November 24, 2024
2 Samuel 23.1-7 — David’s last words: a just ruler is like the dawn.. God’s covenant… the godless are like thorns.
Psalm 132 — God will place one of David’s descendants on the throne.
Revelation 1.4b-8 —Christ our ruler has freed us and made us into a new commonwealth.
John 18.33-37 —“My kingdom is not from this world.”
“My kingdom is not from this world.” What does it mean for us to claim Jesus as “king,” or to proclaim “Jesus Christ is lord?” (I have mixed feelings about the word “lord.” It adequately expresses honor, power and authority, but it also reeks of sexism, being exclusively masculine, as in “lords and ladies.” So I go with “Chief.”) You can understand Pilate’s confusion: is Jesus really a king or not? Jesus points out how inapt the title of “king” is for him: he has no jurisdiction over an area of land, and has no political or military power. His is a different kind of realm. For one thing, he has’t conquered a certain existing place and its people; he created the nation: he “freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom” (Rev. 1.5-6). Jesus’ realm is not a political one but a spiritual one. Jesus is our “higher power.”
Historically a person usually became king by conquering a territory. Jesus has not conquered any territory, but he has conquered the interlocking powers that enslave us: the grip of sin, the headlock of our ego, and our deep distrust of God; our fears, desires and attachments; the pull of social pressures, political allegiances and economic pressures and the domination of the world’s way of thinking. In pouring himself out in love, even to death, and forgiving us even as we murdered him, Jesus has conveyed to us the perfect, bottomless love of God, rescued us from the hand of all those oppressive powers, and delivered us into a new world ruled by grace. The superior power of Jesus’ love has done this.
And Jesus doesn’t just have personal power. An earthly king has power over us that we don’t have. A political king rules over people but not in them. But Jesus’ power is in us: it’s a power he gives us. Jesus is not just an authority in the sense of a rule-maker. Jesus as “Lord” or “sovereign” is the template for our lives. We don’t just venerate Jesus, we emulate him. And he gives us the power to do that. As subservient to Christ’s love we love. Our lives are cruciform as his was: we pour out ourselves in love for others, no matter the cost. To claim Jesus as ruler of our lives is to make him the center of our rule of life, our intentional discipline, our way of living. It means we are wiling to suffer for the sake of love, to be faithful to God and in harmony with God and God’s grace, no matter what.
Living that way in our culture is like living in a parallel universe. It’s a realm that’s “not from this world.” We don’t obey the command of any ruler or the demands of any legal code: we are faithful to Christ and Christ alone. Most of the time we also obey the laws of the nation where we live—but not necessarily. When they are in conflict “we obey God and not any human authority” (Act 5.29). Christ, and the love that Christ embodies, is our highest loyalty. We pledge allegiance to Christ, and no flag or nation. Yes, that sounds radical and even subversive. So it is. That’s why Jesus got crucified, and Christians got persecuted, and Civil Rights marchers got jailed. To claim Christ as Lord is serious business. It means death and resurrection.
And because Jesus is the ruler of our resurrection we trust Jesus as the ruler of our crucifixion.
“Jesus Christ, ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1.5). Doesn’t seem like it, does it? It’s easy to say Jesus is my Lord, but is Jesus sovereign over all human history? In the symbolic imagery of the Bible does Jesus really sit at the right hand of God ruling over the universe? Because, seriously, it does not look remotely like that, does it? How can Jesus be sovereign over a world that’s as messed up as we are? We’re led astray by our notion of what it means to “rule.” Remember just a couple weeks ago in our readings Jesus says of the secular world, “their rulers it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant” (Mk. 10.42-43). Christ’s superiority is not in making people do what he wants them to do, but in serving people with love. He leaves us free to use, ignore or abuse that gift. And yet love remains the basic, fundamental force, and strongest power in the universe. It’s like gravity. You can’t escape it. It doesn’t “make stuff happen” by manipulate anything, but it influences everything, and makes some things possible and other things impossible. Love, embodied by Christ, the Chief of Love, rules everything. When we tap into that love it’s like connecting with an electrical current, or entering into an energy field: we have power greater than our own, and greater than any one person’s power, even an earthly ruler. Christ, crucified, seemingly powerless, is the power of heaven at work. Think of it. Love came up against worldly power: Jesus vs. Caesar. How did that turn out? Jesus changed the world and Caesar… got a salad named after him.
