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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 34 - Christ The King - Year B
Revelation 1:1-8; Psalm 132; John 18:33-37
"A Kingdom Not of This World"


READING:  Revelation 1:1-8; Psalm 132; John 18:33-37
SERMON :  "A Kingdom Not of This World"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or34sm.y-b 581000

   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.


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP
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    Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.  
     Bring an offering and come into his courts.
P    Worship the Lord in holy splendour.  
     Tremble before him, all the earth.
L    Say among the nations, "The Lord is King.  The world is firmly
     established.  It shall never be moved.  He will judge the peoples
     with equity."
P    Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice.
L    Let the sea roar and all that fills it.
P    Let the field exults and everything in them.
L    Let everything and everyone sing for joy before the Lord, for he is
     coming to judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with his
     truth.


* INTROIT:  "What Does The Lord Require Of You"                    - VU 701


* 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 your 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: "O Worship The King"                                       - VU 235
     

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


ST ANDREW'S THIS WEEK 


* CHILDREN'S HYMNS: 

     ---- O COME LITTLE CHILDREN ----
     O come, little children, oh, come, one and all
     To Bethlehem haste, to the manger so small,
     God's Son for a gift has been sent you this night
     To be your Redeemer, your Joy and Delight.
             
     He's born in a stable for you and for me.
     Draw near by the bright gleaming starlight to see,
     In swaddling clothes lying, so meek and so mild,
     And purer than angels, the heavenly child.
           
     Kneel down and adore him with shepherds today,
     Lift up little hands now, and praise him as they
     Rejoice that a Saviour from sin you can boast,
     And join in the song of the heavenly host.

     ---- KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK ----
     Clippety-clop went the donkey, on the way to Bethlehem.
     The donkey carried Mary - he was a big help to them.
     Mary, Mary, your Son will be born tonight!
     Joseph, Joseph, God's Son will be born tonight.
            
     Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, like a diamond in the sky.
     Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, like a diamond in the sky.
     Shining!  Shining!  In the sky o'er Bethlehem!
     Shining!  Shining!  In the sky o'er Bethlehem!


CHILDREN'S TIME: "Alpha and Omega"
Theme     Christ is the Beginning and The Ending"
Object    Symbols of Alpha and Omega and String
Source    Based on Story from "The Whole People of God" - 1994

Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year - next Sunday we begin a brand
new year as we prepare for Christmas - for the coming of Christ into the
world.  We will light candles each Sunday and sing carols and get ready
for the coming of Jesus.   Today is the end of one year - and next Sunday
is the beginning of the next year in the church.
     
There are many different beginnings and endings each and every year in our
lives.  Can you name some -- the calendar year --- the school year -- our
birth-date year -- the hockey season -- the baseball season -- 
     
It is important to remember that God is always with us - in our beginnings
and in our endings and everywhere and every time in-between.  One of the
way's that the church has always remembered this was by calling God - and
Jesus "the Alpha and the Omega". 

The Alpha is the first letter of the Greek Alphabet.
The Omega is the last letter of the Greek Alphabet.
     
So when we call Jesus or God the Alpha and the Omega - it is like saying
they are the A to Z, the beginning and the end of everything.  Lets make
this something that we can see.
     
Here is the Alpha at one end of the alphabet, and here is the Omega at the
other end.  Let's take the straight line and make it into a circle.  Now
look...  rather than being at opposite end, the Alpha and Omega are side
by side.  In fact the end is now the beginning and the beginning is now
the end.  
     
In a circle it is rather hard to know where the beginning and the end are
because they overlap each other.  That is why the overlapping symbols of
the Alpha and the Omega became a sign of God's presence among us.
     
Beginnings and endings are always happening and God is always there.  See
this moment has just ended and this moment has just begun... ah - not it
has ended -- no - begun - no ended ... Oh well it doesn't really matter
because God is at both the beginning and the ending and that what really
matters.

     LET US PRAY:   Dear Lord God -  we thank you for being with us --
     in all our beginnings -- and in all our endings -- and everywhere
     in between --- help us remember you are with us -- and to do what
     you ask us to do - we ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


THE LORD'S PRAYER   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


ANTHEM: 


A READING FROM REVELATION 1:1-8
     (NIV)  The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his
     servants what must soon take place.  He made it known by sending his
     angel to his servant John, {2} who testifies to everything he saw -
     that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. {3}
     Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed
     are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it,
     because the time is near. {4} 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, {5} 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, {6} 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. {7} 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. {8} "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.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 132 (VU page 854-55 and Sung Response)


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?" {34} "Is that your own
     idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?" {35} "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?" {36} 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." {37} "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:  "Crown Him With Many Crowns"                              - VU 211


SERMON: "A Kingdom Not Of This World"

     O Lord,  we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our
     minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and
     in the meditations of our hearts.  Speak, O Lord, for your
     servants listen.  Amen.

Every year, at the end of the church year,
we observe a tradition that is 2000 years old,
one that dates from the time the three magi bent their knees in homage
to the Baby of Bethlehem.

