Planning - Christ the King/Reign of Christ
The massive image of Christ (above) surrounded by disciples, rulers, and heavenly creatures, as well as persons rising from the dead (look in the lower part of the image) dominates the baptistery of San Giovanni church in Florence, Italy. Think about what those entering this space for baptism must think and feel as they view this image for the first time and realize it is into no less than this Christ, Son of the Father, and bestower of the Holy Spirit, that they are being baptized.
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24.
To the people scattered in exile in Babylon (Iraq), the prophet Ezekiel declares the word of the Lord: "I will seek out my sheep I will rescue them I will bring them into their own land." To the Babylonian rulers, God announces that it is God, and not they, who will judge the covenant people, and that God, and not they, will establish a shepherd over them, a descendent of David.
Psalm 100 (UMH 821).
"Old 100th" is also available as a hymn, UMH 75. If you use the Psalm setting, use Response 1 with Tone 3 in F Major (737).
Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus of the glorious inheritance of all believers. The same immeasurable power that raised Christ from death and placed him above every imaginable power is at work on our behalf.
The final public teaching of Jesus. At the "Great Assize," the final Judgment, the King to Come, seated upon a throne and surrounded by the angels, will judge all based on how they have treated "the least of these."
For Leccionario Comn Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes (pdf), click here.
Back to top.
Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday marks the close of the Christian liturgical year. Throughout the year, Christ has been the focus of our theological reflections. This Sunday is a time to look both backward and forward in Christ. We look backward to the incarnation, the life, and the death of Christ; and we look forward to the Second Coming and final reign of Christ. See "A Great Thanksgiving for Christ the King Sunday." See also this Call to Worship and thisService of Scripture and Song that recapitulates the whole Christian Year.
Today is also Bible Sunday, or the Sunday in "National Bible Week" on the UM Program Calendar. For more information, see www.nationalbible.org.
Thanksgiving (USA) will be observed on November 24, 2011. See the United Methodist Book of Worship and the Planning Calendar of the Discipleship Ministries website for a selection of resources. See also "Musical Thanksgiving," Hymns for Thanksgiving Day, and "Traditional Hymns for Contemporary and Blended Worship, Volume 7: Thanksgiving."
The Christian New Year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, next Sunday, November 27. We move into Year B of the lectionary with its focus on Mark's gospel, the stories of David's family, and the epistles of Ephesians, Hebrews and James.
As Ordinary Time comes to its conclusion today, the readings these past three weeks, including today, already take up the Advent themes of expectant waiting for the age to come. If the Sundays regularly scheduled for Advent in the Christian Calendar must be over-run by Christmas themes where you are, for whatever reasons, consider the possibility of beginning Advent early. See our Article "Restoring Advent and Christmas" on the UMC Worship Blog for three different approaches that may enable your congregation to experience a full Advent AND a full Christmastide. Also see The Advent Project website for full resources to support a restored 7-week celebration of this season, truncated to four weeks in the 11th century by act of Pope Gregory VI.
Remember, Advent isn't about Christmas -- mangers, shepherds and Magi-- but about its eternal context, the promised inbreaking of God's reign into the powers of this world and the fulfillment of that promise begun in God's incarnation in Jesus. For more specific guidance for Advent, see "Planning Advent for Year B."
November 27 is also United Methodist Student Day, with a special offering designated.
Remember on both of these major Sundays -- Christ the King/Reign of Christ and Advent 1 -- that programmatic emphases should always take a back seat to the major festivals of the Christian Year. See The United Methodist Book of Worship, pp. 422 and 434.
Atmospherics: What Kind of King is This?
Throughout Ordinary Time, the readings have not been selected to coordinate with one another. Today, and throughout Advent and Christmastide, and again through Lent and Eastertide, all the readings do connect to one another.
This year's readings cluster around the larger issue of the kind of king Jesus is. From the reading from Ezekiel, understood from the earliest days of Christianity to point directly to Jesus, descendent of David, we see him as a shepherd intent on gathering sheep scattered by an oppressor, healing them, taking them home, and restoring them to their own pastures. In Ephesians we hear of him, the crucified and risen one, now ruling over all thrones and powers and dominions. And in Matthew, we see him as judge proclaiming the primary criterion for inheriting the kingdom prepared from all time by the Father: whether people lived his way by truly serving the least.
In each case, the world's usual expectations of kingship are turned upside down. Rather than staying put and expecting the loyal subjects to come to the king's abode, this God and King goes looking for them (Exekiel). Rather than achieving his position through acts of violence or self-aggrandizement, Jesus is enthroned as the crucified one, not by his own ambition, but by God's power (Ephesians). Rather than looking for signs of worldly success to determine the degree of God's blessing, Jesus looks for whether we have blessed those left unblessed by the rest of the world (Matthew).
How we are to respond to our king does stem from "usual" expectations of kingship. The citizens of a realm are expected to "look like" their king, just as the disciples are expected to look like and live like their master. As we do, we become inheritors of God's kingdom ourselves. As we do not, Jesus says we may expect to find ourselves "cast into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41).
So who looks like this king where you are? What's happening in the life of your congregation that looks like a shepherd going after scattered sheep, healing them, and bringing them home? Where do you see not simply Jesus, but his crucified (not merely successful!) body being exalted? And beyond the liberal/conservative and grace/works divides (can we get out of our dualistic thought-paradigms long enough just to listen to Jesus here?), where do you see the least being cared for as such a matter of course that folks even seem to forget they've done it?
All those unlikely places and people are the sources for exalting Jesus as King today. They are the signs that he really is as the gospels proclaim, as Paul describes, and as the prophets foretold. These are the signs to be seen, the good news to give thanks for, the raw materials of our praise in song and art and dance and around the Lord's Table this day.
Look. Listen. Feel this power at work around you. And help your congregation rejoice in our King!
Back to top.
- BOW 420 (Reign of Christ/Christ the King)
- BOW 450 (Psalm)
- BOW 452 (Psalm)
- BOW 454 (Ezekiel)
BOW 460 (Matthew)
Acts of response to the Word:
- BOW 421 (Christ the King)
- BOW 508, Psalm of the Woodlands (Matthew, Christ the King)
- BOW 511, Prayer for God's Reign (Christ the King)
- BOW 522, Prayer for Purity (Matthew)
- BOW 529, Prayer of Saint Patrick (Matthew)
- 69, United Methodist Hymnal: For True Singing (Psalm, Matthew)
- 74, United Methodist Hymnal: Canticle of Thanksgiving (Psalm)
- 323, United Methodist Hymnal: The Ascension (Epiphany)
- 721, United Methodist Hymnal: Christ the King
- BOW 476 (Matthew)
- BOW 481 (Matthew)
Concerns and Prayers:
- BOW 522, Prayer for Purity (Matthew)
- BOW 546, Prayer for Those Who Suffer (Matthew)
- Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger
The Great Thanksgiving:
- "A Great Thanksgiving for Christ the King Sunday."
- BOW 70-71, "The Great Thanksgiving for the Season after Pentecost"
Prayer of Thanksgiving if there is no Communion:
BOW 555 (Psalm, Matthew)
Dismissals/Blessings/Benedictions: Blessing: BOW 564 (Matthew)
Back to top.