Sunday Service 20th November
Call to worship
Hymn 98(JP): I have decided to follow Jesus
Hymn 84(JP): How lovely on the mountains
Reading: Luke 23: 33-43 Gil
Hymn 462: The King of Love my Shepherd is
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 549: How deep the Father’s love for us
Welcome to our reflection for 20th November.
This is the end of the Christian year.
Next week starts advent, the start of a new Christian season.
Often this is called Christ the King Sunday or Reign of Christ Sunday.
The day when we celebrate that Christ is the end of all things.
You would think for a Sunday like that they would pick a passage of Christ on the throne of heaven, or Christ being all powerful, but instead they pick a reading where Christ is at his most weakest.
Why would that be?
Well we will look at that after Gil leads us in our prayers and reading.
Today’s reading is from the New Testament section of the Bible, Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 23, and verses 33 to 43.
This is the last week of the Christian Year, and Sunday is sometimes called ‘Reign of Christ Sunday’ or ‘Christ the King Sunday.’ Next week, is the beginning of Advent, which takes us up to Christmas!
This reading is more commonly associated with the week leading up to Easter rather than the one leading up to Advent, but it helps us to show us how different Jesus’ kingship was from that of earthly kings and rulers. Kings were feared because they had absolute authority over their subjects, and many kings were quite ruthless in their pursuit of power and wealth.
So let us read from Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 23, and verses 33 to 43. This is from the Good News translation of the Bible.
33 When they came to the place called "The Skull," they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left.
34 Jesus said, "Forgive them, Father! They don't know what they are doing." They divided his clothes among themselves by throwing dice.
35 The people stood there watching while the Jewish leaders made fun of him: "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah whom God has chosen!"
36 The soldiers also made fun of him: they came up to him and offered him cheap wine,
37 and said, "Save yourself if you are the king of the Jews!"
38 Above him were written these words: "This is the King of the Jews.
39 One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"
40 The other one, however, rebuked him, saying, "Don't you fear God? You received the same sentence he did.
41 Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong."
42 And he said to Jesus, "Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!"
43 Jesus said to him, "I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me."
Amen, and may God bless this reading of his word.
Now let us approach God in prayer.
Let us all pray.
Living God, you are the Creator of all things, and there is no limit to your wisdom and power. We praise you, and we call you our King, but you are not like our earthly monarchs. Your kingdom is far beyond our earthly understanding of power and politics.
Merciful Father, we confess that we have many faults and failings, and we know that we have not followed the teaching and example set by your Son. We have said things, and done things, which we know to be wrong, and sometimes we have been quiet when we could have spoken words of help and support. We have not always helped our neighbours when we could have done so.
We confess too, that we tend to judge people, and to put them into categories. Instead we should treat every person as an individual; a valued child of yours.
Forgive us Father for all our wrongdoings, for our doubts and our fears, and for our habit of seeking human approval, rather than following in ways taught by Jesus. May your Spirit guide us, and help us, as we try once more to walk in your ways.
Gracious God, we thank you, that you love and care for all of your creation, and that through Jesus, you have shown us that there is no limit to your love.
You are the source of everything that we have; our food, our shelter, and all our material goods come from the things which you have provided for us. Guide us to make proper use of all your gifts, and teach us to share these things with others who are less fortunate. Help us to do our best to look after your world.
We thank you also, for all the people whose skills and knowledge help to provide the many goods and services from which we all benefit. Bless and strengthen them in their work, and may they know that they are valued and loved by you. May we too have the strength and perseverance to do our best to help and support others.
We give thanks, merciful God, for your limitless love, for your constant care, and for the assurance that we are forgiven, and can have a fresh start.
Prayer for Others and Ourselves
God of all hope, you know that in this world there is much suffering. Many people have lost loved ones, or lost their homes and all their possessions, and many more have had to flee to find a place of safety. We pray that your Spirit will guide those who have influence and authority, to work for peace and justice for all people of all nations.
We remember before you all who are grieving, those who are lonely, and all who have worries over health, relationships, or many other things. Give them the faith and hope that they need to face the future, and may they know that you are always present with them.
We, who try to follow Jesus, have the same problems and difficulties as everyone else, but we look to the example of Jesus, and we ask for the strength and courage to seek to know him better, and to follow him more faithfully, whatever the earthly reward may or may not be.
We offer our prayer in the name of Jesus, and now we pray in the words which he taught his followers:
Our Father, which 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 debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
There is a dream that we have.
It is ingrained in our culture.
We are taught it as children and we remember it as adults.
There is a helpless female princess.
Maybe captured by a wicked king, maybe threatened by a wicked witch.
And along comes a prince and saves the day.
I love graphic novels so I had to go and see the latest super hero movie Black Adam.
It follows the same theme, as they all do. A country is helpless and under the power of evil men. They need a hero, and a hero appears who is strong and can save them. He comes along and takes away the evil people.
And we so long to have a saviour, a hero, who will take away the evil in the world.
And here we are, on Christ the King Sunday.
This is our Saviour, this is our hero.
Won’t he come and take away the evil, won’t he make our life better, won’t he rescue us?
You would think that would be the whole point of this Sunday, to remind us of the power of Christ.
So what passage do they use to emphasis this?...Our passage today, with Jesus dying on a cross, Jesus broken, Jesus humiliated, talking to a criminal.
I don’t know about you, but to me that doesn’t make sense.
But then those that made up the readings for each week were far smarter than I am.
They know what we are like.
We like to dream, we like to fantasize...of easier times, better times.
