Worship Service for Christ the King Sunday

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this Christ the King Sunday, November 20, 2022! We’re glad that you are here!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will have the order and words and responses for worship, the music for the liturgical pieces out of the All Creation Sings hymnal, the hymn numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. The words of the liturgy that you need to know, the hymn lyrics, and the music out of the ACS book will also be on your screen, and the sermon is included on this page below the worship video. Feel free to follow along with whatever is most comfortable for you.

If you would like an enhance worship experience online, you may have a few tangible elements in your space. First you can have a candle nearby that can be lit before the service starts and extinguished along with the altar candles in worship after the sending hymn. And if you want to participate in communion you can have something small to eat and drink prepared, with further instruction on when to consume during the service itself.

May God’s reigning love be in your hearts this day and always!

Lord God, open our hearts to receive your Word; by your Spirit free us from all that oppress us and reveal to us the gracious inheritance of the saints of light, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“He saved others, let him save himself if he’s the Messiah!”

“If you’re the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

“Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

Is it me, or are these ancient folk really obsessed with saving?  Save me, save yourself, save this, save that, so on and so forth.  It’s like that’s all they can think about, nothing else is on their minds.  And I guess if we’re honest, can we really blame them?  I mean, we talk about saving all the time as well.  We save a certain percentage of our paycheques for our retirement, we save our work and progress on our computers and drives and clouds, we save our leftovers so we aren’t so wasteful.  We try to save animals, rainforests, and schools.  Maybe we don’t have saving on our minds all the time like the ancient Israelites seem to in this story we get today, but I think we can still very confidently say that saving is good and it’s something that we want to happen to us and to others, and if push comes to shove we’d probably want the Messiah to save as well.

But what does it actually mean to be saved by the Messiah?  What does it mean to be forgiven by a King?  What does it mean to be remembered by Jesus? 

Well, in light of how we use the term these days, I would say “to save” basically means to preserve.  So we preserve our money by putting it in banks and try to invest it wisely so none of it is lost, we preserve our knowledge and memories through endless pictures and writing things down and even putting it up on the internet where they’ll last forever, we do what we can to preserve our lives by being healthy, eating right, and ingest whatever we’re told that would help us in this goal.  So when we ask to save something or to be saved, we are asking that it not be changed, diminished, or taken away.  We want it to remain, to be safe, to be kept the way we want it, the way it has been, the way perhaps it should be.

And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this.  I myself very much like being alive and so I will do what I can to stay that way, just as I like how those around me are alive and so I do what I can to protect them.  That instinct to survive is ingrained in all of us, so much so that our bodies are hardwired for self-preservation.  If you don’t believe me, try holding your breath until you pass out. You’ll find that it can’t be done.  Your body won’t allow it.  It will override your willpower in order for you to survive. 

And we aren’t the only ones like this, pretty much every sentient being or species has this desire for survival in them, except for maybe lemmings, according to urban myth.  So wired are we for survival and self-preservation that anything against that wiring just seems wrong.  So we frown on people being irresponsible when it comes to their health or the health of others especially during the pandemic.  We frown on any kind of planned death whatsoever no matter how much it makes sense for the person.  We frown on any kind of change that threatens too much our way of life, our way of doing things, our definitions of what really is life. 

This is what it means for us to save.  This is how we want to be saved.  This is how we, and the ancient people deriding Jesus, expected him to save himself.  I mean, we know he can do it, he’s done a lot of miracles already from healing people to feeding people and to even bringing some people back from the dead even.  All he has to do now is pop out those nails, jump down off the cross, and then he’ll show them once and for all that he is who they claim him to be, the true Messiah and King.  But he doesn’t do it.  He doesn’t come down from the cross.  He doesn’t defeat his enemies the way a king should and save himself.

Well, he doesn’t in the way that we think he should, at least.

Because somehow, by dying he saves.  Somehow, by his life ending, life is preserved.  Somehow, by seemingly falling at the hands of his enemies, Jesus is declared to be King over all and his reign lasts forever. 

This is the great paradox of the Christian faith, where we’re taught that the first is last and the last is first.  This the counter culture of Jesus’ teachings where he can be called the Servant King.  This is the shift in mindset and paradigm, where we see true power found in grace, humility, and love.

Because if it were up to us, Jesus would have jumped off the cross.  If it were up to us, all evil and sin would be obliterated from the earth.  If it were up to us, we’d be in paradise already.  But none of that happened or happens.  None of what we want comes to pass.  Nothing that we expect is actually what Jesus does.

So again, what does it mean to be saved by the Messiah and King when it seems like nothing is saved… or preserved the way that we want?

The thing is, we aren’t saved by staying the same.  Our salvation isn’t dependant on the preservation of our paradigms and interpretations.  Jesus remembering us doesn’t mean we have to hold onto this version of us forever.

Rather, Jesus saves us by changing us.  Changing the way we see the world and each other.  Changing how we understand ourselves and our position in God’s love and kingdom.  Changing who we are… from sinners condemned by our own making to a life apart from God to fully redeemed and forgiven, invited and welcomed, beloved members of God’s church and community declared as God’s own people.

This nature of salvation then means that it’s not our lives as we know it that is preserved or saved, but it is through our being changed that joins us with the truth and message of Christ that does indeed last forever.  God’s grace doesn’t allow us to keep our traditions as the only true traditions forever, but rather opens our minds and hearts to see how God is present in so many forms and customs.  God’s love for us isn’t because we have been rigid in keeping the traditions of the past and shunning any change that might come our way, but it’s because no matter who we are, how much we have in the bank, where or how we worship, or even what gender we identify with, God decides to reach out to us, remind us who we are, and lifts us up out of the guilts and shames that the world puts on us.  This then moves us to be more gracious and accepting, more loving and forgiving, more in line with who God is and reforming us in our faith and understanding.  So we are changed from our past selves, we are rescued from our erroneous understanding of how life should be revolving around us, we are saved from the consequences of sin in relationship with God and each other. 

But still, this is hard.  Change is always uncomfortable.  Learning to see the world as God sees it, learning to understand God’s grace as Jesus taught it, which quite frankly, is what got him killed, learning to follow the leading of the Spirit to be reformed often seems impossible.  But this is what we’re called to do, this is what we’re empowered to be, this is how we are saved.

Today is Christ the King Sunday, a day that not just ends the church year but serves as the culmination of all that we’ve learned over the past 12 months.  It’s a day that we remember the Kingship of Jesus, the Reign of God, and the counter cultural Spirit that helps us to see and understand how this all works and how they affect our lives.  And above all, it’s a day where we remember how Jesus hung on the cross and died, showing us all how a King needn’t be militaristically mighty or politically powerful or religiously rich, but a king, like our true King, can be humble, gracious and loving.  A King can protect not by preserving but by changing.  A King can save us all through grace, through mercy, through love.

On this Christ the King Sunday, may we submit not to our own narrow mindedness and presumptions of how things should be, but to the loving change, the softening of our hearts, and the opening of our minds to God’s presence in the world, reforming us and molding us to faithfully be God’s hands and feet in the world.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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