In the cross and resurrection we see the mystery that love is the greatest force in the universe, more powerful than rulers and armies and even death. And Jesus is the Chief, which is to say, the Head Servant, of Love. So it is him, and that love, we follow. The Reign of Love, the Empire of Grace, may not be apparent in the news. But it will be radiant in the hearts and lives of the followers of Jesus.
Call to Worship
Leader: Grace to you and peace
from the one who is and who was and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits who are before the throne,
and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead, and sovereign of the rulers of the earth.
All: To Christ, who loves us
and whose blood was shed in freeing us from our sins,
and who has made us to be a nation of priests
serving our God and Life-Giver,
to Christ be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! Christ is coming with the clouds,
for every eye to see,
even those who pierced Jesus—
on whose account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says God the Holy One,
who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Alleluia! With humble gratitude, we worship!
Leader: Glorious God, mighty and eternal,
you have conquered all the powers of this world.
All: But you have done it not with force or domination;
you have done it in the love of the crucified and risen Christ.
God of perfect love and boundless grace, you are our sovereign.
Christ, you are the Chief and ruler of our lives.
We thank you; we honor you; we seek to emulate you.
We worship in humble gratitude, with open hearts.
By your Spirit, may Love rule in our lives.
Leader: Infinite God, Heavenly Lover, we are your loyal subjects.
All: Gentle Christ, whose throne is the cross,
we are your loyal subjects.
Spirit of Grace, your are the great power in our living.
Renouncing all other allegiances, we bow to you.
We give you the gifts of our lives.
We worship you. Bless us that we may faithfully serve you,
by the grace of Christ, in the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Collect / Prayer of the Day
Eternal God, Creator and Sovereign of the Universe, you have established Christ as the ruler of all Creation. The world of human power and empire is an illusion. The real world is your Empire of Grace, ruled over by Christ, the living embodiment of your love. We come to align ourselves once again to your reign of grace. Speak your Word to us as citizens of heaven, that we may be loyal to you alone. We pledge allegiance to you and to no other, in the name of Christ. Amen.
Eternal God, though we are beset by many powers, forces and authorities, we have only one God, who is you. We have only one Superior, who is Christ. Our highest allegiance is to you, and our greatest loyalty. Christ, you who are the Way and the Truth and the Life, speak to us now. May we hear with joy what you are saying, and may your Word have authority for us. We are the citizens of your realm; speak to us, beloved Sovereign, for we are listening. Amen.
God of love, you have established Jesus Christ as sovereign of the world. Help us to renounce all other loyalties. O Gentle Christ, bless us that your love may rule over our lives. Fill us with the power of your grace and the authority of your mercy. Give us the humility to receive your gifts and the strength to serve you faithfully. Rule over us, that our lives may be in harmony with yours, by the gift of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Holy God, you love us into being. You are the Breath of our life. You are the heartbeat of our body and soul. Your Christ, poured out in love, crucified in powerlessness and raised in glory, is our one Protector and Provider. We bow to you. We submit our hearts ad our minds and our lives to you. Be the ruler, the power, the measure of our lives. Christ, our Chief, our sovereign, and our model, reign in our hearts. Make us vassals of your mercy, vessels of your grace, emissaries of your perfect love, by the gift of your Holy Spirit, for the sake of the wholeness of the world, and your abiding glory. Amen.
(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
God of love,
over the many voices in my head
impose your calm and quiet.
Conquer the warring energies in my heart
with your pure love.
God, may you be the one voice
I listen to and obey.