Of lying on deserted beaches without a care in the world,
of having all that we need and feeling comfortable,
of being at peace and having no responsibility.
And we will subconsciously drift towards anyone who offers this dream.
We are easily deceived by those who promise us the earth as long as we give them our power.
Donald Trump a few weeks ago promised to make America ‘Great Again.’
Millions wanted to believe him, believe him enough to give them their vote.
This was a person whole nearly destroyed democracy the last time, and millions were still willing to trust him, because he promised them a better time.
And we look across at America and wonder how they can be so gullible.
But so much of our own countries problems have been caused in when we believe politicians of all hues and colours that effectively say,
‘We can give you more for less money.
All those other politicians have wasted your money. But we can give you more nurses, more doctors, better libraries and sports halls. We can build better ships and railways. And we can do it painlessly. You won’t feel a thing, it won’t cost you anything more.
In fact if you trust is you might even get to pay less.’
And we vote for these people.
Those that chose this passage knew that on a day called Christ the King Sunday it would be so easy to give people the dream that they have always wanted.
‘Just believe in the Messiah and all your problems will go away.’
When I was in India I would listen into the Christian broadcasting and it was very much that message.
‘If you give to my church then God will bless you.’
I heard the story of a woman, who was struggling, and she prayed to God and she gave the church every penny she had. Because the minister used the parable of the sower who planted the seed and when the farmer sowed on good soil the seed had a harvest 20 fold, 50 fold, a 100 fold. And this minister told her that this was a parable of faith. When people are stingy with God then God is stingy with them, when people are generous to God, trusting God, then God is generous to them. So she gave every penny she had to the church.
And a week later her aunt died and left her a fortune.
All her problems were solved; And the message to take away from all this?
God is good, because God is all powerful and God wants to bless his children...the only thing stopping those blessings is the lack of faith of his children, so just have more faith.
And people believed that.
Because people wanted to believe it.
I was completely cynical about this but even I, just for a second, was going through my relatives to see if I had a rich aunt or uncle.
It’s Christ the King Sunday.
Instead of a golden crown this king has a crown of thorns digging into his head.
Instead of a glorious throne where he can look down on his subjects, this king looks down from a cross, nails embedded into his wrists and ankles.
Instead of the richest of clothes he is naked.
Instead of living in luxurious comfort he is in pain, such pain.
Instead of his subjects fawning over his every word, he has people mocking him.
Why this passage?
Because Christ did not come to give us what we want.
Christ did not come so that he could fulfil our dreams.
Christ did not come to take away our problems.
Christ came to give us hope.
But it had to be a real hope.
There is so much false hope out there.
Remember the original adverts for the National Lottery when it first came out?
It was so clever.
Only four words.
They didn’t talk about the statistics of winning the lottery. They didn’t tell people that there was a greater chance of being hit by lightening than there was of winning the lottery.
The just said four words...
‘It could be you.’
I remember that first lottery. I was in Castlemilk at the time and nearly everyone was buying more tickets than was healthy. Money that could have gone to buy food or paid for heating. But it would be worth it.
Sure it was a sacrifice, sure it wasn’t certain.
But what if they won?
This wasn’t a bet, this was an investment.
It could be me.
If hope was to be real then it had to be seen.
And in the life of Christ it was.
And probably at its greatest it is seen here.
For if there was ever a moment to give up then it would be this one.
There was no one going to save him.
His own disciples had deserted him.
Some of them had denied him and betrayed him.
There were no followers to carry on his legacy.
And when there was nothing, nothing but pain and death, there was one more thing...hope.
Hope that this wasn’t the end of things.
Let’s listen to it again...
The soldiers mocked him: they came up to him and offered him cheap wine, and said, ‘Save yourself if you are the king of the Jews!’
Above him were written these words: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
The other one, however, rebuked him, saying, ‘Don’t you fear God? You received the same sentence he did. Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong.’
And he said to Jesus, ’Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King.’
Jesus said to him, ‘I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me.’
The pain was not the end, so they could carry on in hope.
Death was not the end, so they could carry on in hope.
And that is the message some of us desperately need to hear today.
Whatever we are facing, this is not the end of it, there is hope.
All those churches worried about their future, this is not the end of it, there is hope.
Those many people struggling financially, this is not the end of it, there is hope.
Those struggling with mental health just now, this is not the end of it, there is hope.
All the worry and fear and concerns that sometimes threaten to drown us and destroy us, they are not the end of things, there is hope.
Christ is King.
Not because he swoops in and saves the day, taking away the problems that face us.
Christ does not give us what we want.
But he gives us what we need.
The struggles that we have, they will not be the end of us.
The pains and worries that haunt us, they will not be the end of us.
The future that we fear, that will not be the end of us.
For we have hope.
Hope in a Christ who faced all that we face, and conquered it all, because of hope.
Let us pray
You are here beside us.
Kingdoms rise, Kingdoms fall. Nations war, nations find peace.
People fight, people love.
And still, you are God.
As the morning dawns, You are with us.
As the night comes You are there.
As we seek truth,
as we hope for joy,
as we try to have an easy life,
as we use our time for good or for ill,
you are there.
You are our refuge, you are our strength,
in every trouble, in every joy,
you are there.
In the midst of strife and torment you weep with us,
in the presence of peace you rejoice with us.
And so, we take the time to be still and know that you are God. Beside us...
This week may we be reminded that we are Kingdom people.
May the cross continue to remind us that we are the beloved of God,
treasured by Jesus and inspired by the Spirit.
That we have Hope.