Sunday November 20, 2022
Reign of Christ Sunday
Life and Work of our Church
The church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing God’s goodness for joy on this day.
The church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.
Carol Rose Ikeler 1959 © 1963 W.L. Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. Used and adapted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. LicenSingOnline#605486
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to use and share this land wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
And as we light our Christ Candle this morning, we are reminded that regardless of what is happening in the world around us, God’s Light and God’s Spirit are still here, actively at work in the world today. Once again, we commit ourselves to follow and to share that light.
Call to Worship
When the reign of Christ comes …
Justice and righteousness will rule.
When the reign of Christ comes,
Wars and divisions will end, and we shall live in peace.
When the reign of Christ comes,
We will beat our swords into ploughshares and there will be no more war.
So why are we waiting for some distant future? Let us live into the reign of Christ here and now.
Let us do all that we can to end divisions, to seek justice and to live in peace.
Let us worship God.
Divine One, Isaiah promises that someday people will say, “Let us go to the Temple of the Lord, so that he may teach us his ways and lead us to follow his paths.” We gather here today seeking to learn your ways and follow your paths. We gather seeking to live out your call to peace and justice. We gather to live into the image of a world where your peace, your justice and your love rule all our hearts and minds. And so we pray, in this time of worship, that we might be open to hear your words, to experience your presence and to trust your direction for us.
Gift of Music Hope of the World #215
Today we move from the prophet Micah who we heard last week to the prophet Isaiah. We begin with the story of the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem and end with a familiar prophecy that promises peace.
Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20; 37:1-7; Isaiah 2:1-4
In the fourteenth year that Hezekiah was king of Judah, Sennacherib, the emperor of Assyria, attacked the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Then he ordered his chief official to go from Lachish to Jerusalem with a large military force to demand that King Hezekiah surrender. The official occupied the road where the cloth makers work, by the ditch that brings water from the upper pool. Three Judeans came out to meet him: the official in charge of the palace, Eliakim son of Hilkiah; the court secretary, Shebna; and the official in charge of the records, Joah son of Asaph.
Then the official stood up and shouted in Hebrew, “Listen to what the emperor of Assyria is telling you. He warns you not to let Hezekiah deceive you. Hezekiah can’t save you. And don’t let him persuade you to rely on the Lord. Don’t think that the Lord will save you and that he will stop our Assyrian army from capturing your city. Don’t listen to Hezekiah! The emperor of Assyria commands you to come out of the city and surrender. You will all be allowed to eat grapes from your own vines and figs from your own trees, and to drink water from your own wells— until the emperor resettles you in a country much like your own, where there are vineyards to give wine and there is grain for making bread. Don’t let Hezekiah fool you into thinking that the Lord will rescue you. Did the gods of any other nations save their countries from the emperor of Assyria? Where are they now, the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Did anyone save Samaria? When did any of the gods of all these countries ever save their country from our emperor? Then what makes you think the Lord can save Jerusalem?”
As soon as King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes in grief, put on sackcloth, and went to the Temple of the Lord. He sent Eliakim, the official in charge of the palace, Shebna, the court secretary, and the senior priests to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They also were wearing sackcloth. This is the message which he told them to give to Isaiah: “Today is a day of suffering; we are being punished and are in disgrace. We are like a woman who is ready to give birth, but is too weak to do it. The Assyrian emperor has sent his chief official to insult the living God. May the Lord your God hear these insults and punish those who spoke them. So pray to God for those of our people who survive.”
When Isaiah received King Hezekiah’s message, he sent back this answer: “The Lord tells you not to let the Assyrians frighten you by their claims that he cannot save you. The Lord will cause the emperor to hear a rumor that will make him go back to his own country, and the Lord will have him killed there.”
Here is the message which God gave to Isaiah, son of Amoz about Judah and Jerusalem: In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills. Many nations will come streaming to it, and their people will say, “Let us go up the hill of the Lord, to the Temple of Israel’s God. He will teach us what he wants us to do; we will walk in the paths he has chosen. For the Lord‘s teaching comes from Jerusalem; from Zion he speaks to his people.” He will settle disputes among great nations. They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again.
Reign of Christ
So how many of you have been to a store in the past week? Were the Christmas decorations up? It seems that as soon as Remembrance Day is over, and sometimes even before then, everything around us focuses on Christmas. And it is not the birth of Christ that they are focused on, but the presents, the parties and the decorations.
This Sunday, perhaps more than at any other time of the year, we find ourselves out of step with society. While all around us we hear jingle bells, our scripture calls us to pause and listen for the sound of swords being beaten into ploughshare.
Late week I mentioned that although Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries, Micah was from the country while Isaiah was from Jerusalem, both living during the time of the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Some two decades after the Northern Kingdom was destroyed, the Assyrians attacked Jerusalem with the intention of taking over the Southern Kingdom of Judah as well.
Trying to avoid a bloody battle, the Assyrians send an official, a politician, to try to intimidate the Israelites and convince them that they don’t stand a chance against the Assyrians. He begins his speech by saying, “Listen to what the king of Assyria has to say.” He then goes on to tell them that their God will not be able to protect them any more than the gods of any of the other territories they have already conquered.
King Hezekiah, after hearing the treats, goes to Isaiah for advice. When Isaiah responds, he reminds them that, unlike the Assyrian official, he speaks, not for the king, but for the Lord. He promises that Judah will not fall but that the Assyrian king would not only leave but that he would soon be killed.
