In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells his followers, “That hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”Jesus is talking about the end of all things. Of course, it’s ironic that so many people have, over the centuries, predicted a date and time for when God will close up shop on earth, since Jesus says he doesn’t even know when that’s coming.However, reading this now, it reminds me of something I’ve learned writing this column for some 15 years. I’ve learned how much I don’t know. One rule I’ve made for myself over the years is that I would never recycle a column from one year to the next. I’ve forced myself to engage with these Scriptures each week, and to really try and find what it says to me now. And what these Scriptures say to me changes, often dramatically, from year to year. In every passage there is much that I don’t know. I know I’ll see and experience something different the next time.Frankly, I get a little uncomfortable when someone seems to know everything about how God works in our world and in our lives. It’s as if God is bound to behave according to that person’s beliefs. I don’t trust my beliefs enough to apply them to everyone, because my understanding and experience of God keeps changing. What advice I would give someone today might be very different a year or two from now.One of the tightropes we walk as Christians is trying to be faithful and flawed at the same time. The Gospel does not call us to be flawless, but we are also warned against a kind of spiritual laziness that would cause our faith to atrophy. Yes, we are saved by Christ, but we are also called to continue to grow in our relationship with Christ. Which is it? Is salvation an event or a process?Maybe it’s both. I may have mentioned this before (but I’m not copying!). Years ago, I read a book called “The Spirituality of Imperfection.” I’ve always liked that title because I relate to it a great deal. Jesus gives us a path to be spiritual and imperfect at the same time.Today Jesus tells us that it is OK to say, “I don’t know.” We are all on a journey from imperfection to spirituality. If we continue to grow, we will continue to change. When I look back at the past, I realize there was so much that I didn’t know. So it makes sense that the future will bring new understanding. We are all on a journey from imperfection to spirituality. If we continue to grow, we will continue to change.If I wish my readers anything for the future, and I pray for this myself, it is that we can find contentment and peace on this imperfection spectrum. It isn’t always easy; no one enjoys making mistakes and suffering the consequences. But knowing that God’s love is far greater than our mistakes certainly helps.Christ the KingIt is ironic that for the celebration of Christ the King, today’s Gospel reading features Jesus on trial for claiming to be “the King of the Jews.” We find Jesus in chains, being interrogated by the jealous, paranoid Pontius Pilate. It’s not a very kingly situation to be in. I mean, if you’re the king, no one can put you on trial for breaking the law. You are the law.Jesus is the law, but he never acts like the kind of king we are used to. He doesn’t flaunt or abuse his power and authority. Quite the opposite. He comes as a servant, to establish a rein of humility, joy and compassion. He does not court the rich and powerful, but the poor and needy — those left behind by the rich and powerful.We are reminded that in Christ, God came into this world to save and to serve us, not to belittle or punish us. This is the central message of the Gospel — that the unconditional love of God is greater than anything we humans can do to avoid it or reject it. Our lives are not to be an audition for heaven. We are called instead to simply embrace the love of God that we are offered, not as we might be someday, but as we are, now.There is a trap in every effort to improve ourselves. We want to be better but we also want to enjoy ourselves now. By enjoy ourselves, I don’t mean just having a good time. I mean that we take joy in who we are as a child of God’s unconditional love. It’s always been a struggle for me. If the creator of the universe loves me, why am I so often disappointed with myself? If God accepts me as I am, why do I find myself so unacceptable?In Christ we have the unmistakable message from God that we are loved as we are. We are called to embrace God love, and to stop judging others and ourselves. The king comes to serve the weak — the spiritually weak as well as the physically weak — and that really means all of us. We might be tempted to think we should be able to be strong enough to not need God’s grace. None of us are that strong, and when we try to be, we cut ourselves off from the grace that we need.A final thought…This will be my last column for The Tidings. I have enjoyed writing these columns immensely, and I greatly appreciate the notes that I have received from readers. I hope that I have responded to everyone who has written both recently and over the past 15 years. I am humbled and honored to know that some of my reflections have helped others, and I wish all of you the joy that comes from accepting ourselves as much as God accepts us. Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1116/peatman/{/gallery}