Christ the King
Today is the last Sunday of the church’s year. Next week it will be Advent and we will begin preparing our hearts and minds for Jesus’ birth. But before we focus on the baby in the manger, we focus on Jesus as king – but what sort of a king is he?
Thanks and praise to you,
Jesus Christ, King and Lord of all,
given the name above every other name
Jesus, King and Lord of all,
we worship and adore you.
King of righteousness, King of peace,
enthroned at the right hand
of Majesty on high
Jesus, King and Lord of all,
we worship and adore you
Every knee bows to you;
every tongue confesses,
you are King of kings
and Lord of Lords,
to the glory of God the Father.
All hail the power of Jesus’ Name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all!
You seed of Israel’s chosen race,
You ransomed of the fall,
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him Lord of all!
Hail him, the heir of David’s line
whom David Lord did call,
the God incarnate, Man divine
and crown him Lord of all.
Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all!
Oh, that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all!
Edward Perronet, adapted by John Rippon
from the beginning of time
to the end of eternity,
you have chosen
to use your power and majesty
to love us,
to redeem us,
to shape us as your people.
King of Kings
and Lord of Lords:
you became weak
so you could confront
the strength of sin and death,
confounding their ridicule
with your resurrection.
Spirit of God,
resting upon us:
may your power enflame us
with your peace;
may your peace touch us
with your grace;
may your grace fill us
with your hope;
may your hope lead us
into your Kingdom.
God in Community, Holy in One,
may your word be on our lips,
and in our hearts,
now as we worship you
Reading: Revelation 1:4b – 8
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to 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.
Majesty, worship His Majesty: Unto Jesus be all glory, honour, and praise.
Majesty, kingdom authority, Flow from His throne unto His own, His anthems raise.
So exalt, lift up on high the name of Jesus.
Magnify, come glorify Christ Jesus, the King.
Majesty, worship HIs Majesty, Jesus who died, now glorified, King of all Kings.
Jack Hayford, words © Rocksmith Music
Reading: John 18:33 – 37
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35 Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36 Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37 Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’
Do you know the story of the contest between the Wind and the Sun? They were watching a man walk down the road. The man was wearing a coat, and Wind said to Sun, I can get his coat off him – you watch this. Wind blew and blew, trying to blow the man’s coat from his sides; but all the man did was to button the coat more tightly. Hmm, said Sun. You may not be able to get his coat off him, but I can – you watch this. Sun came out from behind a cloud and shone on the man’s face; and before long, the man became so warm that his coat was over his arm as he strode along the road.
Where does power lie? In force or in gentle persuasion? The conversation between Jesus and Pilate presents the alternatives just as sharply as the fable does. Pilate has the terrifying force of the Roman empire behind him. He has the power to have Jesus killed; both men know this as they talk to each other. Jesus is in a position of utter helplessness before the might of kings and governors. And yet he has power over Pilate. After talking to him, Pilate goes out to the crowd and tries to persuade them to let Jesus go. ‘I find no case against him’, he says. And he ends up frightened and driven into a corner, wanting to set Jesus free but forced to have him killed, because the religious leaders accuse him of disloyalty to the emperor.
There is a second theme in this story of Jesus’ encounter with Pilate: the theme of truth. Earlier that same evening, Jesus told his disciples, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. Now he tells Pilate that he has come to witness to the truth. Jesus has more power than Pilate because he tells the truth – because he is the truth. In his Gospel, John has given us many ways to recognise God’s truth. The Word is spoken as light in the darkness. The Spirit blows where it wills, creating change and renewal. Truth is born within us when we connect with God, and when we learn to share the love that brought God to come and live amongst us.
Truth and power belong together, because truth brings real power. When Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world, one of the things he means is that his kingdom is not subject to the corrosive drip of untruth, in the way that earthly kingdoms are. People have always told lies to others and to themselves about how the world is. These days we talk about fake news, recognising that not everything we hear is truth – but then sometimes, so-called fake news turns out to be true, because someone has tried to mislead us on purpose. However hard we try to stick to the truth, lies wriggle their way like maggots into every corner of human life, in the kingdoms of this earth. And one of the commonest lies is the pretence that it’s OK to force someone else to do what we want them to. We abuse our power over other people and we tell ourselves it’s all right to do so – it’s even for their own good, maybe.
