Christ the King/Reign of Christ

    Planning - Christ the King/Last Sunday after Pentecost

    Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
    See the texts (NRSV), artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

    2 Samuel 23:1-7.
    David's final song: "One who rules over the people justly... is like the light of the morning, the rising sun of a cloudless morning glistening off the dew."

    Psalm 132:1-5, 11-12 (UMH 849).
    A plea to God to remember David's devotion in wishing to build a temple for God and God's promise to sustain David's line if his descendents kept God's covenant. If you plan to sing the Psalm, consider using Tone 5 in D minor with the sung response.

    Revelation 1:4b-8.
    The opening salutation to John's vision: "Grace to you from the one who was, and is and is to come, and from from the seven spirits … and from Jesus Christ, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth."

    John 18:33-37.
    Jesus answers the charge that some call him "King of the Jews": "My kingdom is not from this world."

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    Worship Notes


    In the Christian calendar, today is Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday, the last Sunday after Pentecost. "Normal" Advent (Year C) begins December 2. However, if you are following the "Restored Advent" calendar, today is Advent 3. For this and other Advent and Christmastide options, see "Restoring Advent and Christmas 2012/2013."

    On the denominational calendar, today is United Methodist Student Day, which includes a special offering. While the special offering should be taken, the celebration of this day should be woven into the larger themes of Christ the King Sunday, which takes precedence on this day.

    December 1 is the World Aids Day Observance. United Methodist resources for this day are made available by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. If you do not observe the day on December 1, you may wish to collect a special offering or designate your Communion offering for this purpose.

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    Christ the King/The Reign of Christ is one of the most recent additions to the Christian liturgical calendar. Begun by the Roman Catholic Church in 1925, the celebration of Christ the King was adopted fairly quickly thereafter by a number of Protestant denominations with European roots who were already seeing the gathering threats of fascism and communism. The day is now celebrated worldwide by Roman Catholics and most Protestant denominations.

    Whether you celebrate this day as the end of Ordinary Time or the Third Sunday in Advent, the message is the same: Jesus Christ is Lord of All. Readings in the three years bring somewhat different perspectives on what the ultimate Kingship/Reign of Jesus means, but all of them draw bright lines between the ways of his Reign, ongoing and yet to come, and the ways of the kingdoms of this world. If you are celebrating this as part of Advent, you may want to focus on how signs of Christ's reign already present point to their fullness in the age to come.

    David's Song: Christ's Kingship Means Justice and Beauty

    David's song in 2 Samuel contrasts what happens when a king rules justly "in the fear of the Lord" with what happens when "the godless" are in charge. One who rules justly makes the whole world inviting and beautiful, like morning light on the dewy grass. Those who rule unjustly make the world hostile and undesirable, like thorns one only dares touch with tools to transfer them to a burn pile.

    How do we experience the reign of Jesus bringing light and beauty and an inviting and enduring softness to the world?

    How do we experience those who rule unjustly bringing thorns, and with them pain, hurt, and destruction?

    What does a "beautiful" and "inviting" politics of justice look like where you are? What people or organizations already seem to embody such a beautiful, inviting politics of justice?

    If you have painters or other graphic artists in your congregation, you might invite them to develop a painting or other pieces of art that help make these connections in the context of your particular community. Or you may move from the reading or projection of this text into a time of meditation and community sharing or testimony about how just leadership or justice itself already is or might become so embodied in your congregation, community, nation, and world.

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    Revelation: Christ's Kingship Means Our Priesthood

    The exalted language of Revelation may conceal its startling claims even as it reveals them. The one who is "ruler of the kings of the earth" is the very one who both freed us from our sins in his blood and who now empowers us to be a kingdom of priests in service to God. The idea of "primal king" who frees one group of people from bondage to another would have been normal or even expected in the ancient world. That this same king would do so at the cost of his own blood, and then decree that all the people so liberated were now priests in the new kingdom—that was unheard of!

