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Sermon and Liturgy (2) For Ordinary 34 - Christ The King - Year B
Revelation 1:1-8; Psalm 132; John 18:33-37
"Our Images of Christ"


READING:  Revelation 1:4-8; Psalm 132; John 18:33-37
SERMON :  "Our Images of Christ"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or34sm.y-b 581905

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   Sources - For the sermon I am indebted to notes by Bob Stump
   [Sermonshop 1997 11 16] note 64 and Sermonshop Note 2999 by
   Marilyn Allen on Nov. 21, 1997 on images of kingship. 


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP (based on Psalm 146:1-6)
L    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
     and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P    And also with you.
L    Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.
P    I will praise the LORD all my life; 
     I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
L    Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.
P    When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; 
     on that very day their plans come to nothing.
L    Blessed are they whose help is the God of Jacob, 
P    Blessed are they whose hope is in the Lord their God, 
     the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-
     the Lord, who remains faithful forever.


* HYMN:  "Love Divine, All Love's Excelling"                       - VU 333

     
* PRAYER OF APPROACH:
Let us Pray:  Lord God, you who are Creator of the Universe and  the Power
behind all powers, we gather today as your people to praise you and to hear
word and to pray that your truth might guide us in our every action and
thought.  Help us come from our scattered lives to focus on your eternal
reality.   Assure us once more of your divine control over all things and
help us to surrender ourselves completely into your loving care and to
follow your path in holy obedience and joy.   Be present with us and bless
us -we ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


* HYMN:  "God Whose Almighty Word"                                 - VU 314

          
CHILDREN'S TIME: "The Nature of Our King"
Theme     Christ is A Servant King
Object    Washing Bowl, Pitcher, and Towel
Source    Self

Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year - the Sunday is known as
"Christ The King Sunday" or "The Reign of Christ".   Next Sunday we begin a
brand new year as we prepare for Christmas.  We will light candles each
Sunday and sing carols and get ready for the coming of Jesus - the Jesus
whom we call the King of Kings and Lord of Lords..

Today I want you to use your imagination and tell me what a King is like -
and what a King does - and how a King is treated - and how a King treats
other people?

If you were a King - what are some of the things you would do?  And how
would you do them?

Jesus was a king - but he said his followers would not fight for him with
weapons of war.  And commanded them not to.   This bowl and towel are a
symbol of the kind of King Jesus was.  Jesus was a king - but he knelt at
the feet of his followers and washed those feet.   Jesus was a king - but
he had no palace - no servants - no fine horses - often no place to sleep
at night.  Jesus was a king, but he was born in a stable.  Jesus was a king
- but he died on a cross - which common criminals were executed upon.

Jesus is a king - not like the kings of this world - as King where he calls
people to obey and follow in his path; not because they have to or else;
but because he lives by truth - and by love - and these things are right -
and these things are the only things that will allow us to live forever -
everything else will pass away.


PRAYER AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
     Let us Pray   Dear Lord God -  we thank you for Jesus -- the King
     of Love - the one who rules with truth - and who shows mercy -
     and who opens the gates of heaven - so that all may enter in.  -
     Help us to love as he loves - to serve as he serves - and to win
     through to the glory -- we ask it in his name.  Amen

     Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
     come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us
     this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we
     forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into
     temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom,
     the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Rejoice, The Lord Is King"                               - VU 213


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS & CONCERNS
- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries   
- Special Matters     
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


TIME OF SILENCE & AN INTROIT FOR THE WORD  (verse 2 - VU 371)
  Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!


A READING FROM REVELATION 1:4-8
     (NIV) John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace
     and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to
     come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from
     Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the
     dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.  To him who loves
     us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us
     to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father - to him
     be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

     Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him,
     even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will
     mourn because of him.  So shall it be! Amen. 

     "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and
     who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

L:   This is the word of the Lord.
P:   Thanks be to God.


PRAYER OF CONFESSION: (unison)
L:   O Lord, we call you the Alpha and The Omega, the beginning and the
          end, King of kings, and Lord of lords, the ground of our being,
          the light of our souls, very God of God.  Yet often our hearts
          are far from you.
P:   We confess that we turn aside from your path and shut our ears to your
          voice of wisdom  and our eyes to where your hand would guide us.  
     Too often we seek good things without considering that you are the
          source of all that is good and true and lasting - and so we hurt
          you, we hurt others, and we hurt ourselves.  
     Forgive us we pray.
     ............... (silent prayer) ...............
L:   Lord hear our prayer..


