Read-along Service for Sunday, November 20, 2022

Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church
Order of Worship
Reign of Christ November 20, 2022

Words of welcome, announcements         

Lighting the Christ Candle
We light this candle as a symbol of the light of Christ, which shines in each one of us, and the darkness cannot overcome it.  May the spirit of resurrection fill our lives with hope.

Call To worship
God has raised up a mighty saviour! So let us prepare the way and serve God without fear! Thrones, dominions, rulers, powers— these all fade away like dust before our God. Praise be to the eternal God and the day of God’s favour. For this is the dawn of a day when God’s tender mercy will trump oppression and death. Such are the days of Christ’s reign. They are surely coming! Let’s celebrate God’s presence here among us today!

Hymn                  Jesus Shall Reign                                     VU 330

  1. Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
    does its successive journeys run;
    his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
    till moons shall wax and wane no more.
  1. People and realms of every tongue
    dwell on his love with sweetest song,
    and infant voices shall proclaim
    their early blessings on his name.
  1. Blessings abound where’er he reigns;
    and prisoners leap to lose their chains;
    the weary find eternal rest,
    and all who suffer want are blest.
  1. Let every creature rise and bring
    peculiar honours to our King,
    angels descend with songs again,
    and earth repeat the loud Amen!

Prayer of Approach
Eternal God, expand our limited imaginations.  Help us to experience to time beyond our time, to wisdom beyond our wisdom, to strength beyond our strength. As we pray for your coming reign, remind us that the whole earth is already yours. Even as we pray for things not yet seen, help us celebrate your sure, eternal presence among us. Amen.

Scripture Reader:       Jane Lambert

Jeremiah 23:1-6  Colossians 1:11-20

Hymn         Rejoice, the Lord Is King                                    VU 213

  1. Rejoice the Lord is King!
    Your risen Lord adore!
    Rejoice, give thanks and sing
    and triumph evermore.
    Lift up your heart, lift up your voice:
                      rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
  1. Jesus the Saviour reigns,
    the God of truth and love;
    when he had purged our sins,
    he took his seat above.                                      Refrain
  1. God’s kingdom cannot fail;
    Christ rules o’er earth and heaven;
    the keys of death and hell
    are to our Jesus given.                             Refrain
  1. Rejoice is glorious hope,
    for Christ, the judge, shall come
    to glorify the saints
    for their eternal home.
    We soon shall hear the archangel’s voice;
                      the trump of God shall sound, rejoice!

Gospel Lesson: Luke 23:33-43

Special Music

Homily “The Firstborn Of All Creation”

Musical Response

The offering

We give thanks for everyone who continues to support TSA during these challenging times. Your gifts of support and encouragement mean a lot to us.  You can get more information about making a donation by contacting the church office or by visiting our website. For all the gifts you share, for all the people you bless by your serving and giving as a disciple of Jesus, we give thanks.

Offering Song    `Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow               VU 541

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God, all creatures high and low;
give thanks to God in love made known;
Creator, Word, and Spirit, One.

Offering Prayer
Loving God, we offer these gifts in thanks for your victory over the cross and in celebration of your eternal presence and guidance. We offer you our hands, our hearts, our imaginations, and our treasures as we seek to live as followers of the way of your son Jesus. Bless these gifts we pray that life in abundance might multiply for all people. Bless these gifts, that they may be used according to your will. Amen.

Hymn        We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song)                VU 595

  1. We are pilgrims on a journey,
    fellow travellers on the road;
    we are here to help each other
    walk the mile and bear the load.
  1. Sister, let me be your servant,
    let me be as Christ to you;
    pray that I may have the grace to
    let you be my servant too.
  1. I will hold the Christ-light for you
    in the night-time of your fear;
    I will hold my hand out to you,
    speak the peace you long to hear.
  1. I will weep when you are weeping,
    when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
    I will share your joy and sorrow,
    till we’ve seen this journey through.
  1. When we sing to God in heaven,
    we shall find such harmony,
    born of all we’ve known together
    of Christ’s love and agony.
  1. Brother, let me be your servant,
    let me be as Christ to you;
    pray that I may have the grace to
    let you be my servant too.

Pastoral Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn         Crown Him with Many Crowns                                    VU 211

  1. Crown him with many crowns,
    the Lamb upon his throne:
    hark, how the heavenly anthem drowns
    all music but its own!
    Awake, my soul, and sing
    of him who died for thee,
    and hail him as thy matchless King
    through all eternity.
  1. Crown him the Lord of life,
    who triumphed o’er the grave,
    and rose victorious in the strife
    for those he came to save.
    His glories now we sing
    who died and rose on high,
    who died eternal life to bring,
    and lives that death may die.
  1. Crown him the Lord of peace,
    whose power a sceptre sways
    from pole to pole, that wars may cease,
    absorbed in prayer and praise.
    His reign shall know no end;
    and round his piercèd feet
    fair flowers of Paradise extend
    their fragrance ever sweet.
  1. Crown him the Lord of love;
    behold his hands and side,
    rich wounds yet visible above,
    in beauty glorified.
    All hail, Redeemer, hail!
    for thou hast died for me;
    thy praise shall never, never fail
    throughout eternity.

Go joyfully into the difficult days that lie ahead. In all things give thanks to God. Endure with strength and patience all the challenges you must face. For Christ is all and in all and in you. And may your feet be guided in the ways of peace. Amen.

Choral Amen

The Firstborn of all Creation. Text: Colossians 1:11-20      Luke 23:33-43
Reign of Christ Sunday, Nov. 27 2021 by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church

When the Romans crucified Jesus, they thought they had successfully stopped a dangerous figure who was threatening to destroy the power of their great empire. The Romans and the Jewish authorities were both afraid of Jesus of Nazareth. They thought he was trying to start a political revolution which would establish Jesus as the King of Israel. They thought executing him in the most humiliating way possible would expose him as being nothing more than a delusional peasant. So they stripped him both physically and emotionally by nailing him to a cross. The political and religious leaders of the day did not want their world turned upside down.