We name Jesus, here in our worship together, King of Kings, and Lord of
Lords.  We hold him up as the one anointed by God, to be the Messiah, the
King of the Jews, the one chosen by the ancient of days to be the
deliverer and the saviour of the world.

Jesus the King 
- it is an interesting and an important title in our tradition about Jesus
- a title that bears looking at.

Being a king really meant something in Jesus' day.  A king was the most
powerful human being on earth.  A king speaks, common people tremble.  

For nations, the king was the only means of securing order and peace.  The
king was, civilization and domestic tranquillity personified in one
person.   He was to be honoured and respected and served.  He was to be
revered and feared and obeyed.

A king was everything and everybody rolled up into one.
He was of upmost importance 
- so much so that time itself was calculated on the basis of when the King
began his reign.

In the fifth year of the reign of Julius Caesar,
In the twenty-fifth year of the reign of King David,
In the year of our Lord, two thousand...

As your preacher the question I am struggling with this morning is: 
What does it mean for us to name Jesus King?

Especially when you consider what we have done to kings in our day and
age, indeed what we have done to all sources of authority.

There is no respect, there is no honour, there is no reverence in us,
for those who rule over us in the political realm.

We regard no-one as better than us.
No-one as ultimate more important than us,
No-one as really, in the end, worthy of our unquestioning obedience
and our unflagging dedication.

We have reduced our royalty to the status of soap opera stars;
     we almost universally regard our politicians as corrupt and uncaring
     and out of touch;
          our judges and our police we condemn as ineffective; and the
          laws that they make and enforce, when they are applied to us, we
          often call unfair and arbitrary, and we seek to get around them.

The image of Jesus as King,  is an image that is hard to get hold of,
and once gotten hold of, it is an image that is hard to take seriously.
It is, I believe for most of us, a fantasy image,
an image that belongs to stories that begin with the words 
"Once upon a time, in a land far far away..."

What does it mean to call Jesus King?

In our scripture reading this morning Pontius Pilate clearly wondered this
- albeit for different reasons than we here many wonder it today.

Pilate, who served the most powerful king in the world, knew what a king
was.  He knew about the power that a King has, the authority that he
wields, the unquestioning obedience that he demands, and the power that he
has to compel that obedience should it not be volunteered.

Pilate was a creature of his time, one who knew and accepted the rules,
  - one who in fact was charged with making and enforcing the rules,
and while he, like people today, sought to use those rules to his
advantage, he knew what the consequences of ignoring or scoffing the rules
were.

One of the rules that Pilate was called to enforce was the rule that
anyone who claimed to be a king, anyone who dared to set themselves up as
an authority over and against the lawful authority of Caesar, was to be
executed.

It was a rule that Pilate had no scruples about enforcing.
it was a rule that he had enforced thousands of times throughout Galilee.

And so when Jesus is brought before Pilate the charge that is laid against
him is that he is a revolutionary - that he is one who unlawfully claims
to be the Messiah, the King of the Jews.

The very idea that the bruised and beleaguered man that stood before him
could be taken for a king must have seemed ridiculous to Pilate.  He knew
what Kings acted like.  He knew what they looked like.  He knew what even
those who pretended to be kings acted like and looked like.  

Nevertheless Pilate does his duty.  He asks Jesus if the charge against
him is true.  He asks Jesus if he is, or if he claims to be, King of the
Jews.

Jesus answers Pilate that he is a king - but that his kingdom is not of
this world, and then he says: 

     "If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be
     fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish
     authorities."

Pilate understands this - he knows what a King is,
     and after checking Jesus once more by asking him "So you are a king?"
          and hearing Jesus respond with some mumbo-jumbo that he was born
          to testify to the truth, 
     he tells Jesus' accusers that he finds there is no case against him.

Pilate cannot image Jesus as a King,
the image that he has of a King, 
like the image that many of us have, 
just doesn't fit Jesus.

And so - while in the end Pilate allows Jesus to be crucified with the
word's "King of the Jews" posted over his head in three different
languages, Pilate himself does not believe what he has caused to be
written.

And today I wonder if it is the same for us.

I wonder if we, like Pilate, name Jesus as King but for one reason or
another just don't believe it, or take it seriously, or understand what it
means.

We take a lot of things about Jesus rather lightly after all.
We often name the name of Christ 
and either do not accept or comprehend or believe what we are saying.

For example:

     in a recent Gallop Poll conducted in the United States revealed
     that more than 86% of all Americans considered themselves
     Christian, but less than half knew who preached the Sermon on
     The Mount.  The same Poll showed that sixty percent of the
     country was in Church last Easter, but one out of four did not
     know what Easter celebrates.

So when we here in the church today name Jesus as King, when we call him
Lord, do we know what we are doing?  Do we accept it and believe it?
And if we accept it and believe it, do we understand it?

Clearly the more radical feminists amongst us do not accept it or
understand it.  

They reject Jesus as their king because they know that not only are Kings
male, which is bad enough for some of them,
     they also know that Kings rules autocratically,
     that they dictate rather than consult,
     that they make orders rather than arrive at consensus,
     that they demand obedience to themselves rather than seeking to serve
others.