Prayer of Confession
Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Gentle God, we confess that we have not allowed you to rule our lives.
We have strained against your grace,
and sought our own ways,
and obeyed impulses not of your Spirit.
Forgive us, and return us,
so that your grace may rule in our lives.
Sovereign God, your will be done. Amen.
SILENT PRAYER… THE WORD OF GRACE
Leader: Christ is the visible appearance of the invisible God,
the beloved older sibling of all creation.
All: All things in heaven and on earth were created in Christ,
everything visible and invisible,
rulers and powers and systems and empires—
everything was created through Christ and for Christ.
Christ came before anything,
and in Christ everything holds together.
Christ is the head and the church is the body.
Christ is the Source of life, and has turned even death into a birth:
so Christ is first in every way.
In Christ God lives completely.
Through Christ God reconciles us to God—
all of us, and everything on earth and in heaven:
in dying on the cross, Christ brought God and humanity together.
This is the mystery, hidden for ages but now revealed:
that Christ is alive in us. Alleluia!
Leader: Beloved, be of the mind of Christ
All: who was divine
and yet who did not cling to equality with God,
but became utterly empty,
born a human,
choosing the place of a slave.
In complete humility
Christ was obedient to death,
even death on a cross.Therefore God exalted Christ with a name above every name
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend
in heaven, on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Sovereign,
to the glory of God the Giver of Life.
Creed / Affirmation
We trust in God, creator of all that is and that shall be, the One in whom all things exist, the Love who orders all of life.
We follow Jesus Christ, who fully embodies God’s love and grace. Jesus taught and healed, suffered and shared, and gathered a community of blessing, inclusion and transformation. He proclaimed a Realm of grace counter to the ways of the world. He was crucified by the powers of violence and Empire; but by the power of your grace you raised Christ from the dead, and Christ lives and reigns among us as our savior, our servant and our superior.
We live in the Holy Spirit, God’s presence within and among us, whose grace and power orders our lives. By that Spirit we devote ourselves to serve Christ as faithful subjects and companions, willingly foregoing power, security and esteem for the sake of enfleshing God’s love for the world, to the glory of God. Amen.
We give our hearts to You, God, eternal creator and ruler of all that is and all that is to come, whose power and grace is unsearchable yet evident in the world around us, hidden in the ordinary, present in all things.
We follow you, Christ, our Superior and Sovereign, who appeared in Jesus among the poor, teaching, healing and doing miracles, gathering a community, and proclaiming your Realm of Grace. In your death and resurrection you have overthrown the powers of this world and established your Realm among us. The Risen Christ lives and reigns; Christ prevails even amidst all evil, suffering and injustice; Christ directs our lives and confirms our hopes. Hidden in your humble appearance, vulnerability and powerlessness, you are our Sovereign, and the ruler of all Creation.
We live by your Holy Spirit within and among us, the power of your reign in our hearts that guides and strengthens us to do respond to your desire, to live in love, and to work as the Body of Christ for your realm of mercy and justice. We renounce worldly powers and values, and pledge allegiance to your love and grace, which redeems the world and grants the gift of eternal life. Amen.
[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.
Blessed God, Creator of all that is and that is to come,
ruler of the universe and sovereign of our hearts, we praise you.
You claim us as your people and make Covenant to be our God.
You deliver us from the tyranny of the powers that enslave us.
You rescue us from the domination of the empires of this world
and set us free to live in the Empire of your grace.
You have given us Jesus Christ, who rules our hearts in love,
who commands this meal for our blessing and our delight.
Therefore with all Creation we bow in gratitude and sing your praise.
[Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
Hosanna in the highest.
[or alternate version]
Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
ruler of our hearts.
He conquered the powers of selfishness and fear,
not with force but with love and mercy.
He resisted the powers of oppression and injustice,
not with might but in humility and powerlessness.
He was crucified by powers that claimed authority
but you raised him with the power of your grace.