SUNG RESPONSE (VU 948):  
     O Lord, hear my prayer.  O Lord, hear my prayer; 
     when I call answer me.  
     O Lord hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer; 
     come and listen to me.


ASSURANCE OF GOD'S LOVE & MERCY:
     This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and
     only son into the world that we might live through him.  Out of
     his love, he sent him as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
                                                     -- I John 4:9-10

     In the name of Jesus - our Lord, I tell you - your sins are
     forgiven.  If you would have the fullness of joy and peace in
     your lives, obey his commandments and forgive of the sins. 
     Blessed be his name.  Amen.


ANTHEM:  "The Lord's My Shepherd" 


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 132, Part 1(VU page 854-55) and Gloria Patri Sung

     Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. 
     As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
     World without end.  Amen 


A READING FROM JOHN 18:33-37
     (NIV)  Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus
     and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" 

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

     "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief
     priests who handed you over to me.  What is it you have done?" 

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

     "You are a king, then!" said Pilate.  

     Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact,
     for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world,
     to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens
     to me."

L    This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P    Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "O Love, How Deep"                                        - VU 348


SERMON:  "Our Image of Christ"
     
     O Lord,  we pray, breath into us your living word - your guiding
     spirit - your peace giving presence.   Speak we pray by the words of
     my lips and in the meditations of our hearts.   Touch us for your
     servants are open to your leading.  We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

When you "image" Christ - when you think of Jesus - what image or metaphor
do you come up with for him?

I am rather fond of calling Jesus my brother and my friend, 
and thinking of him as one who walks the journey of life with me,
sometimes beside me - sometimes ahead of me
and always as someone who talks with me - and counsels me on the way,
someone with whom it is comfortable to be with - at least most of the time.

When you image Christ - when you think of Jesus - what image or metaphor do
you use most often?

Some people think of Jesus primarily in terms of the song that the Choir
sang -
they think of him as the good shepherd
as one who guides and leads
as the gentle saviour - who seek out the lost and injured sheep
     and carries the wounded and the lame on his shoulders till they are
safe back in the fold..

And I am partial to that image as well.

What image do you have of Christ? What metaphor are you partial to?

I would wager that the image of Jesus as a King is not one that would win
the most votes as the most common image among us here today -- or as the
favourite image we have.

Yet is for claiming to be a "King" that Jesus is brought before Pilate in
today's scripture reading,
     and even though Jesus is clear to Pilate that his Kingship is not from
     this world and that the Kingdom which he claims does not function like
     the kingdoms of this world;
and even though Pilate believes his claim
and finds no fault in Jesus
- or should we say he finds in Jesus no direct threat to his power -
for political reasons he ultimately condemns Jesus to death
and places over his head the record of the charge that was brought against
him -
that he had claimed to be the King of the Jews - a charge that Jesus never
denies.

When you think of a king what do you think of?  
What does the word "king" conjure up for you?

I came up with a few images: 
from childhood: 
     - fairy-tale kings: benevolent, often dead, with a wicked queen 
     - king of the hill: the game where the strongest pushes everyone else
     off the hill
     - "king me": checkers king jumps in all directions, taking over and
     winning 

from adult years: 
     - "the" King - Elvis Presley  - of which no more needs to be said - 
     - the King in the "Wizard of Id" - a self-centred bumbling dictator 
     - king crab, king-sized ..., - the biggest and best 
     - king o' the road - a wanderer with no cares  
     - A chess king - one of limited movement and power to protect 
     - Queen Elizabeth - a woman of charm - but no real impact on day to
     day life.

What about you?
What do you think of when you think of the word King?  Or Kingdom?

Do you, like some, think of folk like Pilate? Like Caesar Augustus?  Or
George the III, or Louis XIV?  Of figures like Sadam Hussien?  Or even like
President Bush?   Of men of immense power who are unafraid to issue orders
and compel obedience.  Unafraid to ask others, no - to command others, to
die for their causes?

Makers of Law whether democratically or by Order of Cabinet or Council or
Decree and enforcers of their own wills and the will of the State they
command?  

Sometimes with popular approval, and often without?

The simple fact is that lots of folk have difficulty with the concept of
Jesus as a King and difficulty with the whole idea of the Kingdom of God.

It is not something that they can easily relate to - or appreciate; no
matter how often they read the words that Jesus uttered to Pilate - "my
kingdom is not of this world" Or perhaps because of it.
.
David Shearman, who writes regularly in an online computer discussion group
I have set up for members of the United Church of Canada - some years back
wrote this note as he reflected on the idea of Jesus as a King - and on the
idea of the Kingdom of God.

