Reign of Christ A

Christ in Judgment

(see also Reign of Christ B in ‘Year B’ on this site for other resources. Also, Textweek has an incredible range of resources)

In 2017, the so called Black Friday sales immediately precedes the last Sunday in the church year we name as Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday. Here’s a  reflection, juxtaposing the two:

Tall ships sail the November sky.
Brown leaves run from the wind,
hide behind stone walls.
A half moon backs up into the sky
to see if it can make it all the way across.
I notice.

Curtis is in prison.
I’m thinking of lots of people in prison,
some for being black or gay or angry or truthful.
A mother clings to her child in a UN tent,
a girl is hauled out of the dark room again.
All those: in treatment, getting a transplant,
Parkinson’s, depression, divorce just finalized.
I see you.

Spirit stirring in me, my new self,
my regrettable outburst, my forgiveness,
the grace given, the opening, the bud,
my horizon still moving on,
those who come with me.
I know.

I hear there’s something
at the mall
but I see nothing there,

It’s all elsewhere.
It’s all here.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Reign of Christ Sunday (or ‘Christ the King’) was first instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius IX, and over time, has become an ecumenical observance. The one enthroned is also the one who takes the role of the servant and washes feet, and wears a crown of thorns. His concern for the outcast and wounded is in keeping with the actions of the shepherd in Ezekiel. (from ‘Gathering’, United Church of Canada)

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 100
Ephesians 1:15-23

Matthew 25:31-46

First Thoughts on the Old Testament Readings: Howard Wallace

I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Ezekiel 34.20
God notices our injustice,
and despises it.
God sees our systems that favor some
and exclude others;
it is God whom we exclude.
The Realm over which Christ reigns
is no heaven in the clouds,
but this trodden earth,
this very place where we foul the water
of our companion sheep,
this world which Christ will dismantle
and rebuild, re-make like the potter and her clay.
To be loyal subject of this Sovereign
it will not be enough to doff our hats
and hurt each other. Piety will not suffice.
The divine passion for the others
will rule our hearts and actions,
lead us from prayer to justice,
enlist us in the royal work of the new Realm.
The fat sheep like it as it is.
The lean sheep are remaking the world.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

First Thoughts on the New Testament Readings: Bill Loader

Church of Scotland, Starters for Sunday for Reign of Christ

Grace to you, and peace from the One who is and who was and who is to come. May this be a time and place of peace, that everyone who enters, enters in peace; and everyone who leaves, leaves in peace. 
Today is both the end and climax of the Christian year, which began in Advent last December. Today we celebrate the reign of Christ, Christ the King, and the paradox of the one named king who lays down the power to destroy, a leader who treads through the costly journey and into the shadow places of night, that we might find the rising of life before us. Christ the King, born to witness to God’s truth, whose might lies in mercy. 
When we speak of Christ as king, we speak of one who: is the first child of a village woman, born in a stable; is a story teller among the common people: welcomes children that gather around him, lays his hands on unclean lepers, makes disciples out of fishermen tax collectors, dines with traitors and other dregs of society, washes the feet of his followers, tramps around the country on foot, allows a prostitute to publicly wipe his feet with her hair. His only crown – a wreath of thorns. His only throne – two crossed planks of wood. (adapted, Bruce Prewer) In him, there is no shadow or darkness, but a light wherein the humble and poor may walk secure forever and ever! Praise his name!

Call to worship (based on Psalm 100)
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God. It is God who made us, and we belong to God;
We are God’s people, and the sheep of God’s pasture.
Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and God’s courts with praise.
Give thanks to God! Bless God’s name.
For the LORD is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever, and God’s faithfulness to all generations.

Come, join to praise with morning light: our loving King!
Let grateful voices sound with might: our loving King!
Let children’s voices tell their praise,
While aged lips extol your ways,
Let every tongue in joy unite: our loving King
To you we bring our praise!
Let songs like this ring through our land: our loving King!
From coastal farms and inland sand: our loving King!
Let all our nation thankful raise
Its voice in glad tumultuous praise: our loving King
To you we bring our praise!
Let earth’s great millions thunderous shout: our loving King!
Let this song spin the clouds about: our loving King!
We’ll always shout and sing your praise
While years flit by like passing days,
Until time runs its last hour out: our loving King
To you we bring our praise!
(by Bruce D. Prewer, ‘Australian Psalms’)

We bring our hopes and our fears. Our hopes and fears for ourselves, our families and our neighbourhood. Our hopes and fears for our work and leisure, for this congregation, for our country and for our world. We come as we are, to seek your forgiveness and your favour, your guidance and your gracious touch upon our lives, your wisdom and your word of inspiration and direction for the week ahead. Amen.

