Liturgy for November 24, 2013

On Mondays I share liturgical writing focused on the Luke passages for each Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s scripture is Luke 23: 33-43 the story of two crucified with Jesus. J. Todd Jenkins of Fayetteville, Tennessee offers a complete range of Reign of Christ or Christ the King resources.christ_the_king_statue

Invitation for a Christ the King Sunday Worship
(For a church newsletter on the week before, the church bulletin as an invitation to centering, or a spoken invitation at the beginning of worship.)

The church’s liturgical calendar ends this week, more than a month before the conclusion of the Gregorian Calendar that most societies in the West follow. Rather than imagining that this early ending and beginning simply give us more time to prepare for parties and year-end social events, let us take this “bonus” time we’ve been given, and prepare our hearts to receive God’s Christmas gift: the manger-born messiah who will grow far beyond our seasonal sentimentality, and challenge us to drop our political, social, economic, and cultural nets, following all the way to cross, empty tomb, Spirit’s out-breaking, and beyond.

This final Sunday of the church’s calendar is called “Christ the King”. The four-week season of Advent will begin next Sunday; a season of introspection and anticipation. There is a sense in which Christ the King Sunday parallels Transfiguration Sunday, inviting us to the mountaintop to experience Jesus’ spectacular glory as a strengthening for the Lenten journey into Passion. We are given an opportunity to celebrate the “kingship” of Jesus as a way of fortifying us for Advent’s extended anticipation; but this one who comes, enters the world in a manner that looks like anything but royalty.

Out of wedlock, out of town, beyond the reach of hospitality, and soon-to-be on-the-run to Egypt, Jesus and his family failed to climb any of success’ ladders. Today, our gospel passage from Luke reminds us of the kind of king Jesus became; reminds us that God’s measures of reign and royalty turn our own calculations on their heads. Let us seek to understand the mysterious ways of this divine kingdom, that we might celebrate, participate in, and welcome its current and future in-breaking.

“Christ the King” Call to Worship (Responsive)
[One] What would you say if I asked you to follow a king?
[Many] What kind of king?
[One] Not a king whose army rules with an iron fist, compelling allegiance by force.
[Many] What kind of king?
[One] Not a king who recruits buyers to keep an economy of consumption afloat.
[Many] What kind of king?
[One] Not a king whose robes and trappings are designed to set the tone for acceptable appearance by separating the lovely from the unlovable.
[Many] What kind of king?
[One] A king who lays down his life for the sake of his people.
[Many] That kind of king?
[One] A king who welcomes the unwelcomed, visits those in prison, prays especially with and for the unholy, and offers grace to all who listen.
[Many] Let us learn more about this king, so that we may decide whether or not we will follow.
[All] Lord have mercy!

“Christ the King” Prayer of Confession
Abba (Father), forgive us for all the ways and times we don’t know what we’re doing; for the times we think in ignorance, and the times we fail to think at all; for the times we speak in ignorance, and the times we remain ignorantly silent; for the times we act from ignorance, and the times we ignorantly stand by. Amma (Mother), forgive us also for the all the ways and times we do know what we’re doing; for the times we assume guilt by association; for the times we allow fear and selfishness to govern our hearts; for the times and ways we are focused on ushering in our own kingdom and not yours.

In the tenderness and compassion of your eternal mercy, O God, sweep our hearts and minds clean of all omissions and commissions that have driven wedges between us and creation, between us and others, and between us and your divine plans. Fill us with wisdom, humility, compassion, and courage, that we might think, speak, and act in ways that will reflect grace into all of the places where its absence has created pain, suffering, grief, and anxiety; through Jesus Christ our king and messiah. Amen.

“Fiery” Prayer for Illumination
The acolytes have reminded us, with their fire,
of the many ways you bring warmth
and light to our lives, O Lord.
This day, as we gather around
the Bible-topped pulpit,
we pray for the gift of your fire.