    Christ's kingship means, at least, our priesthood. How do the individuals in your congregation and your congregation as a whole embody the priesthood entrusted to you by King Jesus? Specifically, how do individuals and your congregation enact your Christ-given priestly roles of intercession, sacrifice, and ensuring justice for those with fewer resources and weaker voices? Spend some time in your worship planning team becoming aware of the ways you do – and perhaps additional ways to strengthen or add.

    Related to this last point, it is important to remember these words were written to and first read aloud by a few, small and struggling late first-century Christian communities in Eastern Turkey who were facing persecution and the threat of death because they proclaimed the sole Lordship of Jesus. What has or does such a profession of faith sound like when made by those the world recognizes as powerful—those who control economies, companies, nations and armies? Where is your community of faith on that spectrum from marginalization to majority? If you are among the marginalized, how will you claim the power Christ gives you? If you are among the majority, how will you use the power of the voice you have to serve and speak for the marginalized?

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    John: King Jesus Witnesses to Truth

    The flow of today's lectionary readings transports us from the throne room of heaven (Revelation) to the examination chamber of Pilate (John). Here the claims of the church about Jesus' kingship are put to a "real-world" test. If we fall too closely in line with "earthly" understandings of kingship and apply these to Jesus, we and the whole world miss the Truth God reveals in Jesus Christ.

    Jesus states it not once, but twice in verse 36: "My kingdom is not from this world," "My kingdom is not from here." As proof of this, Jesus notes that if his kingdom were from this world, his followers would be fighting to keep Jesus from being handed over to the authorities.

    The Reign of Jesus does not cause his followers to fight to preserve him or themselves. As we see at the arrest in the garden (John 18:1-11), the disciples were perfectly willing to fight, and Simon was even armed with a sword which he used against a slave of the high priest. Jesus, however, rebuked Peter for this. "Put your sword back into its sheath!" he said. King Jesus will not rule or allow himself to be defended by violent means. He really could say that those who are his do not fight.

    This brings us to a word about Christ's kingship that may be even more difficult for some in Western cultures to hear: Truth. While Pilate called him "king," Jesus claims his purpose is to bear witness to the Truth. Citizens of his kingdom are those who listen to (and so obey) the Truth. Pilate's question in the next verse (not in this week's reading, but you might consider adding it if needed) echoes the considered skepticism of postmodernism: "What is Truth?"

    It's a real question. For Pilate, "Truth" could not exist apart from the power interests that backed it up—himself, those he oversa, and those in authority over him. Truth was thus always a strategy game, its contours and sometimes its essence shifting with the winds of power.

    The Truth of Jesus, the truth of God's reign, however, is unchanging and always knowable to those who know how to listen for it. As the communities around John put it, Truth is God's love of all and our love of God and neighbor. It is in the "new commandment" Jesus gave his disciples: "Love one another as I have loved you." It is in the question Jesus keeps asking Peter after the resurrection, "Do you love me?" (John 21:15-17). For Peter or any of us to "feed his sheep," to take on leadership, this is the critical question. And it is in the letters: "Beloved, let us love each other, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love has not known God, for God is love" (I John 4:7-8). Look for and listen to the signs of God's love active in the world, and you will see and hear the Truth that shapes and changes everything. This is the Truth to which King Jesus came to bear witness.

    Beauty, priesthood, non-violence and Truth: these are the four key descriptors of the Reign of Jesus in this year's celebration of this day. Around which of these, or what combination of these, can your congregation offer itself best in worship? About which of these does your congregation need most to hear today? Which of these may best help your congregation be sent forth to live as empowered citizen's of Christ's Reign? Discuss this in your worship planning team, and when you choose the one or ones on which you will focus most, develop the plan for your worship space (arrangement of people and things as well as art and sound) that will support the theme best where you are.

    However you choose to approach planning for this celebration, remember that today is not a day for lecture on the philosophy or theology of kingship as much is as it is an opportunity for the congregation to claim and confess Christ's kingship more profoundly, and so gather and be sent from the Lord's Table with bolder faith to live their confession in every relationship they encounter — individually as disciples wherever they are or together in the life and ministries of the congregation.