Radical Feminists take too seriously the image of King that Pilate had 
- the image that history hands down to us of Kings,
and not seriously enough the words of Jesus  
- "My Kingdom is not of this world, it if were, my disciples would be
fighting to prevent me from being handed over."

Others among us take up those words of Jesus, words that were meant to
describe the nature and the source of his authority, and twist them so
that his kingdom ends up being "other-worldly".

They accept and believe that Jesus is a King,
     but regard his kingdom as being something we hope to experience
     someday, in the great beyond as it were, but not as being something
     NOW for us,
or if it is NOW - it is now only in some vague "spiritual sense" - 
     it is not meant to have real impact on how we conduct our lives and
     act together as social beings.  

Some do this by saying that business is business, and that religion has no
place in it, just as it has no place in politics.

Others do it by making excuses for their behaviour,
- they withhold from Christ the obedience he asks of us in witnessing to
others about him because it is too pushy or because they do not want to
offend;
- they refuse to obey his command to love and forgive others as he loves
and forgives us because the person they have a beef against doesn't
deserve to be loved or forgiven;
- they fail to help their brothers and sisters in the Lord and to
contribute to the needs of the saints as he asks because they have already
tithed the mint and dill from their gardens and the rest of their wealth
they have "dedicated to the Lord" in some other way.

Still others accept and believe that Jesus is King and misunderstand,
by trying to force Christ's teachings upon others, as if is kingdom was
from this world.
     
They do this 
by insisting that laws be made to compel prayer in the school, 
by seeking to ban gambling as contrary to the Spirit of Christ,
and working to enact legislation to abolish abortion clinics as an
abomination to the Lord.

What does it mean for us to name Jesus King?
Well, it certainly doesn't mean any of the above.  

Jesus is not a worldly king.  His power is not from this world, nor is it
meant to be exercised in the way that the world exercises power.  

Jesus exercised his power by serving others, by forgiving others, by
healing others, by giving to others, by sacrificing himself for others. 
His power is the power of truth, the power of faith, the power of hope,
the power of love - the power of life itself.

On the other hand Jesus' kingdom is not something that is in the sky by
and by.  It is real, it is present, and it makes demands upon us.  

Jesus calls us to obedience, to faith, and to love here and now.  But
Jesus does not force or compel us.  He calls us to allow God to enter into
our lives and to rule our lives.  He invites us to walk by the light he
himself has shed.  And he shows us in his own person and in the lives of
those who follow him that when we turn to him that there is healing and
wholeness to be found.

Pilate found Jesus not guilty of being a King like the kings we normally
think of.  But he executed him anyway - to please the crowd which had
assembled before him.

But Pilate's question to Jesus - are you a king - remains as an important
question - a fundamental question. 

It is a question about sovereignty, about rule, 
about who is in charge when it is dark and the world is falling apart,
about who we can turn to when we are in need or when others are in need,
about who we should go to when we seek justice for others 
and when we look for mercy for ourselves.

Jesus answered that he is in charge 
- not in the way of the world - not with force and violence,
but with love and with life.

He answers that he has control over the darkness - that he is the one
that, because of the faithfulness of God to him, vanquishes death and
brings healing and peace to all who follow him.

It is this king that I name today and seek to follow. 
It is this king that I pray you will also name and follow,
for in him is life, and that abundantly.  --- Amen


PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION & LORD'S PRAYER
Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, 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 and your love and your majesty in our minds
and to never neglect the doing of your will.  Help us to be obedient to
the word you place in our hearts and our minds... Lord, hear our prayer...

Father and Mother of us all, we believe that Christ Jesus should rule
within our worship and our life together as your people.  We believe too
that he should rule over our work in the world and within our family life. 
Indeed 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 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....  We especially pray today for - BIDDING PRAYER --
... Lord, hear our prayer....
        
Lord, you ask us to invite you to reign in our lives and have taught us to
pray for those in this world who are set in authority over us so that we
might have peace.  As we here in Canada vote tomorrow for those who have
let their names stand for election to our parliament we pray for each
candidate and for the government that will be formed from among them.... 
Lord, hear our prayer....

Thank you God most Holy for hearing our prayers.  All these things we ask
of you and say to you in the name of Christ Jesus, he who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, both now and forevermore.  Amen.


MINUTE FOR MISSION


* 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 God - to you we give honour and praise.  From you
     comes the truth that sets us free.  From you comes the love that
     forgives, the justice that heals, the power that sustains, and
     the word that leads to joy and peace.  To you we submit our
     lives.  Receive the gifts we now offer to you as a sign of our 
     obedience to your will and show us in the silence of our hearts
     how we might best serve and love you in this your church and
     your world....   we ask it in Jesus' 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, love and care for one another in Christ's name,
- and may the tender care of God our heavenly Father erase all your worry
and anxiety, 
- may the truth of Christ our Lord bring you to complete and utter
freedom, 
- and may the strength of the Holy Spirit, your guide and your support,
equip you for faithful service in this world and keep you safe 
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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