Welcome to our Worship at Home for 21 November.
Some Scripture sentences…
His name is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen. Halleluja.
We join in prayer…
We thank you, Lord, for those familiar words that remind us that Jesus, by his rule of love and justice, rules over the rolling centuries of human history and for the assurance and sense of security that it brings. Help us in this time of worship as a community of your people to strengthen our faith and live more and more to your praise and glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We have two readings, first from Daniel 7:14…
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
And now from Isaiah 2: 2-4
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.
Today is the Sunday before Advent, the last Sunday of the Christian Year. It is observed in many churches as the Festival of Christ the King. And we are invited to look back over the whole life of Jesus and be reminded how he established, set up,
his rule of love and justice in human history, and is still increasing it.
But first, let’s look back to the sentences with which we began this Act of Worship. ’King of Kings…’ Most people hearing them, ourselves included, would immediately say, ‘Handel’s Messiah.’ But they are in fact from the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. It is an attempt to describe the end to which the whole of history is tending. And not just the history of the church. The kingdom is much, much bigger than the church. We need to be reminded of this end point of the whole of history.
So does it look anything like that yet? Last Sunday was Remembrance Sunday and we were reminded once again of the chaos and immense death toll of the First and Second World Wars. And is it any better today? You might accuse me of being selective, but let’s look at our own continent of Europe. Go back in your mind to the year 1999, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It brought the Cold War to an end after years of division between East and West… and it was a bloodless end. No great final battle. The East German guards stood by and did nothing. There was a long process leading up to that… Demonstrations throughout East Germany some sparked off by prayer meetings in churches, led by pastors brave enough to defy the authorities and do something that could be seen as illegal. There was a motto ‘Swords into Ploughshares’, a biblical quotation. I still have a little badge with those words in German on it, bought as a memento on a later visit to Germany.
And some years later in 2011, I was at a meeting of the World Council of Churches in Potsdam, which had been in East Germany. Local ministers would come in every morning to lead our prayers. One of them gave a graphic illustration of the changes that had taken place.
‘Let us not forget – he said – that we are in a place where the words of the prophet Isaiah have been actually and literally fulfilled: ‘swords into ploughshares’. You can see it all around you as you walk about: a military training ground is now the site of our national gardens exhibition; our children go to school in buildings that were once military barracks; and underground, where medium-range missiles with multiple warheads were once stationed, high quality mushrooms are being cultivated.’
His words were so striking that I wrote them down immediately! It was indeed ‘swords into ploughshares.’
To sum this reflection up, I have chosen the hymn number 602 in Mission Praise: ‘Sing we the King who is coming to reign.’
Sing we the King who is coming to reign,
glory to Jesus, the Lamb that was slain;
life and salvation his empire shall bring,
joy to the nations when Jesus is King.
Come let us sing: Praise to our King,
Jesus our King, Jesus our King:
This is our song, who to Jesus belong:
Glory to Jesus, to Jesus our King.
All men shall dwell in his marvellous light,
races long severed his love shall unite;
justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring,
wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King.
All shall be well in his kingdom of peace,
freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase;
foe shall be friend when his triumph we sing,
sword shall be sickle when Jesus is King.
Souls shall be saved from the burden of sin;
doubt shall not darken his witness within;
hell hath no terrors, and death hath no sting;
love is victorious, when Jesus is King.
Kingdom of Christ, for thy coming we pray,
hasten, O Father, the dawn of the day;
when this new song thy creation shall sing,
Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King.
We come to our prayer time. Let us pray…
Lord, we give you thanks that our land and our continent are largely at peace. But we remember that there are so many places in the world not experiencing peace. Raise up people, we pray, who work for peace, and we pray for the United Nations in its peacekeeping role in troubled areas.
Lord in you mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord, when we examine ourselves, we realise that, despite the appearance we carefully put forward, we do not always have peaceable thoughts. Help us always to remember that all humans, however different from us, are your children and they are loved by you.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord, we think of our immediate friends and family. Some are in special need at this time, through bereavement, illness, concern for those close to them, heavy responsibilities, or for some other reason. We name them before you… bless and protect them, we pray. Give them peace in their hearts.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord, we think of our church, Christ Church. We thank you that our activities are beginning to return. Continue to give wisdom to the elders and leaders of our organisations enabling our church life to be safely and sensitively resumed.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Finally, Lord, we offer ourselves to you. Keep us faithful in prayer, and always alert to the needs of others around us. And let us live to your praise and glory.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
And a Blessing
May God’s peace be upon us, may God’s love embrace us, may God’s Spirit guide us, as we go into coming days. Amen.
Revd Tony Coates