    Advent and Christmas are just around the corner. Next Sunday will mark the beginning of a new liturgical year. Perhaps you will want to introduce the Advent-Christmas cycle in the bulletin or church newsletter this week so that people are alert and expectant about worship next Sunday and beyond. Consider including a digest of the material in The United Methodist Book of Worship, 238 and 269. (The copyright permission for this is found on page 12.)

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    Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship and the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle

    • Greeting: UMBOW 420 (Christ the King)
    • Greeting: UMBOW 451 (Christ the King)
    • Canticle: UMH 734, "Canticle of Hope" (Revelation)
    • Prayer of Confession: UMBOW 478 (2 Samuel, John)
    • Prayer: UMH 721, Christ the King (Revelation, John)
    • Prayer: UMBOW 421 (Christ the King)
    • Prayer: UMBOW 511, For God's Reign (2 Samuel, Revelation, John)
    • The Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea
    • Prayer of Great Thanksgiving: "A Great Thanksgiving for Christ the King Sunday"
    • Prayer of Thanksgiving (if no Communion): UMBOW 556 (Revelation)
    • Blessing: UMBOW 563
    • See 419 for additional Christ the King suggestions.
    • See Thanksgiving Day (The United Methodist Book of Worship , 416-418) for other suggestions if you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving Sunday on this day.

    Call to Worship

    Come, let us gather in the name of the Son of God, the son of David.
    He rules over people justly,
    ruling in the fear of God.
    Jesus Christ is like the light of morning,
    like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
    gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.
    -- Adapted from 1 Samuel 23:3-4.


    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,
    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,
    and made us to be a kingdom,
    priests serving his God and Father,
    to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    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.
    -- Adapted from Revelation 1:4b-7.

    Appropriate Advent Hymns for Today (even if you "officially" start Advent next Sunday!):

    From The United Methodist Hymnal

    • 196, "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" (Revelation)
    • 202, "People, Look East" (post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas)
    • 203, "Hail to the Lord's Anointed" (2 Samuel)
    • 211, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" (especially Antiphon 1, Christ the King)
    • 214, "Savior of the Nations, Come," verses 1, 2, 4 (John)

    From The Faith We Sing

    • 2087, "We Will Glorify the King of Kings" (Revelation, Christ the King)
    • 2091, "The King of Glory Comes" (Revelation, Christ the King)

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    Image © 2002-2003

    Notes for Revelation 1:4b-8

    Scholars believe that the Revelation of John was written in the mid-90s, long after the synoptic gospels and many of the Pauline letters had been written.

    • John spoke of Jesus as a faithful witness at a time when Christians were being persecuted and martyred for their faith.

    • John reminded his readers of salvation and redemption by the use of phrases such as firstborn of the dead and freed from our sins by his blood.

    • John reminded his readers of the Second Coming of Christ in verse 7.

    • John spoke of Christ as the divine king, using such words as throne in verse 4b and ruler of the kings in verse 5.

    • Finally, we are reminded of the deity of Christ by the use of phrases such as who was and is and is to come (verse 4b), Alpha and Omega and the Almighty (verse 8).

    • Visit for a wealth of additional online resources. These are offered free of charge.

    • Visit Chris Haslam's (Anglican Church of Canada) weekly exegetical commentary on both Testaments.

    • Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos -- Spanish-language Revised Common Lectionary resources from Instituto Universitario ISEDET in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (For missing weeks, please check for previous posts in the archives at

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    Scripture Notes for John 18:33-378
    • All four gospel writers record this conversation with Pilate (see Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3).
    • The question, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Pilate's question was in response to charges made against Jesus in Luke 23:2. Jewish leaders had turned Jesus over to the Romans to be interrogated and -- they hoped -- executed.
    • Jesus had, on several occasions refused the temptation to be publicly proclaimed the king of the Jews. (See, for example, Luke 4:5-8 or John 6:15.)
    • Jesus' response was less than direct:
      • "My kingdom is not from this world."
      • "I was born . . . to testify to the truth."