Like our own struggle with being out of step with our culture, Isaiah is out of step with his. The surrounding culture loudly announced that military power and military strength would conquer and that nothing could stand up against them. Isaiah, on the other hand, quietly affirmed that true power lay, not with the army, but with God.
The reality is, that given the power of the Assyrian army and given the limited military capability of the city of Jerusalem in comparison, the logical thing to do would have been to surrender. But Isaiah says, “No. Trust in God.”
And it is here that we take a step back and are reminded of an earlier prophecy of Isaiah that “In days to come … [nations] will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. [They] will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again.”
King Hezekiah chooses to trust God and Jerusalem is spared. But we also know that eventually Jerusalem would fall and that they would fight many more battles. Swords and spears would still be used as implements of war and kingdoms and empires would continue to rise and fall.
It sometimes feels like nothing has changed. Wars continue to be fought and people continue to die. So, what are we to make of a prophecy that tells us “They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war”?
Do we see this as a false prophecy, as an unfulfilled prophecy or as a prophecy that has not yet come to pass? Or do we see this as a reason for hope? If nations did refuse to build arms, if they did refuse to go to war, could we truly have peace? Do we take Isaiah’s words as a promise that some day God will step in and fix everything? Or do we take it as a challenge to do the hard work of ending wars and building peace ourselves?
The very same questions can be asked about the Reign of Christ. Is the Reign of Christ something that we sit back and wait for, hoping that eventually Jesus will physically return and take over, sorting out the mess we have made of things and somehow making everything perfect? Or is it something that we are called and challenged to work towards in our own lives each and every day?
If the Reign of Christ is the reign of peace, justice and love, we may never live in a world where these things are universal. But if we truly embrace these values and endeavour to live them out in our own, everyday lives, then, even if the Reign of Christ never comes in the way we expect or we hope, Christ will reign in our own lives, and perhaps, that’s all that is really needed. Amen
We Offer Our Gifts
Today, as we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of Communion, we are reminded of all that God has done for us. And so, we respond with our gifts. They may be our financial gifts which we place on the offering plates or in our M&S piggy bank or the gifts we give online or through PAR. Our gifts may also be the gifts of our commitment that we make to live each day following Christ’s example of love and service to others. So whatever gifts we offer, let us bring them before God now, as we sing our offertory response.
Offertory Response Tune # 549
For all your goodness God, we give you thanks.
And so we offer you, all that we have and do,
To serve and honour you and give you thanks.
© no Copyright
As you have blessed us in all that you have given us, we ask that you will bless the gifts that we bring that they may become a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Communion Hymn: The Son of God Proclaim #474
God is with us. We are not alone.
Christ is present here. The Spirit is among us.
Let us give thanks to God. It is right to offer our thanks and praise.
And so, as we gather here before you Creator God, we offer our thanks and our praise for all that God have given us. We thank you God, for the wonder of creation and the beauty and diversity with which we are surrounded. We thank you for the gift of friends and loved ones and for all people near and far who share this world with us. We thank you for all those, now and throughout history, that have shared your love with us and have taught us your ways.
On this Reign of Christ Sunday we especially thank you for Christ, who came to show us a living, breathing example of your love lived out in human form. And so, keeping before us the vision of a world governed by his example of love and justice for all, we join with all creation to sing your praise and glory…
Holy, holy, holy God, God of all creation! Heaven and earth are full of your glory! Praise to you throughout the ages! Blest is the One who comes to bring your peace and justice to the earth!
Following the example of Christ, we pray, Wonderful Counsellor, that you will grant wisdom to every created being, that kindness and care, justice and equality, may be the standards by which all people govern themselves and others.
Mighty God, grant courage, that we may learn to stand up and speak out against violence, injustice and inequality. And grant us the courage to listen and respond when others speak out.
Everlasting Father, grant us inspiration, to imagine a world free from all that prevents us from living into your vision for us.
Prince of Peace, grant the peace that silences anger and division, that ends conflict and doubt and that leads us once again to the one whose image we seek to follow, the one born as a child to share our hopes, our dreams and our lives.
And as we remember him and the example he gave us, we also remember that on the night before he died, he took bread, and after offering thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, every time you eat this broken bread, remember me. We remember that he also took a cup of wine and after offering thanks, gave it to them saying, each time you drink from this cup, remember me. Through this bread and this cup, we remember.
Come to us now, Holy One, and bless these gifts of bread and cup. Send your Spirit upon them that, all who eat and drink at this table may be united with Christ, seeking always to live into your vision for us. Amen.
The bread of life – in the brokenness of this bread we remember the brokenness within our world and within ourselves.
The cup of blessing – in the pouring out of this cup we remember God’s love, poured out for us.
Sharing of the Bread and the Cup
The bread of life …
The cup of blessing …
Prayer After Communion
Life-giving God, you have welcomed us to this table and nourished us with you Spirit. Grant that we may go out from here so filled with your love, that wherever we go in whatever we do, we may reflect the love, peace and joy of Christ to all those we meet, and in so doing draw ever closer to the vision of your reign. Amen.
Gift of Music Tomorrow Christ is Coming #27
Today we have been offered a vision of the future and we have been challenged to do our part to make that vision a reality. Today we have been nurtured though the sharing of communion. Today we have been united in a very special way with God and with one another. So, as we go out from here, we go accompanied by one another, by Christ and by the Holy Spirit. As we go out from here this morning, we go with God.
Choral Blessing #298
When you walk from here, when you walk from here,
Walk with justice, walk with mercy, and with God’s humble care.
© Words and music; 1991 Borealis Music. Used with Permission. OneLicense.net#A-723756