The Sunday before Advent – Christ the King, November 21st 2021

Welcome

Grace, mercy and peace

       from God our Father

       and the Lord Jesus Christ

       be with you

       and also with you

Worship

Call to Worship

We come today to acknowledge Christ as King.
His throne is a cross, and he reigns from high heaven.
Beauty and holiness are the marks of his kingdom.
He is the face of God revealed in human form.
Let us keep our eyes fixed on him:

King Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life.

A Gathering Prayer

God of gods and King of kings,
be with us as we seek to know more of your truth.
Speak to us by your Word and your Spirit.
Help us to see Jesus, and to hear his voice –
not just for today, but for all days,
and for the glory of your kingdom.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

© Copyright 2002-2021, ROOTS for Churches Ltd. All rights reserved. Print ISSN: 2040-4832 and 2635-280X; Online ISSN: 2635-2818.

Confession

O Lord our mighty God,
we have heard but not always listened to you:
with sorrow and sadness, we confess our sin.
We have seen need and closed our eyes to it:
with sorrow and sadness, we confess our sin.
We have closed our ears to cries for help:
with sorrow and sadness, we confess our sin.
We have known your truth and yet followed lies and falsehoods:
with sorrow and sadness, we confess our sin.
Amen.

Assurance of Forgiveness

The Lord God says:
be assured your sins are forgiven,
your slate is wiped clean.
Listen to the word of God and know its truth.
Amen.

© Copyright 2002-2021, ROOTS for Churches Ltd. All rights reserved. Print ISSN: 2040-4832 and 2635-280X; Online ISSN: 2635-2818.

Prayer for Today

God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory. 

Amen.                    

© The Archbishops’ Council 2000 and published by Church House Publishing.

Word

“As I looked,

“thrones were set in place,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
    the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
    and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
    coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
    and the books were opened.

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Daniel 7
9-10, 13-14

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

John 18
33-37

It may have escaped your notice, although I doubt it, that Christmas is coming.  In amongst all the commercial clatter and noise, and yes, excitement,  once again its that time of year when we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ as a baby, and the very start of Jesus’s story.  And that means that next week, with the start of Advent,   it will also be the start of a new Church year.  However before we get to that we still have one last Sunday, today, in our Church calendar and traditionally this has become known as Christ the King Sunday – a chance to consider the fact that Jesus is our King and the Lord over all creation.  Christ the King Sunday, although a relatively recent addition to our church calendar, is the perfect way for us to remind ourselves of why Jesus is our King and the reasons he came,  before we get too carried away with the Tinsel.  For me it is perfectly placed at the end of our church year to give us some perspective to keep in our minds as we flip over to another Advent.  Here at the very end of the church year we celebrate the culmination of all Jesus came to do and be  – we celebrate his reign over everything.

I wanted to start with that reading from Daniel this morning because it gave a clue who Jesus was going to be way back in the Old testament.  The book of Daniel was written during the time of King Antiochus Epiphanes, not a pleasant man, who ransacked the temple and forced many Jews into religious practices they wanted no part of and which went against Jewish Law.  Many Jews were killed for their resistance and so those times were terribly dark for the Jewish people

In Chapter 7 Daniel records how he had a dream, essentially of 4 beasts that were causing chaos in the world but who were all vanquished by God (who Danield referes to as the Ancient of Days) Daniel goes on to tell us that he sees a human being (what the NIV terms “one like a son of man” and the Aramaic actually translates as “human being”) coming up to God.  And God gives this Son of Man authority and power over everything, all will worship him and his dominion, his kingdom will never end

Daniel has been shown a story pointing the way to the future and Jesus -The key thing for us to realise is that Daniel saw that the one who was handed the power – the kingship – looks like us – he was to be as a son of man, a human,   this is that our king would look like one of us – he would be just like us. 

If we had had the New testament reading for today from Revelation we would have had another angle to see Christs Kingship written in another terrible time, when the Christians of the young church were undergoing persecution from the Roman Emprire.  Many were being arrested and killed whilst many others went into hiding.  Much of Revelation is of course difficult to understand and was probably meant to be especially difficult for the persecutors of the Christians   The bit we have for today though is a hym of praise for Jesus and echos the book of Daniel: , it sings, “See, he comes amid the clouds!” It continues: “Every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him”, so even those who turned on him and condemned him to death on the cross would hear and understand who he was.


The Revelation passage continues  …But, as the Lord says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is and who was and who is to come.” Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They represent the beginning and the end. Jesus Christ is, as Paul in the letter to the Colossians and John in his gospel tell us, the source of all that is, the Alpha. Through him, the creating Word of God, all things were created.
And he is the Omega, the final goal for all creation. Every experience, every dream, every achievement is nothing compared to this. “  If you think about it this is simply another way of saying that Christ is King – , the start of everything and our ultimate goal, He alone gives meaning to our existence, to our lives.