    • Visit for a wealth of additional online resources. These are offered free of charge.
    • -- Biblical Storytelling for the Global Village What better way to enliven your preaching than to begin by storytelling the text! The site offers several online workshops in storytelling and has a section organized by lectionary year with both audio examples and commentary on the lectionary texts. See
    • Comments: Commentaries on the Revised Common Lectionary (Chris Haslam, Anglican Diocese of Montreal) – insightful comments on both the Old and New Testament lections
    • Visit for Richard Donovan's free weekly exegesis of the Gospel lections in English, Spanish and Chinese. Many resources are offered free of charge.
    • Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos -- Spanish-language Revised Common Lectionary resources from Instituto Universitario ISEDET in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (These have not been updated this month. Please consult the archives for 2009 for this lection
    • The Painted Prayerbook -- Offering a unique combination of her original artwork and writing, Jan Richardson's blog includes reflections on the lectionary readings.

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    Putting the Sermon Together

    As we finish the long season of Ordinary Time or Kingdomtide, we end with a reminder of the Reign of God and the Second Coming of Christ.

    Consider which of the following you might include in this week's sermon:

    • Kingdom (Reign) of God
    • Theology of Last Things
    • Second Coming of Christ
    • Images from Revelation: Firstborn of the dead, Alpha and Omega

    Questions to Consider:

    1. Revelation speaks of a time when Jesus will return "riding on the clouds." What do members of your congregation believe about the Second Coming of Christ?
    2. In the passage from John, is Jesus standing before Pilate or is Pilate really standing before Jesus?
    3. How would you describe the Kingdom (Reign) of God?
    4. The history of Christ the King Sunday: Christ the King Sunday is a relatively recent holiday, having been instituted in 1925 when respect for the church was waning and state control over the church was increasing in many countries. Stalin and Mussolini were names in the news when this encyclical was issued. Hitler had just published Mein Kampf. It was gutsy for Pope Pius XI to declare (and to decree) to the people of those times that Christ is our King! The holiday in and of itself was a reminder to people both inside and outside the church that our allegiance is to Christ. What do our church holidays and worship services say to people inside the church and outside the church?

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    Sermon Starters
    • John's Sermon. John's Introduction to Revelation almost resembles a sermon outline.
      • Jesus Christ is the faithful witness (Revelation 1:5). This was written at a time when Christians suffered persecution, and a number of Christians were called upon to witness to their faith through martyrdom. Christ witnessed to the truth through his own martyrdom.
      • Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the dead (verse 5). This was a familiar image in the emerging Christian church. The firstborn was a Davidic image from Psalm 89:27; the firstborn of the dead was a resurrection image (Colossians 1:18).
      • Jesus Christ is the ruler of the kings of the earth (verse 5). Later, more plainly said, the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14, 19:16).
      • Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega -- the first and the last, the beginning and the end of everything (Revelation 21:13). This term is a possible variation on the I AM of Exodus 3:14.

    • Pilate's confusion. Pilate's interrogation was considered a pivotal theological point and is found in all four gospel accounts of Jesus' arrest and crucifixion.
      • Are you the King of the Jews? (John 18:33). This was an interesting question in light of the fact that Pilate was an employee of the same Romans who had installed Idumean King Herod as "King" of the Jews.
      • Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me? Jesus' response hints that he knew that Pilate was not asking questions from his own curiosity; he was doing follow-up on an accusation leveled by Jesus' enemies.

      After reading this passage, I am not convinced that Pilate ever understood that Jesus was indeed King of the Jews or that he, not Jesus, was under historical scrutiny.

    • You are not from around here, are you? "My kingdom is not from this world" (John 18:36), Jesus answered quickly. "Otherwise my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews (verse 36)." It was true that Jesus was the King of the Jews, but his kingdom was unlike anything that his detractors had imagined. The kingdom over which Christ rules is not one of talk, but one of power and action (1 Corinthians 4:20). It is a kingdom characterized by righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17). It is found in our midst (Luke 17:21, NRSV), already among us (Luke 17:21, The Message), even within us (Luke 17:21, KJV, NCV). Christ rules a kingdom that is not from this world (verse 36).