And yet in the end, that power based on force and lies collapses in on itself and is swept away. Where is Pilate’s power? He ended up exiled from Rome, out of favour with the emperor however hard he tried. Where is the power of the Roman empire itself? Almost forgotten in the depths of history. But Jesus’ power lives on, changing people’s lives now just as it did two thousand years ago. And that’s because it is based on the truth, not on lies; on love, not on force. His power stands on a firm, stable foundation instead of sinking sand.
Today, we worship Christ as our king, the one who brings us from darkness to light, from death to life – and from lies to the truth. By ourselves, it can be really hard to tell the difference between lies and the truth. One way of living as Christ’s disciples is to keep asking him to help us see the truth through the discernment of the Spirit, the wisdom of the Word, and the love of God at work within us. For the truth will set us free and will give us the power to live for Jesus our King, whom Pilate had crucified but who rose from death, because his love is stronger than death; his love never ends.
Prayer of Confession
Your majesty is beyond
The eternal King,
high and lifted up,
whom the angels worship.
Your power is beyond
The Creator God
who shakes the heavens,
yet holds us in his hands.
Your mercy is beyond
The Saviour God,
once born for us,
now sacrificed in love.
Forgive the smallness
of our faith,
of our need,
of our sorrow.
Raise us up to new life
and new ways of service,
through Jesus Christ,
Your Son, our Lord. Amen
We trust the mighty love of God
That wraps us round,
That loves us when we’re good or bad;
Love so profound
It still gives hope when death has struck
And joy is drowned.
We trust God’s love that once, in Christ,
As love’s uniquely precious child
Was nailed and died,
God, deeply pierced by human grief,
Stayed at his side.
In joy or grief, and deeper far
Than we can tell,
Love finds its way through life and death
And fathoms hell,
Assuring faith, through pain and loss,
‘All shall be well’.
We trust the future, God, to you:
We pray that we
May grasp our full potential here,
Go on to find earth’s love fulfilled
Alan Gaunt (b.1935); © 2000 Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Affirmation of Faith: the God who reigns
I believe in God,
the only God,
who created everything
and reigns as King
over earth, sky, and water,
Sovereign and Holy,
and yet revealing Himself
in the intimacy of the name
He reigns over the nations;
He is seated on his holy throne.
And I believe in Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son
whose reign began
in the weakness of a manger-bed,
conceived by the Spirit
and born of a virgin,
even while nailed to a cross of wood;
who died and rose again, ascended and will come again.
He will reign forever;
and his kingdom will never end.
And I believe in the Spirit,
the Holy Spirit,
the Spirit of God
who as God Himself
brings the presence of God
and extends the reign of God
in every believer and throughout the world,
who ever directs hearts
to our Lord and Saviour,
so that grace might reign …
to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayers for ourselves and for others
O God of mercy and of might,
we pray for the powerful and for the powerless.
We think of those who have authority
and influence over others.
We pray for integrity and compassion in every action,
for wisdom in decision-making.
We pray for those suffering from the abuse of power:
those made lonely, those rejected;
those whose hearts are damaged, whose hopes are destroyed;
those who live in fear of those ‘above’ them.
We pray for all who suffer:
for those laid low by the tyranny of disease
and those rendered helpless by poverty and disadvantage.
Lord, help us to stand by the powerless;
may we learn to use our influence for good
to promote justice and truth, to defend the weak;
that your kingdom may come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We ask this in the name of your Son,
Jesus Christ, our King.
The Lord’s Prayer
1 Sing we the King who is coming to reign,
Glory to Jesus, the Lamb that was slain;
Righteousness, peace then His empire shall bring,
Joy to the nations when Jesus is King.
Come let us sing: Praise to our King,
Jesus our King, Jesus our King:
This is our song, who to Jesus belong:
Glory to Jesus, to Jesus our King.
2 All shall be well in His kingdom of peace,
Freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase,
Justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring;
Wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King:.
3 Souls shall be saved from the burden of sin;
Doubt shall not darken his witness within;
Hell has no terrors, and death has no sting;
Love is victorious when Jesus is King:
4 Kingdom of Christ, for thy coming we pray,
Hasten, O Father, the dawn of the day
When this new song your creation shall sing,
Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King.
Charles Silvester Horne (1865 – 1914)
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.
Prayers from RootsontheWeb, Re:Worship, Faith & Worship; hymns reproduced under CCLI licence no.263530