like a king? (the boss? the image? the career?) Whom have I served, through my thoughts, words, and deeds? To whom must I pay homage? (We may not like the medieval image of bowing down in submission, and yet is this not a truth?) Who or what sits on the throne in my consciousness? And how does all that feel in the heart?

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus offers a unique definition of kingdom and his kingship. Pontius Pilate wants to understand the man before him, accused of insurrection. Is Jesus a rival to the throne? Is he a revolutionary? Jesus seems to offer little defense, except that he is not challenging the established order. Pilate is more worried about keeping order than he is about seeking justice. He does not want to condemn an innocent man, yet he is concerned with keeping order in a difficult province. Pilate is willing to trade truth for expedience –  and on some level he knows he is taking the easy way instead of the right way.

Jesus is doing something altogether different. He is offering his life to bring humanity new life. He is living a human life so that he can teach us how to be free of the great lies that bind us. The way of Jesus is a narrow way. It can appear convoluted, and sometimes it is difficult. He invites us to follow him on the path, discerning life in the presence of God in a world that is less than perfect and sometimes chaotic. He really is the King in a different way.

How will God’s Kingdom emerge? What will this Kingdom look like? Will it spring up one day and surprise us? Will we be taken up into the clouds and find it? I wouldn’t count on that. Jesus frequently told his followers that the Kingdom was very near to them and even in their midst. If this mysterious Kingdom is already in our midst, is it waiting for us to perceive it? Is it as perfect as we have dreamed? Or is it, in some way, better than that?

Poet and retired Marine officer Phil Klay quotes St Paul to remind us “the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Cor 4.20)” At times, we may think we can feel power around us, but the power of God is not coercive. Christianity is not, or should not be, a religion that commands allegiance by force. Real Christianity is not a religious practice of hard and fast rules, but a disciplined life of Love, nourished by stories and paradoxes and enigmatic parables. Following Jesus is an invitation to mystery, not mastery; to communion, not control; to love of God and neighbor, not loss of freedom.

Klay, who returned from deployment in Iraq with a serious crisis of faith and who confesses that he lost his belief in a God who orders the universe, says practicing as a Christian fits with what he knows of reality, helps him live honestly, and helps him set aside his dreams of a less atavistic world in which people follow rational orders and never rebel. Perfect obedience, after all, is not of people, but of machines. Perfect control rules over those whose free will is dead. And the tortured God of the cross is not a God of death, but of new life.

We are living in unsettled times. We have imperfect lives and broken hearts. And let’s be honest, we want to follow Jesus and we must find a way to balance our divided allegiances. We are looking not for a place but for a relationship,  a person in whom we can invest emotionally, spiritually, with integrity and a sense of peace. Someone who makes sense of the life we live. Someone who treats us not as another commodity but as the Beloved.

While the celebration of Christ the King has deep theological meaning, it is neither an invitation merely to cerebral exercise nor is it innocuous. It is a life-changing invitation to choose the love of God as the ultimate end of our being, and to practice that in daily life. There is no power greater than this Love. If we enthrone Christ as our Lord, he is the One whose standard of Love has ultimate authority. He is the One whose Love transcends all the stuff that gets between us and God, and gives holy meaning to our imperfection. This changes everything and in a practical manner unravels the dominion of earthly powers. We choose Christ, not because the Kingdom brings perfect order and obedience, and not because we are fearful. We choose Christ because we want to know the Truth and the Love that he offers, which offer a corrective to the nihilistic worldly narrative of our insignificance.

In the frame of Thanksgiving weekend, the celebration of Christ as King is a spiritual truth for which we can give profound thanks.


This sermon was preached by the Rev. Dr. Amy Welin at St. Stephen’s Cathedral on November 25, 2018, for Christ the King Sunday. The texts for the day, which can be found at this link, are:

  • Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
  • Psalm 93
  • Revelation 1:4b-8
  • John 18:33-37

Resources

  • David Sellery. This Week’s Focus. Click here to view.
  • Phil Klay. “Deployment to Iraq changed my view of God, country and humankind. So did coming home.”  America. Nov 11, 2018. Click here to view.
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Serve in WorshipAcolyte

Acolytes carry the cross and torches at processions and help the priest prepare for Holy Communion. This ministry is ideal for youth (grades 7 and up), and is also open to adults. A brief training session is offered to help you learn the job. Acolytes are scheduled on a rotating basis.