A REFLECTION by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Whatever you did to the least of these you did to me. (Matthew 25.40)

This is not a simile.
The poor are not an allegory.
God is the poor.

God is not observing them, but in them,
the lonely and the rejected.
God takes the lowest place.

God is the powerless one,
the misunderstood one,
the crucified one.

Under the bridge,
in the nursing home,
in solitary,

this is the throne of the Sovereign,
the Ruler of the universe:
the cross.

Until you see the glory of the divine
in the street gang, the wheelchair,
the power of the heavens in the lifer,

you do not believe.
Don’t go elsewhere to worship in ease.
Bow down, and serve, and know.

Prayer to the King of Glory
O Jesus,
You are the King of Glory,
You are the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.
And we pray that your Kingdom will reign forever
in our hearts and in this world.
Lord, we pray for your Kingdom to come here now,
bringing a kingdom of justice, righteousness, hope, love,
peace, mercy and grace for all.
Lord, we ask that you rule in our hearts,
lead in this world and govern over your kingdom.
But Lord honestly,
We often have our own plans and agendas
And we want to be rulers of our world.
Forgive us for those times.
And Lord we live in a time that would rather idolize the King of Pop
than worship you.
Help us to know how to live as your Kingdom People in these times.
And Lord , there are a lot of Kings in this world who terrorize, over tax, humiliate,
over exploit, and abuse those they are to lead.
Help us to spread the good news of the different kind of King you are.
Lord, thank you for being a different kind of King.
Thank you for your goodness and kindness in our lives.
Thank you for your generosity.
Thank you for loving us.
Thank you for your Kingdom that is unlike any
Kingdom in this world
(Rev Abi, RevGalBlogPals blog)

The prayers of who we are (adapted, Moira Laidlaw)
We thank you, O God, that you give to us a different royalty, one which is bereft of privilege and wealth, one whose power lies in truth, in faithfulness and in grace for all people. As we think today about Christ as King, we confess that we hesitate, as it suggests turning our understanding of power and authority upside down and setting aside ideas of self-importance and grandeur. We know those times when we enjoy prestige and acknowledgement, and know within ourselves those times we may even enjoy lording it over another person. It happens in meetings, at work, in our families and even here in this community. 
Forgive us, O God, and help us to hear anew Jesus’ words that whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.
Song: The Kingdom of God – Taize (sung twice)
We confess our failure to grasp that your reign, O God, is found whenever domination is overcome, whenever justice is experienced, and whenever people are released from prejudice and exploitation.
Forgive us, O God, for any involvement in the pursuit of power that exploits or demeans others.
Song: The Kingdom of God – Taize (sung twice)
We confess our lack of commitment in seeking to transform systems that leave people powerless. Too often we prefer to leave the difficult tasks to others so that we can get on with our own safe agendas. 
Forgive us, O God, when we forget that following your way is the way of shalom.
Song: The Kingdom of God – Taize (sung twice)

O God – the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you:
Help us so to know you, that we may truly love you;
So to love you, that we may fully serve you,
Whose service is perfect freedom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
(Rev. Jock Stein, Church of Scotland, ‘Starters For Sunday’, 2008.)


Generous God, you invite us to share in generous hospitality. Help us not only to accept it with thanksgiving, but to freely share it with those whose lives are restricted or crushed by the meanness of this world. Amen.

Prayer is an act of hope: hope for inspiration, hope for communion with one another, hope for consolation and renewal. We enter a time of prayer to collect our hopes for ourselves, for others, for our world.
Prayers are offered, each followed by ‘this is my prayer’, and all say, ‘this is our prayer
Add your prayers to ours, Holy Spirit, stretch our wisdom and expand out hope. Wait with us as we seek to understand our part in the well-being of those who wait for love. Watch over them as they hope for a world that cares enough to act with a new justice and compassion. Give to us here an energy and passion for good change and a faithfulness so that we never give up, even when we cannot see the way ahead. 
Grant to us a spirit of adventure, Loving God, 
as we walk together towards our dreams of a better world.
We pray these prayers in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray: THE LORD’S PRAYER


PRAYERS FOR OTHERS (by Rev. Jock Stein, Church of Scotland, ‘Starters For Sunday’, 2008)
Lord, in our prayers today we remember those called to shepherd leadership in church and nation: the General Secretary and President of the Assembly and the General Secretary and Moderator of the Synod, the Elders and Church Council of this congregation. We pray for the Prime Minister, and Premier, and the City Council, and those who share authority with them. Grant them wisdom, courage, and a hunger for what is right.
We pray for those who serve in our armed forces, and all who seek to keep the peace, and to lead others into safer and better ways. Remove the wicked from power, and raise up good men and women to lead the nations of the world. Sustain all who are persecuted because they keep doing right, and encourage all who seek to preach and live out the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Help those, O God, who struggle with disease and debt, with alienation and addiction, and with worries about family and future. Help us to be people who feed and clothe the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, and listen to the cry of the poor. Use our money, use our time, use our skills in your service, we pray, that all the nations may have better reason to gather in your praise.
Our loving God, we thank you for the message and mystery of life eternal. There is life to come, though not as we know it. We thank you for Jesus, the one who wonderfully bridged the life of heaven and the life of earth. And we remember with affection those who have gone before us into that fullness of life which we taste already by the Spirit.
We now commend one another to our shepherd King, Jesus Christ, for the everyday life of this week to come. AMEN.