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      Online Resources

      Center for Excellence in Preaching (Revelation)

      Center for Excellence in Preaching (John)

      Commentary on (second reading and gospel)

      PBS Frontline: Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation

      Understanding the Book of Revelation -- From PBS Frontline: Apocalypse

      The Gospel of John -- From the PBS series From Jesus to Christ

      Jesus the King of Kings -- Insights from the Anno Domini virtual museum.

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      Print Resources

      Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation -- An easy-to-use resource by Bruce Metzger.

      The Anchor Bible, Volume 29A: The Gospel According to John 13-21

      The Gospel of John: A Commentary, revision of Bruner's famous commentary

      Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching John (Westminster Press, 1988)

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      BOW- The United Methodist Book of Worship
      CLUW- Come, Let Us Worship (Korean)
      MVPC- Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Spanish)
      SOZ- Songs of Zion
      TFWS- The Faith We Sing
      UMH- The United Methodist Hymnal
      URW- Upper Room Worshipbook
      WSM - Worship & Song, Music Edition
      WSW - Worship & Song, Worship Resources Edition


      Categories: Worship, Lectionary Planning Archive, Year B

      2 Samuel 23:1-7
      God Is Here 660
      Hail to the Lord's Anointed 203 81
      How Shall I Come Before the Lord 3124
      I Will Call upon the Lord 2002
      Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending 718
      O God Beyond All Praising 2009
      Praise the Name of Jesus 2066
      Righteous and Just Is the Word of Our Lord (La Palabra Del) 107
      Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me 361 247
      Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place 328 344 215
      We Sing to You, O God 2001 293
      What Does the Lord Require 441
      What Does the Lord Require of You 2174
      You Are Worthy 2063
      Psalm 132:1-12 (UMH 849)
      Bless the Lord 2013 377
      God Is Here 660
      God Is Here Today 2049
      Jesus, We Want to Meet 661
      Jubilate, Servite (Come, Rejoice in God) 2017 383
      O God, Our Help in Ages Past
      117 200
      O Lord, My Heart Is Not Proud (Psalm 131) 330
      Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place 328 344 215
      The Trees of the Field 2279
      Your Love, O God 120 26
      Revelation 1:4-8
      All Hail King Jesus 2069
      All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (Coronation)
      154 60
      All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (Diadem) 155
      Awesome God 2040
      Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine 369 65 287
      Bring Forth the Kingdom 2190
      Christ Is Risen, Christ Is Living 313
      Come, Thou Almighty King 61 11
      Cristo Vive, Fuera el Llanto 313
      Days of Elijah 3186
      Freedom Is Coming 2192
      Give Me Jesus 3140
      Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken 731 256
      Glory Be to the Father (Greatorex) 71
      Glory Be to the Father (Meineke)—Gloria Patri 70 23
      Hail to the Lord's Anointed 203 81
      He Is Exalted 2070
      I heard my mother say 3140
      Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun 157
      King of Kings 2075
      Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence 626 150 217
      Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending 718
      Love Divine, All Loves Excelling 384 100
      Majesty, Worship His Majesty 176 171 204
      Maker, in Whom We Live 88
      My Tribute 99
      Of the Father's Love Begotten 184 52 66
      Rejoice, the Lord Is King (Darwall's 148th) 715
      Rejoice, the Lord Is King (Gopsal) 716
      Soon and Very Soon 706 385 198
      This Is the Feast of Victory 638
      Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus 349
      We Will Glorify the King of Kings 2087
      When Morning Gilds the Skies 185 369 184
      Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones 90
      You Are My All in All 3040
      You are my strength when I am weak 3040
      You Are Worthy 2063
      John 18:33-37
      Afraid and Alone
      All Hail King Jesus 2069
      Awesome God 2040
      Christ Is the Truth, the Way 93
      Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus 325
      Hallelujah! What a Savior 165
      Here Am I 2178
      Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence 626 150 217
      Man of Sorrows! What a Name 165
      Morning Glory, Starlit Sky 194
      O Sing a Song of Bethlehem 179
      Rejoice, the Lord Is King (Darwall's 148th) 715
      Rejoice, the Lord Is King (Gopsal) 716
      Sent Out in Jesus' Name 2184
      We've a Story to Tell to the Nations 569