Clergy & StaffAmy Welin

Dean | Email: adwelin@ststep.org

The Very Rev. Dr. Amy D. Welin has been serving as the Dean of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral since August 2017.

Prior to her priestly ordination, Amy worked as an instructor of medieval and world history, an insurance claims processor, and a pastoral associate in a large mid-western church. Before accepting the call  of the Cathedral Church of St. Stephen in Harrisburg, she served a variety of parishes in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, as a member of the Standing Committee and the Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral.

One of the founding members of the Episcopal Clergy Association in Connecticut (ConnECA), and a prior board member of the Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations (NECA), Amy devotes her energy to issues of clergy and parish wellness.

Married to Greg Welin, who is also an Episcopal priest, and mother of four young adults, Amy likes to garden and practice yoga in her free time.

Clergy & StaffCindy Harbert

Administrator | Email: charbert@ststep.org

Cindy Coombs Harbert joined the staff at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in 2017.  Most of Cindy’s professional career has been centered around non-profit administration.  Cindy holds a BA in social work and education from West Virginia Wesleyan College and has completed graduate coursework in counseling at Messiah University. The mother of two adult children, she enjoys traveling, volunteering in the community, watching field hockey, and exploring new places that she hasn’t visited before.

Clergy & StaffFred Miller

Canon Pastor

The Rev. Canon Fred Miller began on staff as Canon Pastor for spiritual care July 2020.

Fred is a MDIV graduate of the Episcopal Divinity School with graduate studies in Congregational Development at Seabury Western Seminary, and marriage and family counseling at Trinity Counseling Center, Princeton. He served 4 parishes in New Jersey before coming to Central PA at All Saints’, Hershey. After receiving certification with the Interim Ministry Network he served in NJ, & Kansas, before returning to this diocese, working in Altoona, State College & Williamsport. Serving with the YWCA as a volunteer, retired Red Cross volunteer and as a previous College Chaplain in two states has opened the possibilities of living into the Episcopal Church becoming a bridge to interfaith relations.

Married to Kris with whom we proudly share three children, now grown. Fred enjoys outdoor activities, simple meals, and quiet conversation.

Clergy & StaffGene Schofield

Parish Nurse

Gene was born and grew up on family farm in MN. After getting her Bachelor’s degree in nursing, she worked at a Navy hospital where she met and married her husband, Mike. The mother of 4 (Kirsten died of CP complications at age 40) she keeps busy with her children, her 9 grandchildren and her great-granddaughter. Gene returned to work in nursing after her children were in middle school with her last position being a Hospice nurse until her retirement in 2008. Gene is available to assist the newly diagnosed, helps with securing durable medical equipment and checks in with those on our prayer list on a weekly basis.

Serve in WorshipGreeter

Greeters are the public face of the Cathedral on Sunday mornings. Our greeting team welcomes guests and members alike, and helps guests find a seat and matches them up with a member to assist them in the service.

Clergy & StaffJordan Markham

Director of Music

Jordan R. Markham studied at The Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He is a classically-trained lyric-baritone, pianist, organist, and conductor, having previously studied under the Grammy-winning baritone, William Sharp and soprano Susan Solomon Beckley of Bucknell University. For two years he was a professional chorister at The Washington National Cathedral, and was a paid chorister and soloist in The Handel Choir of Baltimore. While with the Handel Choir, he sang the tenor solo role of Apollo in Handel’s Semele, the tenor solo in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (both with full orchestra), and the tenor solo in Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in The Lamb. Prior to this, he sang the baritone solo in Rossini’s  Petite Messe Solennelle with the Peabody Singers and most recently has been heard singing the baritone solo in The Seven Last Words Of Christ by Theodore Dubois, accompanied by a full orchestra.