A prayer – God of mercy
God of mercy,
give me eyes to see your face.
God of mercy,
give me ears to hear your cry.
God of mercy,
give me hands to reach out to you.
God of mercy,
give me a heart to know your presence.
God of mercy,
give me mercy.
that I may draw near to you. Steve Garnaas-Holmes

(this could be used to conclude prayers for others)
God of Jesus, God of all the world,
help us also remember that wherever we find the courage of kindness,
the kindling of hope, the face of forgiveness,
the fingers of mercy, the presence of love, we also find you. Amen

When I was hungry, you gave me to eat,
When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink.
When I was homeless, you opened your doors,
When I was naked, you gave me your coat.
When I was weary, you helped me find rest,
When I was anxious, you calmed all my fears.
When I was little, you taught me to read,
When I was lonely, you gave me your love.
When in a prison, you came to my cell,
When on a sick bed, you cared for my needs.
In a strange country, you made me at home,
Seeking employment, you found me a job.
Hurt in a battle, you bound up my wounds,
Searching for kindness, you held out your hand.
When I was Black, or Chinese, or White,
Mocked and insulted, you carried my cross.
When I was aged, you bothered to smile,
When I was restless, you listened and cared.
You saw me covered with spittle and blood,
You knew my features, though grimy with sweat.
When I was laughed at, you stood by my side,
When I was happy, you shared in my joy.
“I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important
of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.”
(by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, based on Matt. 25:35-46.)

This could be adapted to the invitation for the communion:
Christ, when were you hungry and I gave you something to eat?
I, so famished for love and acceptance myself?
When you listened to someone who had no one to hear her.
When you saw me alive in that beggar today,
and spared him a few coins one more time.
When you let your family’s needs come first.
Come, my beloved sit down at my banquet.
Not I, Oh Christ.
Not I, the most unworthy of all.
Then be the unworthy one at my banquet.
Let me tender to you the highest place,
because I love you and you belong to me.
(from Center for Liturgy, St. Louis University, )

A reflection
In Australia at this point in our history, we see many of those who would be leaders within the political sphere claim the tenants of the Christian faith as the basis for their personal stance on certain issues and push that as necessary for the national identity and social policy. Many of these people also profess to be active in their own Christian faith.
However, there are many of us who wonder if they have perhaps missed this bit of the bible that was read to us from Matthew 25, if it has somehow just disappeared from their reflective diets. We hear the words they so vehemently espouse as truth and right and see nothing more than a race toward the bottom of the barrel in terms of attitudes and policies in relation to people seeking refuge and asylum in this country.
But it is a fact that most of the denominations to which these leaders belong have made strong public statements quite contrary to the policies that have been proposed and enacted and enforced. Indeed, all the major mainline faith traditions have strongly urged compassion, welcome, and care, and have been continually talking about welcoming strangers, caring for the weak, and so on.
We actually find this parable at the end of the teachings in the gospel of Matthew. It is an urgent, apocalyptic commentary on the end of the present age. The last week of Jesus’ ministry on earth has begun and it is nearly time for the Passover meal. The image here is of the Son of Man coming in glory, seated on a throne, and it conjures up the imagery of a powerful ruler. That was the context of the original hearers of this story – Matthew’s community lived in a time that felt like the final tribulation had already begun.
This passage follows a few other parables and brings to a conclusion a cycle of teaching about the realm of God and about the nature of the community of the faith. Perhaps the earliest hearers were again here being alerted to something extraordinary, indeed odd, about the expectations of those who seriously seek to live in the way of Jesus. These passages really do tip the usual ideas of success, of family, of leadership, and of personal value on their heads.
We recall all that has gone before this story that Matthew is telling – we remember that the God whom Jesus is talking about seeks and saves the lost, defends the widow and the fatherless, welcomes strangers, puts right the wrongdoings of others, cares like a “mother hen,” lifts people up on “eagles’ wings,” holds tenderly in the “palm of the hand,” and is a shepherd who loves the sheep and knows each one by name.
In this context, Jesus’ parables of the reign of God at the beginning of his ministry are brought to completion in the parable of a great judgment where Jesus identifies five characteristics of God’s saving action: it is all-embracing; inexplicable; real and tangible; it encounters hostility as well as welcome; and it calls for a response.
There is a deep irony in much of the political stance that confronts us today in the present refugee and asylum seeker situation. Perhaps, those leaders whose decisions have led to the oppression and inhumanity dealt to so many people caught up in the offshore processing debacle, perhaps they have simply misread these words of Jesus. Perhaps. But I think that they are probably just hypocritically trying very hard to keep the church out of politics when it doesn’t suit their purpose, separating the secular and religious spheres.
This week we are challenged to reflect on how we understand the judgment of God, how we embrace the most vulnerable, and how we react to the vulnerable and those in need, and the intent of our actions. How might Christ’s reign of justice, peace, and love be made more visible through us, each of us individually and as a church?
I just want to conclude with a slight rewrite of a few verses from Matthew 25;
Then the King on his throne will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
for I was hungry and you blamed the government.
I was thirsty and you told me to wait.
I was a stranger and you said go back to where you belong.
I was naked and you set up a commission to study the problem.
I was sick and you said I shouldn’t be.
I was in prison and you said it was my own fault.
Or perhaps even this …
I was hungry and you fed your animals with my food.
I was thirsty and you metered my water.
I was a stranger and you set up refugee camps.
I was naked and you felt sorry for me.
I was sick and you made me pay back my debt first.
I was in prison and you forgot about me.
(Source: Peter Harvey, Welcoming the Stranger)