     It is easy // To see // Kingdom 
     Marked by a flag; // By a border; // By force of arms. 
     It is easy to discern // Who has power // In the kingdoms // Of this
     world. 
     It is not easy // To see // The realm of God. 
     There are no borders, // Flags, // Force of arms // or Powers. 
     There is only // The Realm of God // Bounded by you // And me // And
     God. 

It is not so easy to see the realm of God, to see the Kingdom of God.

When we think of Jesus -our favourite image of him, despite Sundays like
this one in the church year, is not likely to be that of Jesus as King:
more likely is Jesus as a shepherd
Jesus as a teacher,
Jesus sitting with the children gathered around him.

And when we do declare Jesus is King 
- when we declare he is the Messiah, the chosen one of God, 
 I  think we have a hard time wrapping our mind around what it is we truly 
are confessing.

But, having said all that, I think that the real problem with talk about
Jesus as King 
     is not so much that the metaphor is obscure -
          or that it conjures up images that are inappropriate - though it
may well do that.

The real problem is that we know that Kings are people who issue commands
     that others are  supposed to obey - that they are people that their
     subjects are supposed to be loyal too and whom they are supposed to
     serve - no matter how they might feel about it.

And we, in this age, perhaps even more than in some other, 
do not like that.

We do not like the idea of obedience.
We do not like the idea that someone can "command us" to do something
that someone has authority over us.

The real issue of behind the image of Jesus as King is this:
Do I want someone other than myself to be Lord of my life? 

When we image Jesus as our friend,
as our shepherd
as our brother,
as one who comes to us a healer and a teacher
we accentuate in our minds the love and the grace and the goodness that he
had and still has,
it makes Jesus - "user friendly".
It makes Jesus - first among equals.

And so Jesus is.

Jesus states to Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world
and that, in effect, his kingship is not like that of the kings of this
world.

As our King -  Jesus is not in our face. He gives us our freedom.  He
treats us as equals - he treats us as his friends.  We can slip and slide
around the throne feasting when we like the fare,  and we can dine out when
it's not so palatable

And so we loose track of the fact that doing what he wants us to do really
might be good for us, 
     - and of the fact that not doing what we want might not be so good for
     us.
We loose track of the fact that obeying his commandments might be helpful
to us and our world
     - and not obeying them might be harmful to us and to our world.

In other words we sometimes grow too comfortable with our images of Christ. 
We sometimes resist too much the full consequences of calling him, 
     as we do at Christmas - while thinking of a him as a baby,
King of Kings and Lord of Lords

We sometimes resist too much the implications of naming him, 
as our reading from the Book of Revelation did this morning:

     The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end
     the ruler of the Kings of the earth
     the one who is, and who was, and who is to come....

In an online discussion of the name for this Sunday, Christ the King, one
pastor to another saying:

     I'm sorry, Barbara, but the Christ "demanding respect, awe and
     obedience" sounds like a Christ of law, not of gospel.  For me,
     obedience means to follow laws and rules whether I feel like it
     or not.  It focuses on outward behaviour regardless of my
     relationship with God through Christ.

     I am a minister, not because I "obeyed" the call of God, but
     because, though I thought it was a crazy idea, I didn't want to
     disappoint the God who had been incredibly faithful to me.  My
     experience says "obedience" is not the essence of Christian
     faith.  "Relationship" is.  I hope my experience is not opposed
     to the gospel.

An interesting statement don't you think -  the one that says 
"obedience means to follow laws and rules whether I feel like it or not?"
Almost as interesting as the one that says 
"obedience is not the essence of the Christian faith"

And I really want to agree with this minister - I know that obedience means
doing things whether I feel like it or not; and I know that the
unconditional love of God, not obedience, is at the heart of the Christian
faith - - but then I keep on thinking that this unconditional love comes to
us because of obedience, because there was one who was obedient - even to
death upon a cross.

And I keep on remember that we are called to be like him,
to be like the one who came not to be served, but to serve,
to be like the one who listened to his Father and kept his commandments
     and who told his disciples that if they loved him,
     they would listen to his voice and keep his commandments

Our faith is indeed based in relationship - a relationship of love.
But obedience really does seem to be a part of what we should be about.

And while we can all agree that Jesus redefined what Kingship means,
     while we can agree that his kingship is not in fact from this world 
     or like that of the kingships of this world
there is still in fact some measure of power that we should ascribe to
Jesus - a power over our lives
     a power - not of coercion 
     - but of respect, and love, 
     - a respect and love that has as its fruit willing obedience to God in
     all areas of lives.  The law, as the New Covenant says, is written on
     our hearts.

