November 26, 2023 – Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
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Lighting of the Christ Candle
This is the Christ Candle. We light the candle to help us remember that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is with us in every place and every time.
Call to Worship
One: In his days justice shall flourish and peace, till the moon fails (Psalm 72:7)
All: In his days justice shall flourish and the voices of those who are oppressed will be heard. The poor will receive enough on which to live, and the rich will share gladly the abundance they have received at the hand of God.
One: In his days justice shall flourish and peace, till the moon fails
All: The wolf will lie down with the lamb: the fierce will give way to the tame, the weak will protect the strong, the powerless will contain the power of the mighty.
One: In his days justice shall flourish and peace, till the moon fails
All: God will give judgement to the King, to the one who comes in the name of the Lord to establish peace and justice with integrity and mercy.
– From Candles and Conifers by Ruth Burgess.
“Praise the Lord with the sound of trumpet” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 466). Words and music by American composer Natalie Sleeth (1930–1992). Words and music both copyright © 1976 Hinshaw Music Inc.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, Lord’s Prayer
God of grace and God of glory, we pray this day that you will rule in our hearts and in this world. Sovereign Lord, we pray for your reign to come here now, bringing a world of justice, righteousness, hope, love, peace, mercy and grace for all.
We live in an age that would rather idolize the latest rock stars or fashionistas than follow you. We have our own plans and agendas. We want to be the rulers of our world, to ignore the needs of our neighbours, to let greed and selfishness determine our next steps. You know us God. We do not have to pretend with you. In the silence of your love, we bring you the things that trouble us, that harm us, that make us feel ashamed or afraid.
God have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us. God have mercy on us.
These prayers we offer in the name of our sovereign Lord, Jesus Christ, and we continue to pray as he taught, saying together:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.
Declaration of Pardon
Listen to the words of Jesus, words that we can trust: “Don’t be afraid. Your sins are forgiven. I love you. Come and follow me.” Thanks be to God. Amen.
One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
– Duty Elder Sandra Robertson
Guildwood Choir Presents
“Lift High the Cross”. Words (1887) by English clergyman George Kitchin (1827–1912), revised (1916) by English clergyman Michael R. Newbolt (1874–1956). Music (1916; tune: “Crucifer”) by English choir director, organist, and composer Sydney Hugo Nicholson (1875–1947). This arrangement (1978) by American composer and scholar Donald Arthur Busarow (1934–2011). Words, revised words and music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 1978 Augsburg Publishing House; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Congregational Participation with Trumpet Accompaniment: Amshayan Rajmohan.
Fun with the Young at Heart (children’s story)
We sing verse 1 of “Jesus loves me this I know”
“Jesus loves me, this I know” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 373). Words (1859 or 1860) by American writer Anna Bartlett Warner (1827–1915). Revisions to v2 and v3 by Canadian Anglican priest David Rutherford McGuire (1929–1971). Music (1862; tune: “Jesus loves me”) by American musician William Batchelder Bradbury (1816–1868). Words, revisions and music in the public domain.
John 18: 33–37 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
– Reading by Bonnie Horton
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
“A different kind of king”
Jesus came into a culture with a lot of rules, religious and personal and social. People knew their places. People knew the expectations. The earthly kingdom values were clear. They knew which violations could be remedied by a sacrifice or an offering and which would really get a person shut out of family or community. They had one understanding of King and Kingdom. A King had power. A Kingdom was absolutely controlled by the King. Although that worldview had been disturbed by more than one invading army, and although it was disturbed by the Romans at that very moment, the religious powers held onto the idea that the King, the One, the Saviour, the Messiah, would come from God, get rid of the Romans so they could continue playing the game of life by the rules they knew so well.
Only Jesus didn’t play by the rules. He broke a lot of them. He worked on the Sabbath, he claimed to be God, he didn’t insist that his disciples fast. Christ came as a different kind of king, a monarch who changed all the definitions. “You have heard it said love your neighbour and hate your enemy, but I say to you Love your enemies.” “You have heard it said an eye for an eye, but I say turn the other cheek.” “Peace I give you, not as the world gives.” Or hear how he talked to Pilate, “my kingdom is not from this world.” My power does not look like the world’s power. “If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the authorities.” “But as it is, my Kingdom is not from here.” You don’t understand anything I’m saying or doing.
Pilate struggled with it. The priests and the Pharisees could not grasp it. God was supposed to send a King who would overthrow the enemies, the Romans. This man could not be the one! He did not look the part. His supporters did not play the game the right way. He would not be able to save them from the rule of the Romans, and that was clearly what they needed a saviour to do. They could only excuse a certain amount of rule breaking.
This King did not fight with great armies to set the people free. Instead, he gave his life.
Now our culture is not like that long ago culture. Jesus was born into a human family in a very specific culture with religious and social expectations, with rules that were communicated clearly.