And so we come to today’s Gospel reading and it starts with our King not being in a very good place, certainly not being treated like the king we know him to be.  Jesus has been arrested at Gethsemane, subjected to a show trial and found guilty of blasphemy for calling himself God.  As we know Herrod couldn’t give the death penalty so instead Jesus has been sent to Pilate, the local Roman leader.

Pontious Pilate had the difficult  job of keeping everybody in line – the Jewish historian Philo describes him as a ruthless overlord who was “by nature rigid and stubbornly harsh…of spiteful disposition and an exceeding wrathful man.. His career was marked by .. bribes, acts of violence, outrages, cases of spiteful treatment, constant murders and ceasless, most grevious brutality”  so even by Roman standards he was unpleasant.

 And yet today’s Gospel reading portrays him in places as a weak and vacillating man – torn between his fears and doubts.  He was certainly cynical “So YOU are a king?” he asks Jesus sarcastically.  

John tells the story really well. We have  a meeting between the man who has the real power – the representative of the roman empire – and the powerless figure of Jesus who says he has power but clearly doesn’t as far as Pilate is concerned.  And yet, as the story moves on we realise that Jesus is in control whereas Pilate is floundering.  Pilate doesn’t think much of Jesus but cant find any reason to condemn him.  His job is to administer justice but he is too scared of the local’s reaction to just let Jesus go.

And maybe Pilate is too scared of what Jesus might be to just snap his fingers and have Jesus executed as Philo tells us he could do.  I think this shows that for all his reputation as a tough guy Pilate is spooked by Jesus – perhaps he has heard some of the stories about the amazing things Jesus has done.    In the passage that follows the one we have heard this morning Pilate goes outside his court to the Jews gathered outside to tell them he cant find any basis for a charge against Jesus and offers to release “Your King of the Jews” but instead the crowd ask for Barabass to be released. 

Then we hear in Chapter 19 how Pilate has Jesus flogged – presumably in the hope that will satisfy the mob outside, it didn’t, and Pilate is once again in a fix where he wants to free Jesus but dare not.  With the crowd getting angrier Pilate eventually asks the Chief Priests v19 “Shall I Crucify your King?”  and the single most hypocritical thing possible comes back from supposedly religious leaders “We have no king but Ceaser” It seems to me that this might be the single most damning thing written in the Bible about how wrong the church at the time got it – not only did they not recognise Jesus for who he was (or if they did they pretended not to for fear of losing their own status and power) but they actually put Cesear above all, including God.

As the story continues finally Pilate gives in to what the mob want, and you can understand why.  He needs to keep the peace, quell any uprising and keep the Jewish leaders on side or else his own position will be questioned by his superiors..  He perceives a lack of help from Jesus himself so he just washes his hands of the situation.  

The story succeeds in contrasting the perceived idea of a King – Pilate – whose kingdom is all about Roman military power with the notion that Jesus is a charismatic king who will be followed because of who he is and does . The exchange in todays passage is really interesting :

Pilate says “  “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

What Jesus has done, from being born to his life of preaching and teaching to that moment in front of Pilate and the reasons why it has all happened caould never be answered in a way that Pilate would cope with.  If we stop and think “What did Jesus do” we will come up with lots and lots of things that all together add up to how we know Jesus but that isn’t what Pilate is getting at – he’s looking for a simple answer, this is all wasting his time – he needs a crime to judge against. 

Jesus knows Pilate isn’t really aksing for his life history so instead of answering, Jesus talks about the nature of his kingship.
It does not belong to this world; it is on a different level altogether. If it was a kingdom in the sense that Pilate could understand, then Jesus would have people to fight for him, to prevent him being handed over.But most of Jesus followers have run away, they are hiding not knowing what to do but Jesus implies this doesn’t really matter – his kingship is on a different level, a level over which Pilate has no control.

Pilate, perhaps realising that Jesus is something more than a common criminal is intrigued –  “So, then, you are a king?” he asks

 “If you say so, I am a king.” But Jesus goes on to explain what being a king for him means: “The reason I was born, the reason why I came into this world, is to give witness to the truth.” “Anyone committed to the truth hears my voice.”

Jesus tells us all that he’s not a King in the Henry the 8th sense – he’s not come to fight battles and force people to be his subjects he has simply come to tell the truth about God and that anyone who hears the truth will get it.  Jesus challenges us, just as he challenges Pilate – if you can see the truth why wouldn’t you understand me?  If we see the truth of Jesus that is how we become his subjects.  We are happy to crown him as our king because we see and hear the truth that Jesus brings.

Jesus in v 37 says “everyone on the side of truth listens to me” because they recognise that he speaks the truth and so they hold him as an authority and listen to him, regardless of whether he has any official power from any institution.

And that’s the difference between the power of Jesus – who tells the truth – and the religious leaders of the time who have all the trappings of leadership but don’t command any respect because their actions don’t match the words.  Remember how much parables like the Good Samaritan rang true to the people of the time, everyone could see religious hypocrisy was rife.

 And this is what Christ the King Sunday is all about – Through history the idea of a King is that a king rules, that he dispenses his power with might – maybe his army.  Even Good kings were / are those that have used that position of power and might in a benevolent manner. 