The power with which he reigns, the power of love,
is not his alone; he gives it to us.
In this meal we receive his power,
that we too may endure with him in humility and love.
(The Blessing and Covenant) *
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
[Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
Christ will come again in glory.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
ruled by his love, conformed to his grace,
and confident in the everlasting power of his blessing.
To Christ alone we give our thanks and our loyalty.
Blessed by these gifts may we serve faithfully,
for the sake of the world,
in the name of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
[Spoken or sung]
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]
On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion
[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
The power that raised Christ from the dead, the power by which Christ rules the world, is your love, love which you give us freely and deeply. May we serve Christ as our Chief and our model, in the power of your Spirit. Amen.
(Click on titles to view songs on the Music page.)
Christ, Ruler of All Things [Tune: ST. ELIZABETH (Fairest Lord Jesus)]
Christ, ruler of all things, what is seen and unseen,
your love reigns; your grace is sure.
Beneath our fear and strife, death fails to conquer life:
your tender mercy still endures.
Christ, ruler of our hearts, come and reign within us.
Make us comrades, siblings, friends.
Your love be our life, our only power,
that gives us life that never ends.
Christ, ruler of the earth, bring your gentle justice:
your Realm come, your will be done.
Heal all oppression; fill us with mercy,
as faithful as the rising sun.
Christ, ruler of all things, of what is and is to come,
Risen One, our song we raise.
Rule in our living; guide us with tender love.
Your grace in us will be your praise.
Love Is Enthroned (Tune: Finlandia)
O, risen Christ, who once appeared among us,
you have ascended! Loud we sing your praise.
Though we may see no shadow of your nearness,
you have not gone; your loving presence stays.
You are no longer in one time or place,
but in all things, to radiate your grace.
Christ has ascended, reigning now above.
Love is enthroned at the Creator’s side.
All powers on earth are subject to Christ’s love,
who is our history’s unseen, gentle guide.
Though evil try to make this world its home,
Love is its Lord, and love shall overcome.
Go in the peace of Christ who is our Lord,
and gently heal, amid the fear and strife.
For we who eat and drink the living Word
are now Christ’s Body, and Christ’s earthly life.
We may not see the journey or the end,
but Christ still reigns, our ruler and our friend.
O Jesus, Wounded Sovereign [Tune: O Sacred Head Now Wounded]
Dear Jesus, you who suffer and walk among the poor
whose hearts and lives are broken, whose faith is still unsure:
despised, accused and battered, you do not say a word.
So powerless, yet loving!— you are my Sovereign Lord.
You bear no arms but loving, no threats nor flags unfurled.
You wear no kingly robes, but the sorrows of the world.
Yet your forgiveness conquers each worldly rule and reign,
and rises, whole, undaunted, from evil, death and pain.
While emperors abuse you, and people shrug or stare,
and dark injustice troubles the ones for whom you care,
your mighty grace arises, and hidden from our sight,
enfolds all living beings in your triumphant light.
Though Caesar cannot see you, and empires stumble, blind,
your Reign of love, triumphant, rules all of humankind.
The power of Creation, that showers us with grace,
is hidden in your weak hands, and in your trembling face.
O Jesus, wounded Sovereign, I pray, give me the nerve
without this world’s armor to love and bless and serve.
My master and companion, rule all eternity
with grace and deep compassion, and, Lord, begin with me.
O Sovereign Love (Tune: Amazing Grace)
Beloved, you who guard and guide and give for every need,
reign in my heart, O Sovereign Christ; direct each thought and deed.
O Sovereign Love, my root, my sun, my purpose and my peace,
I spurn the world’s vain, anxious rule, and trust your Law of Grace.
The Empire of your justice, God, with mercy’s clear command
shall be my home; my loyalty is to no lesser land.
In humble and obedient thanks I pledge my life to you,
to join your work of justice, God, to make the world anew.
Reign in my heart, O Christ, my Rule. In faith I am compelled
to serve you, who by love alone have conquered all the world.