We’re different. We’re no longer accustomed to a world where things stay the same. News travels fast. Technology revolutionizes our lives. Waves of social change move us whether or not we are ready. Things we used to fear would leave us ostracized no longer seem so terrible to people. We no longer have a set of unyielding rules and shared expectations.
What we have instead is a divided community, a diverse culture broken almost down the middle on many issues. We can ask almost any question: where do you stand on marriage equality, on the death penalty, on climate change, on the sanctity of life, on Israel/Palestine and then guess what the other person’s opinions are for the rest of the questions on the list. We are uncompromising. We’ll argue over anything and never listen to the other person’s point of view. We are defensive. Those values seem to override everything else. They are the new rules.
On TV and on the radio and on twitter, on Facebook we play the game. We’re adrenaline junkies. When we move into argumentative territory, we do it with heart pounding.
I wonder about Jesus, standing there with Pilate. I wonder about Pilate, too. Did their hearts pound? Or were they still and calm, “So you are a king.” “You say that I am a king.” But then the crowd cries crucify him.
This King would soon be sentenced to crucifixion because the crowd asked for it. His own people felt threatened by the new rules he offered, a new way of being in relationship with God based not on laws but on grace and forgiveness. It wasn’t the solution people were looking for; maybe it still isn’t. It stretches us, demands of us that we move past the limits of our contemporary rules and expectations and ask ourselves whether we are listening to his truth.
God is not the one with the biggest armies or the largest advertising budget. God’s power doesn’t look like earthly power. Jesus overturned that expectation long ago. We’re the ones who have trouble accepting it. We continue to use him to try to win our arguments, to prove that we are right, to talk so fast and so loudly that there is no time to notice whether we, or anyone else, is actually listening to his voice.
Jesus did not raise his voice or his hand or a weapon to defeat his enemies. This King would sacrifice himself to show God’s love, his love, for us. “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Jesus the King, showing us strength in love, power in truth and ultimately, yes ultimately, new life out of death.
His voice has never been the loudest. John Lennon was right when he said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. The voice of Jesus the King has never been the loudest. The question is, will we listen?
“Christ is King!” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 272). Words (1991) by Canadian United church minister and prison chaplain Sylvia G. Dunstan (1955–1993). Music by German composer Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782). Words copyright © 1991 GIA Publications; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
May we present our gifts to God in response to what we have received from God?
Invitation (Musical Reflection)
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of being present at Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Dedication of our Gifts
Our offering will now be received.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 306). Based on the tune “Old 100th” with words (1989) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–). Words copyright © 1989 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God all creatures high and low;
praise God in Jesus fully known,
Creator Word and Spirit One.
Prayer of dedication
Lord with the action of this offering we give you our allegiance; we proclaim you Sovereign over our lives, over our families, over our finances, over our future. We give you thanks for all you have given us, and all we have the privilege to give. Use these gifts for the work of your church, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Prayers of the People
Mighty and powerful God, we give you thanks and praise. Your kingdom is not like the kingdoms of the world. You tip the world upside down and reveal your strength through weakness and your power through frailty. The story of salvation through the ages and in the cross teaches us that nothing, no seemingly dead end or hopeless situation is beyond your reign or can prevent your glory from shining forth. We praise you for working past the smallness of our imagining and the pettiness of our ways to reveal the magnitude of your plan. Great is your mercy and your faithfulness.
We praise you for the signs of your reign: hope overcoming despair, trust rising above hurt, love prevailing over hatred, and peace restoring harmony after discord.
God of hope beyond hope, we pray that you will comfort this broken world. May the vision of your peaceable kingdom take root, in your church, in families, and in countries that are marked by violence and struggle for human power. Especially this day we pray for peace and justice in Ukraine, in Israel, in Palestine. Into places of conflict, into the hearts of terrorists, into the hearts of soldiers, into the hearts of politicians, and into the hearts of those bereaved by war, may your kingdom come.
God of the vulnerable, we pray for those on our city streets as the weather turns colder, for those who have lost home, even country, because of war, violence, the power grabbing of the rulers of this world. Help us to reach out to those in need as agents of your power, your love. Into the hearts of those who are hungry, into the hearts of those who despair, into the hearts of those made homeless, may your kingdom come.
God of hope and healing, we pray for those who are wounded in body, mind or soul. Into the hearts of those who are ill, into the hearts of those who have been abused, into the hearts of those who are addicted, those who mourn, into the hearts of those unemployed, those in debt, those who are lonely, those who are fearful, those who are depressed, those we name before you in the silence … … May your kingdom come.
Into the heart of the world. May your kingdom come. AMEN.
“From heaven you came, helpless babe” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 379). Words and music (both 1983) by English singer-songwriter Graham Kendrick (1950–). Words and music copyright © 1983 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music, admin Integrity’s Hosanna! Music; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Changing the Light
Now, it is time to change the light. The light that was in one place can now be in every place and every time going with you wherever you go.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (the risen Christ), the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you always. AMEN.
“Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
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