And yet we are challenged to see that Charismatic power is in the end the only kind of authority that is real and that can endure.  Dictators come and go as their power base fades – the power that comes from the gun that Chairman Mao talked about only lasts as long as you are holding the gun, or until your openent gets a bigger gun.  And when the gun is put down the power is gone.

When Jesus says “My kingdom is not of this world” he’s not saying he’s from a differnet planet.  He’s saying his Kingdom is from a different way of thinking.  He is saying that his Kingdom is different from the physical kingdoms of physical kings as Pilate knows them because it is not based on institutionalised power.

As we know The kingdom of God that Jesus talks about , and often tries to teach the disciples about, is different in pretty much every way from the conventional thought of a wordly kingdom. Remember what he said when the disciples James and John asked to sit either side of him in heaven: Mark 10 42-45 “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We know from reading the bible that the Kingdom Jesus talks about is completely unlike any kingdom we know, where little children are as important as adults, where the weak are not despised but loved, where material wealth means nothing and humility and sacrifiuce mean everything. Jesus is the kIng of this  “upside down kingdom” – where the first is last and the last first.  It is quite unlike anything else we know or comprehend.  And so when Jesus says to Pilate “My Kingdom is not of this world” he says it because there’s no comparison. 

Pilate is comparing Jesus to himself, but he cant understand that Jesus is on a totally differnet plane.  Jesus doesn’t want or need to compete with Pilate on that level. 

One thing is important though  – the fact that Jesus is not competing with Pilate for political power doesn’t mean that Jesus was not a revolutionary.  Jesus came to cause a revolution in the way we think – he came to shake up the whole world.  If you think about it the established church reacted in exactly the same way as an established government would in the face of a revolution – try and crush it.  Jesus was starting a revolution, one that would upset and overturn the religious status quo of the time and one that still does. Once

And so then the question for us, I think especially as we move into the Christmas season is simpy this:  Is Christ our King? Because if he is then we wont be seduced by promises of worldly power, whatever they are.  If we choose to believe the message that Jesus has for us then we will choose the right King.  I want you to imagine what a different world this would be if everyone accepted Christ as King!

And I’m not saying its easy.  Often we are in a postion where worldy power affects us greatly.  We are often seduced either by things or people that promises us better happiness, more riches, a more comfortable life. And sometimes the actions we take have consequences for others.

 But if Christ really is our King then we can see past those short term things to the Kingdom of God that is here and that endures long after we leave this life.  As I said – Imagine what a different world this would be if everyone accepted Christ as King.

Todays Gospel story doesn’t end well for Jesus, it doesn’t end with him walking away from Pilate having saved his own life.  And yet, in losing  it, in making the ultimate sacrifice for all of us and rising again we are given the final proof that he is the one real King, our king and his Kingdom and his rule are what we truly want and need more than ever in this broken world of ours .

Amen

Witness

Statement of Faith

Let us declare our faith in God.

All We believe in God the Father,
from whom every family
in heaven and on earth is named.

We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith,
and fills us with his love.

We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us
with power from on high.

We believe in one God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Prayer

 

Eucharistic Prayer H

The Lord is here.
All His Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.
All We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All It is right to give thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you, Father, Lord of all creation;
in your love you made us for yourself.

When we turned away
you did not reject us,
but came to meet us in your Son.
All You embraced us as your children
and welcomed us to sit and eat with you.

In Christ you shared our life
that we might live in him and he in us.

All He opened his arms of love upon the cross
and made for all the perfect sacrifice for sin.

On the night he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends
he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.
All Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his body is the bread of life.

At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,
he gave you thanks, and said:
Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;
do this in remembrance of me.

All Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his blood is shed for all.

As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,
send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine
may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.
All As we eat and drink these holy gifts
make us one in Christ, our risen Lord.

With your whole Church throughout the world
we offer you this sacrifice of praise
and lift our voice to join the eternal song of heaven:
All Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

The Lord’s Prayer

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray

All Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Amen.

Breaking of the Bread
The president breaks the consecrated bread.

We break this bread
to share in the body of Christ.

All Though we are many, we are one body,
because we all share in one bread.

Giving of Communion
The president says one of these invitations to communion

God’s holy gifts
for God’s holy people.

All Jesus Christ is holy,
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

 

The body of Christ broken for us all
Amen

The blood of Christ shed for us all
Amen


Prayer after Communion

All Almighty God,
we thank you for feeding us
with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.
Through him we offer you our souls and bodies
to be a living sacrifice.
Send us out
in the power of your Spirit
to live and work
to your praise and glory.
Amen.

Blessing and dismissal

A Sending out Prayer

Christ our King,
as we go from this place,
assure us of your presence with us –
for we belong to you.
Help us to look for truth in all places,
to seek and listen to your voice,
and to use your power to serve.
Bring heaven to earth and reign in our lives.
We pray in your name, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

 

Community

The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.

Reminder

If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to comments@allsaintstotley.church