Bring light to our path, O God,
through song, sermon, and silence;
that we might go forth into your world
with renewed passion for you.

Bring fire to our gathering, O Lord,
through the power of your Spirit;
that we might be comforted in our afflictions,
and afflicted in our comforts;
through Jesus Christ, light of the world.  Amen.

“Christ the King” Prayers of the People
Loving God, we come to you with open hearts because we have experienced you to be a God who cares for us; a God who pitched-tent among us, feeding our hunger, healing our wounds, resurrecting our hopes.  As another annual cycle of life and worship concludes, we are reminded of your extraordinary love for us.

It seems like yesterday that we welcomed the Bethlehem Babe with open arms, glowing in the glory of the star and the angel chorus.  Another year has passed since we began that journey, and much has happened since then.  The baby grew up, and he has called us to follow.  It is difficult for us, O God, because we had such different ideas about what he would be like.

When you said you were sending a king, we looked for a scepter, royal robes, and a crown set with precious stones.  Instead we found a carpenter dressed in blue collar working clothes whose crown became thorns.

When you said he would save us, we looked for a daring rescue from above that would keep us from pain and harm.  Instead we found someone who stood beside us in our pain; someone who led us by serving, and who was willing to die that we might comprehend what it means to truly live.

When you promised the coming of your kingdom, we listened for royal trumpets and looked for procession and pageantry.  Instead we found one who was arrested, beaten, mocked and led to the place of the skull with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Help us, O God, to look for you, not in the cause of or blame for our suffering, but rather in the midst of it.  Help us remember that you became one of us, and allowed yourself to endure the vilest of sufferings, so that you would know the depth of human suffering, and so that we would know the magnitude of divine love.

O God, we lift up the names of those we know who are suffering and in pain: ……………..

Hear our prayers, O Lord, as we each lift up, in silence, the names, families, and circumstances of those we know ……………………………………………………………..

Help them to know your presence in the midst of their suffering.  Uphold them. Strengthen them for the journey of life, wherever and however it leads. Keep them in the palm of your strong but tender hand.  Help them to feel your comfort and your peace that passes understanding, and give them the courage to embrace what comes in the confidence of your resurrection promise.

We pray for your church universal and all who worship and serve you in their daily lives, O God.  Give us courage and strength to go where you would lead us, to speak with boldness the message of grace, and to act with unfailing compassion, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught his disciples to pray, as we pray together, praying…. Our Father….

Offertory Prayer
Creator God, we pray
that you would open us today.
In the same way that you have opened us
to receive the power and promise of your gifts,
we pray that you would open us
to offer our gifts in your service.

Give the muscles in our spirits and our hands
the capacity to relax and stretch,
that we might offer you
the best of who we are
and what we have received,
for the work to which you call us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Remember Me   (Charge/Benediction)

Criminals to the left and right,
Jesus was crucified front-and-center,
as if he somehow might escape
if not completely surrounded.

Mercy was his plea, as the economics
of death played out; soldiers gambling
for the clothes he would never need again:
“Father, forgive them;
they don’t know what they are doing.”

From one side or the other,
hoping against the crowd’s disbelief,
one thief’s anger unfurls,
raising the flag of criminal camaraderie,
begging for and yet demanding
deliverance by association, sans contrition.

From the other side, with no leg
but honesty to stand on,
another thief’s plea for mercy pours:
“Jesus, remember me when you
come into your kingdom.”

“Remember me…” he begs,
as if he knows how powerful a weapon
memory can be against the army of coercion;
as if he already understands how foundational
it is for faith: “This do in remembrance of me.”

Silence to the first thief, as if he might still
have an opportunity to respond differently;
hope and promise to the second:
“Truly I tell you, today you will
be with me in Paradise.”
Our king; our promise. Thanks be to God!

All of these resources were given freely and they may be used in worship contexts. They may be adapted to fit your context. Please cite the original author when you reprint them or share them orally. For any other use please contact me so that I can put you directly in touch with that particular author.

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