Throughout the past decade, Mr. Markham has performed at The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Nobuo Uematsu, composer of the soundtracks for the Final Fantasy Games. He has also sung at Carnegie Hall, The Boston Symphony Hall, and the Jackie Gleason Theatre. He has been active in the musical theatre scene for over a decade directing, accompanying, and acting in theaters throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland. Mr. Markham has most recently been seen in South Pacific with The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, as “Jimmy” in Reefer Madness, “Peter” in Bare: A Pop Opera, and as “Chip” in The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee, for which he was also the music director and whose cast received a nomination by Broadway World for Best Ensemble. He has also performed onstage with the Peabody Opera in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and  Cosi fan tutte, Verdi’s La Traviata, and Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen.

Mr. Markham is currently the Artistic Director and Conductor of The Central Pennsylvania Womyn’s Chorus, and a co-founding member of Allegro con Fuoco, a keyboard duo with Tyler A. Canonico, and proudly serves as the Director of Music and Organist at St Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

Serve in WorshipLay Eucharistic Minister

Lay Eucharistic Ministers (LEMs) assist the clergy at the altar by distributing Holy Communion to members of the congregation. LEMs are scheduled based on their availability to serve one or more Sundays each month. This ministry is open to all baptized and confirmed members of the church, after attending two hours of training and receiving a license from the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania.

Serve in WorshipLay Worship Leader

Do you have an interest in leading prayer and worship services that do not require ordained clergy? By receiving a license as a Lay Worship Leader from the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, you will be able to lead the congregation in Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and other prayer services. This ministry requires significant study and preparation, and is open to all baptized and confirmed members of the church. 

Serve in WorshipLector

Lectors proclaim the Word of God by reading from the Old Testament and the New Testament during worship services. Lectors are scheduled based on their availability. All interested persons are eligible to become lectors by attending a 30-minute orientation session.

Clergy & StaffMicalagh Moritz

Director of Formation for Young Adults and Youth

In 2021, Micalagh transitioned into the role of Director of Youth & Young Adult Formation. She previously served as the Sycamore House Program Director, starting in 2017. She has over 15 years of experience in various community nonprofits in Harrisburg, Belize, and Washington, DC.

She majored in Human Development & Family Science in college, and continued on to receive her Masters in Social Work. She has a counseling and therapy background, which is applicable to many areas of life-both on the job and off. She has worked with youth and young adults in many different settings, including through Harrisburg-based after-school programs, through the Sycamore House, as Director of a study abroad program in Belize, and through teaching college courses locally.

She is passionate about helping to create healing spaces for people to grow and learn, exploring the intersections of faith and justice, and building bridges between people of various backgrounds. She is also passionate about spiritual formation as an integral part of building community.

Micalagh lives in Harrisburg and can often be found riding her bike up Riverfront Park, in a local café, or walking to Broad Street Market. She is married to Joshua Moritz, a middle school Case Manager and farmer at heart, and they have 2 children who attend St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. 

Clergy & StaffMichael Frascella

Facilities Manager

Michael Frascella has served as our part-time Facilities Manager for several years.  He works diligently to see that our campus stays beautiful, our buildings are problem-free, and that there are inviting and welcoming spaces for all who enter our doors.  Michael is a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral and is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of 4. 

Clergy & StaffMichael Nailor

Deacon

Michael was born and raised in Mechanicsburg, PA as a member of First Evangelical United Brethren (United Methodist) where he was active throughout childhood and as a young adult.  He came to the Episcopal Church while he was in college at the University of Pennsylvania.  The pioneering women of the “Philadelphia Eleven” had just been irregularly ordained and the church was struggling with the role of women in leadership. Michael was drawn to a church that was willing to deal with – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – the important social justice issues of the day. 

Agreeing to disagree but still staying in communion around the Holy Table appealed to this English teacher and debate coach throughout his 41-year career in education.  Michael serves the Diocese of Central PA as a deacon at St. Stephen’s Cathedral as he has since his ordination in 2018. He also works at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.

Serve in WorshipPrayer Leader

Prayer Leaders lead the Prayers of the People during worship services. Prayers are led from among the congregation, with prayer leaders adding a prayer of their own choosing to reflect the needs of the moment. All persons are eligible for this ministry — a brief orientation session is available to help prepare you for leading prayers.