What they did not realize was that Jesus was in fact trying to return the world right side up, not down. While they did strip him as a way to humiliate him, what ended up being revealed was the very presence of God. They were so caught up in their own expectations they failed to see what was really happening. For in his own words, Jesus very clearly did not want to be king. Jesus believed there was only one king, and that was God.  For this reason it is a crown of thorns and not a crown of gold that reveals who Jesus really is.  Jesus also clearly rejected the way of the sword.  In his own words he told them he did not want to lead an armed rebellion. He said ‘those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) The only sword he ever used was the words which came out of his mouth. (Revelation 1:16)  Jesus’ words and deeds invite us to imagine a world where rulers are to be like shepherds. Jesus tells us a good shepherd is one who is willing to give their life to protect the well being of their flock. (John 10:11) For this reason Jesus is traditionally pictured holding a shepherd’s staff and not a sword.

If the authorities had really been paying attention, they would have noticed that the followers of Jesus never called him their King. His disciples called him the Christ. They believed he is the Messiah who will lead the world to God. When Jesus stands up to preach for the very first time, he does not call for a revolution. Instead he reads from the prophet Isaiah who says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18) The believed he had come to heal the world. This is a very different kind of messiah than what most people were expecting. Jesus was not the sort of Christ they were expecting. But he is the kind of Christ we need. We often speak the word Christ as if it is Jesus’ last name. The Christ is a religious title.  It is a symbolic role that carries thousands of years worth of hopes and expectations. Saint Paul calls Christ “The firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15)  In Saint John’s gospel he states that the Christ “was in the beginning with God; and all things were made through him.” (John 1:2)  John is saying that the Christ has been part of God’s plan since the beginning of time. John tells us “Everything was created through him; and nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. (John 1:3-4, The Message)

Now these are very theological words which need some explaining. We can read this as a clever allegory that echoes the words from the first chapter of Genesis. If we read these words as just some beautiful poetry then we will miss the deeper message John and the writers of Genesis are giving us. Both John Paul and the book of Genesis are telling us that God has done more than just create life. The scriptures are telling us that God is in all things that have life. Saint Paul in his letter to the Colossians tells us that Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created.” (Colossians 1:15) Paul believes Jesus as the Christ reveals the true presence of the invisible God who is fully present in the world. Paul tells us that “all things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16) These words are not just mere poetry.

This is Paul’s best description of the nature of reality. This is what Life is really made of.  Now scientists tell us that the atoms which make up our bodies were all formed from an exploding star.

If we believe that God created all things including that star, and if we believe as scripture tells us that Christ is present in all things that were created through him, then that which is God is present in every atom. That which is God is present in every atom that makes up your body. That which is God is present in every living thing on this planet. That which is God is also fully present in every rock and tree. That which is God is present in the air that we breathe. So God truly is in all things. We know “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) So the love of God is in all things, and all things are in God, and there is so much more to God’s love than all these things God has created.

Jesus as the Christ was trying to get all people to realize how we are all the embodiment of God’s loving presence in the world. Jesus invites us to live as God- filled people in the world. Such an understanding of who Christ Jesus is has cosmic implications that changes how we are to understand our place in the universe. And that is exactly what Saint Paul is hoping for. Paul tells us that all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe, including all people and things, all of the animals and atoms, we all get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his life giving love.

The Christian Church has often downplayed this cosmic vision of who Christ is. Over the centuries it was often left to the mystics to plumb the depths of the deeper meanings of Paul’s words. As a result our understanding of our place in the cosmos has often been diminished.  As followers of the Way of Jesus we all too often speak of Jesus’ incarnation as if it was a supernatural one time only special event that happened only to him. Saint Paul offers us a much fuller understanding of what the incarnation can mean. Saint Paul offers us a much richer vision of our place in the universe.  In his letter to the Colossians Paul declares “There is only Christ. He is everything, and he is in everything.” (Colossians 3:11) Some Bibles translate phrase as “Christ is all, and in all”.   Saint Paul tells us plainly that the great mystery of life is that “Christ is in you.” (Colossians 1:27) And Christ invites us all to be one in his love. This is not a metaphor to be taken lightly. This is a deep truth that explains the meaning of life, the universe and everything.  He is telling us that God is incarnate in you. And God is equally present in every living being on this planet.  For this reason Paul believes Jesus as the Christ proclaims a universal message which shows us how we can all live in this world together in a spirit of love. Jesus was doing something much more radical than just challenging the political powers of his day. He was trying to change how we understand our place in the cosmos. Jesus as the Christ was trying to open our eyes so we might see God in all things. What a gift it is to experience the love of God in all people and in all places. Such a revelation changes how we are to treat one another. It changes how we are to live in relationship with this planet, for God is here. God is with us.

When Jesus faced death on the cross, he did it knowing God was with him. Jesus was true to this deeper understanding of the nature of Life, even if it cost him his own life. While he was on the cross, he is mocked by a criminal who was being executed at the same time. The criminal taunts Jesus, claiming Jesus does not have any power. The second criminal calls out the first criminal. The second man has come to realize what life was really all about. He repents of his sins, and asks Jesus to remember him. Jesus does not ask the second man to bow down to him. Instead Jesus lifts him up by saying “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Jesus is not the king we were expecting, but he is the messiah we need. He does not reign over us like a monarch who expects everyone to bow down under his feet. We do say Jesus reigns because as the Christ he lifts us up. His love turns this world right side up again. Truly “the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus”. (Romans 8:2)

May the love of God be with you. Amen.