November 21, 2021 – Reign of Christ,
Acknowledging the Territory
as we gather here today, we take a moment to recognize that land upon which we gather is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our gratitude for this land and those who have tended it before us. We ask the Creator to teach us how to honour, use and share this land wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ candle this morning, we open our hearts and our lives to the light of Christ. And we commit ourselves to allow that light shine through us in all that we do.
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,
The poor will be fed, the sick will be healed and the prisoner will be set free.
When the reign of Christ comes,
The earth will rejoice and all creation will be glad.
So why are we waiting? Let us live into the reign of Christ here and now.
Let us do what we can to seek justice and peace, to care for those in need and to rejoice and celebrate all that our God has done for us.
Let us live in and into the light of Christ that shines all around us.
Let us worship God.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Divine Love, when the darkness seems to be everywhere and our world seems lost in hopelessness and despair, may we never forget the radiant promise of your light. When society seems uncaring and indifference predominates, may we never forget the embracing warmth of your light. When people cry out for justice, but self-interest seems to prevails, may we never forget the burning passion of your light. When we know we must speak out but our courage fades and our tongues seem frozen, may we never forget the boldness with which you light shines. When those we must confront are powerful and our hearts grow fearful, may we never forget the inexhaustible strength with which your light shines. May we always remember that no matter where we are or what we are doing, we are standing in the presence of your Divine Light. Amen
Gift of Music Christ, Within Us Hidden #162
Scripture Readings Isaiah 9:1-7
Our Scripture reading this morning is one of the shortest we have had since we began using the Narrative Lectionary in September. It is also one you will hear part of again next month. It is one of the traditional readings that we hear every year on Christmas Eve, the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
I have chosen this morning to have it read from the Good News Translation which is slightly different than what you will hear on Christmas Eve.
The land of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali was once disgraced, but the future will bring honor to this region, from the Mediterranean eastward to the land on the other side of the Jordan, and even to Galilee itself, where the foreigners live.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. You have given them great joy, Lord; you have made them happy. They rejoice in what you have done, as people rejoice when they harvest grain or when they divide captured wealth. For you have broken the yoke that burdened them and the rod that beat their shoulders. You have defeated the nation that oppressed and exploited your people, just as you defeated the army of Midian long ago. The boots of the invading army and all their bloodstained clothing will be destroyed by fire. A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.” His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time. The Lord Almighty is determined to do all this.
Light Shinning in the Darkness
The writings of the Prophet Isaiah date from a time shortly after the prophet Amos. However, unlike Elijah and Amos, who were both prophets to the Northern Kingdom, Isaiah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom. He was a priest who served at the temple in Jerusalem. The writings of Isaiah, which were likely written by at least 2 different prophets, cover a period of approximately 40 years, the longest period of time covered by any of the Hebrew prophets.
Isaiah is writing during the time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was invaded, conquered and destroyed by the Assyrians. The passage we read this morning begins with a reference to the disgrace of Zebulun and Naphtali, which were both part of the Northern Kingdom. But the Assyrians had not just invaded the Northern Kingdom, they had also invaded the Southern Kingdom. War, and the treat of war, were everywhere and as the people of the Southern Kingdom watched the Northern Kingdom vanish, the anxiety and fear must have been like a constant dark shadow over everything.
Like Amos, much of Isaiah’s writings are a call to the people to return to God’s ways of justice and righteousness. Isaiah often warned that God was not pleased with how the people were behaving. However, unlike Amos, Isaiah also offered a message that was focused strongly on hope. And it was through the images of darkness and light that Isaiah frequently offered hope even in the midst of some of the darkest and most difficult time for the people of Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them … For you have … defeated the nation that oppressed and exploited your people.
The Assyrian army that had destroyed the Northern Kingdom had not been able to conquer the Southern Kingdom. Despite all the sorrow and fear that surrounded the loss of the Northern Kingdom, there was hope. God had not deserted them to their enemies. And there was more.
A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.” His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time.
The hope of a Messiah, the hope of a descendant of King David who would be an even more perfect King than David himself was, offered a hope that nothing else could. The promise of a peace that would last forever, a peace based of the very justice and righteousness that the prophets had long demanded, must have truly seemed like a light of hope shinning in the darkness that surrounded them.
For us today, this passage should have just as much power to inspire hope. In many ways, our world is filled with just as much darkness. Although we may not be caught in the middle of an ongoing military invasion, the darkness and despair today are just as real as they were for the people of Isaiah’s time.
Ongoing wars and fighting continue around the world. At this moment there are approximately 60 wars, military conflicts, skirmishes or other armed military clashes going on. In 2021 alone it is estimated that over 155,000 people have already been killed in these conflicts. This reality casts a dark shadow not only over the areas in which this fighting continues, but over our whole world.
And the gape between rich and poor that was so prevalent in Amos’s time continues today, casting its own shadow. Today, injustice and discrimination are a reality everywhere, whether we like to admit it or not, casting their own shadows. Add to this the effects of COVID-19 and the shadows grow larger than ever.
And this is why we need to remember the promise of Isaiah, especially at this time of year. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them.
It is true that the world we live in does have much darkness in it and we need to acknowledge this. But we do not have to live in that darkness. We have been given a great light that we can focus on and live in and into.
A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.” His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time. The Lord Almighty is determined to do all this.
These beautiful words which we read every year on Christmas Eve are not just a poetic celebration of the nativity scene. They are the promise that peace, justice and righteousness are not just an ideal dream that can never truly happen. It is a promise that the Lord Almighty, the Loving God we worship, the Divine Mystery we cannot understand is determined to fulfill.
That promise, is the promise we celebrate today as we mark Reign of Christ Sunday. It is a promise that peace, justice and right relationship built on love, are possible. It won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen without every single person doing their part to make it a reality. But our faith calls us to believe that, through the power, the grace, the mercy and the inspiration of the One we worship it can happen.
That is why, each year, we mark this day as the Reign of Christ Sunday. It is a time when we remind ourselves of that promise and we commit ourselves to hold on to and work toward the fulfillment of that promise. So today, as we share communion, let us remember not only the life, death and resurrection of the one we celebrate but also the promise that someday, somehow, his vision of love, justice and right relationships will truly become a reality and will reign from now until the end of time. Amen
We Offer Our Gifts
The gift of Light, the gift of Love, the Gift of Christ. These are the gifts that are offered to us this day. The gift of our time, the gift of our commitment, the gift of our earthly resources. These are the gifts that we offer to God this day. So let us ask God’s blessing upon all these gifts.
Let us pray; All that we have comes from you, O God. Accept what we offer today and bless it we pray. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, let us take a moment to remember all those named in our prayer jar, in our hearts and our thoughts this day … Amen.
Communion Hymn: Deck Yourself, My Soul with Gladness #463
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.
And we 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 so 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 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 wine. 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.
All are welcomed to share this bread and this cup regardless of your membership or affiliation with this or any church. If you long for a closer connection with Christ and with one another, this bread and this cup are for you. In order to ensure that all may be included, our bread is gluten free and our juice is preservative free. You are now invited to come forward row by row wearing your masks and maintaining social distance. You will be handed a cup rather than taking one yourself and the bread will be placed into you outstretched hand. You will then carry the elements back to your seat and when everyone has been served, we will share the elements together. If you are unable to come forward, please raise your hand and we will bring the elements to you. So come, for all things are ready.
Sharing of the Bread and the Cup
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.
Closing Hymn Hope of the World #215
Go now to live the life to which you have been called. God knowing you are not alone. God is with you, Christ’s example leads you and the Spirit guides and accompanies you each step of the way. Go with God.