Service OpportunitiesArtsFest

Downtown Harrisburg

Artsfest is always held the weekend of Memorial Day, Saturday through Monday, with St. Stephen’s members serving hot dogs, hamburgers, snow cones and beverages, while tours of the Cathedral are offered along with free organ concerts every hour. The profits from our ArtsFest work are all dedicated to a selection of service groups in the city.

Service OpportunitiesCommon Ground Cafe

Allison Hill - Harrisburg

When is a breakfast more than just a meal? When it is a community center, a kids’ craft session, a book nook for adults, a reading program and book giveaway for children, an opportunity for family members and neighbors to visit in a warm, welcoming place.

Please join the volunteers and community members who make all of this happen on the last Saturday of every month at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg at 1508 Market St. We serve about 250 people at each breakfast, so we need cooks, waiters, greeters, coffee servers, readers, a set up crew, dishwashers, piano players, and anyone who just wants the best breakfast in town!

Service OpportunitiesDowntown Daily Bread

Downtown Harrisburg

Downtown Daily Bread is a soup kitchen located at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church. Their mission is to provide services for the homeless & feed the hungry (40,000 meals/year) 7 days a week including weekends & holidays. On the first Sunday of every other month from approximately noon until 2 p.m., St. Stephen’s serves the food trays and then helps clean up afterward.

Service OpportunitiesLittle Free Food Pantry

Jessica McClard launched the grassroots mini pantry movement on May 2016 in Fayetteville, AR, when she planted the Little Free Pantry Pilot, a wooden box on a post containing food, personal care, and paper items accessible to everyone all the time no questions asked.

Service OpportunitiesRMMS

We participate in an organized program to support and encourage refugees hoping to make the U.S. their home.

Service OpportunitiesSt. Barnabas Children's Ministry

Uptown Harrisburg

St. Barnabas was founded by our own Bishop Charlie McNutt and Bishop Guy Edmiston from the Lower Susquehanna Synod. Located in Uptown Harrisburg, St. Barnabas offers children ages 7 – 12 an 8-week summer day camp. A variety of experiences allow spiritual, emotional, physical, educational & social growth. St. Stephen’s provides food for the children, along with volunteers to prepare, serve and clean up.

Service OpportunitiesSusquehanna Harbor Safe Haven

Uptown Harrisburg

Operated by the ecumenical group Christian Churches United, Susquehanna Harbor is a residence for homeless men. St. Stephen’s, along with other churches and service groups, is responsible for staffing the 25-unit overnight shelter several weeks each year.

Clergy & StaffStuart Scarborough

Property Manager

Rev. Stuart Scarborough, Deacon, joined St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral part-time as a Property Manager after migrating northward from the Diocese of Maryland when his wife, Rev. Anjel Scarborough, was called to be Rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Hershey. Prior to relocating, Stuart spent 13 years managing facilities, including three years as Facilities Operations Director for St. John’s Episcopal Church and Parish Day School in Ellicott City, MD and, before that, ten years as Director of Operations at the Claggett Center, Maryland’s Diocesan conference, retreat and camp center in Adamstown, MD. Prior to this, Stuart, who has a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech, worked for 20+ years in manufacturing. Stuart and Anjel have two adult children; Martin, who lives in Cockeysville, MD and Erin, who lives in Newark, DE.

As Property Manager, Stuart will oversee the care and maintenance of all the Cathedral buildings and property. In addition to this part-time role, Stuart is also serving part-time as Property Manager for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. In this role, Stuart will look after all buildings and properties that are owned by the Diocese, but are not parishes. Further, Stuart has been assigned as Deacon to Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church in Camp Hill.

Serve in WorshipTechnical Guild

Are you looking for a behind-the-scenes way to get involved? Consider joining our technical crew and learning to operate our sound and light systems. Sound and Light Technicians facilitate worship services by ensuring that sound levels and amplification are appropriate, and that lighting is used to highlight the liturgical action. Some training is required.

Serve in WorshipUsher

One of the primary functions of an usher is to guide guests and members to various parts of the Cathedral (restrooms, parlors, nursery, etc.) and to assist with any special needs (e.g. wheelchair access). Ushers are also trained to summon help in the case of any emergencies.