A friend of mine, Merv Sky, a minister who used to live up in Port Hardy
once wrote:

     Yesterday morning, feeling lousy, I decided to stay at home -
     perhaps actually go  back to bed.  While making my morning
     coffee, I noticed that the kitchen sink was plugged.  No problem! 
     The trusty plunger soon dealt with it, and I watched the dirty
     water happily gurgling down the drain again - until I saw that it
     was pouring out underneath all over my slippers...  The U-joint
     had simply disintegrated.  Rats!  Just when I was looking forward
     to a nice easy day...  The plumber eventually came and fixed it.. 

     I wonder if Jesus as King, if Jesus as the initiator and pioneer
     of the new "system", has something to say about - or in - my
     blocked drain, let alone my blocked chest and nose....

     "Oh don't be so ridiculous!" my inner critic shouts at once, "Do
     you seriously mean to say that Jesus bothers with things like
     blocked drains?  You're crazy!  And everyone gets flu now and 
     again.  It doesn't mean anything!" 

     No?? I wonder.  Partly I wonder at my inner critic's vehemence;
     is he (she?) afraid of  something?  Sure sounds like it! 

Can we imagine Jesus as a king?
And does our image of Jesus as king 
- extend to making him Lord over even our plumbing
whether that plumbing be that within our kitchen or within our bodies?

Do we even bother asking Jesus about the little things that happen each day
     seeking his help 
     giving him thanks
     asking what he would like us to do next?

Do we ask ourselves before speaking to someone who has ticked us off
     or talking to someone about what is happening in the house next door
     or between us and our boss
"What would Jesus say and do here?"  
"What would Jesus want us to say or do here?"

That is the issue at the heart of the Jesus is King language that the
church employs.

That is at the heart of the Kingdom of God language that Jesus employed.
.
Sometimes being faithful is a difficult thing.    
     Sometimes loving someone or being dedicated to them means doing things
     we do not want to do, a kind of tough love approach,
          but when we trust in God and believe that he will be faithful to
          us when we try to do what is right
then, as Jesus says over and over again in the gospels
the Kingdom of God is not far from us -
indeed it is at hand - it is over us - and in us.....

Blessed be the name of Jesus - he who is our friend, our brother, our
shepherd, our Lord, and our King, now and evermore.  Amen


PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION & LORD'S PRAYER
You are in command, O God, you are in control.  We, your people, acclaim
you, we praise you, we exalt you, we bless your holy name.  It is your love
that is revealed in the life and death of Jesus, it is your power that is
seen in his resurrection, and it is your majesty that is made known by his
ascension into heaven to be at your side.  Help us, O God, to always keep
your power and your authority, you love and your majesty, in our minds and
to never neglect the doing of your will.... Lord hear our prayer.....

We affirm O God as your church that Christ should rule within our worship
and within our congregation as a whole.  We declare that Christ should rule
over our work and within our family life.  We profess that he wants to be
Lord of our lives, the one who is supreme in deciding how we should relate
to our friends and our neighbours.  Help us make this manifest in what we
do each and every day - in how we make decisions about how we spend our
time and our money, in how we employ our hands and in how we direct our
feet, in how we speak and in how we think,,, in how we rest and in how we
work...  Lord hear our prayer...

O God - in his walk with us Christ has shown his power over sin and death -
- we pray that his healing touch might be upon those we hold before you
this day...... Lord, hear our prayer...

O God, in his time with us Christ has shown his authority over wind and
wave - we pray that he may bring peace and calm to those who lives are
troubled.... Lord hear our prayer...

We especially pray today for: (Bidding Prayer).....  Lord, hear our
prayer....

Thank you Lord.  Thank you.  Amen.


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:   The Offering Is Received and as it is
presented all stand for The Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings
Flow - VU #541) and the Prayer of Dedication

     Most gracious and loving God - Lord Jesus - Holy Spirit.  You
     call us into relationship with you and with each other.  We would
     be with you and do all you wish us to do.  May our offering today
     honour your Name.   Amen


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "God of Grace and God of Glory"                 - VU 686


* COMMISSIONING (unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go forth
     into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body
     of Christ.


* BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace
- and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father Son and  Holy Spirit, be
with You and remain in you always
- and may the love and the care and the power God grants you touch and
assist in the lives of all those around you
both now and forevermore.  Amen


SUNG BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                                  - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2000, 2003
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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