COMMUNION – The invitation
All are welcome to share in this time of remembrance. We bring bread, made by many people’s work in a world where some have plenty and most go hungry. At this table, all are fed and no one turned away. 
Thanks be to God!
We bring the juice of the vine, made by many people’s work in a world where some have leisure and most struggle to survive. At this table, all share the cup of pain and celebration. And no one is denied. 
Thanks be to God
These gifts shall be for us the life of Christ, a witness against hunger, our cry against injustice, and our hope for a world where God is fully known and every child is fed and safe. Thanks be to God! (adapted, Brian Wren)

God be with you! And also with you!
Lift up your hearts. We lift them to God.
Holy God, we praise you! Let the heavens be joyful, and the earth be glad!
We offer you our thanks and praise, O God,
for your love is forever, faithful from age to age.
You are our maker, to who we belong, for you created the earth
and you shepherd all who live in it.
When your people were scattered and oppressed,
you promised through your prophets to gather them home
and feed them on the rich pasture of their own land.
In your child, Jesus, the promises have been fulfilled:
a shepherd king who seeks the lost and binds up the wounded.
When he was killed, you raised him from the dead
and seated him at your side in the heavenly places.
Now your immeasurable power is at work in us who believe
to clothe us in compassion and righteousness
so that we might be fit for the kingdom
which you prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
Therefore with …..
(Copyright 2002, Nathan Nettleton

THE LORD’S PRAYER (An Adaptation in Verse, by Rev John Maynard, 2014)
Our heavenly Father, may your name be kept
in reverence, honour and awe.
Let your reign come, your will be done,
on earth, as in heaven, for all.

Feed us today with the food we need;
nourish, refresh us, we pray.
Forgive our wrong-doings as we forgive those
who have wronged us along the way.

And as we go through hard-testing times
deliver us from Evil’s way.
For all power, dominion and glory are yours
today and forever always. Amen.


Hospitable God, you invite us to the table where the last may be first, and the humble and the mighty trade places. We give thanks that we can share your abundance with no fear of scarcity, and welcome others around this table. Send your Spirit now upon us, and upon these elements of bread and wine, that they may be the life of Christ for us. Amen.
Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us, O God, and upon these gifts of bread and wine, that they may be for us the life of Christ and that we may make that life visible through the way we love and serve you and one another. (Moira Laidlaw)
Make us one with him, one with each other, and one in ministry in the world, until at last we feast with him in the kingdom (with all the saints). Through your Son, Jesus Christ, in your holy Church, all honour and glory is yours, Father almighty.
Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
All glory and honour are yours,
Almighty God, now and forever. Amen.

WORDS OF MISSION AND BLESSING Candles are extinguished

We have gathered, and we are sent. It is time to take our leave. Time to re-engage with the world beyond this place of gathering. Time to put faith into deeds. Time to practice uncalculating love. Time to meet the Christ who waits for us. And may the way of Jesus be our path, and hope be our guide as we walk together in the love of God. Amen.

 May there be peace within and between us. God’s peace be with you. 
And also with you! The sign of the peace is exchanged
“We began our service in worship …
Now we begin our worship in service.”
As the children of God, let us bear fruit
in the lives of those around us.
As the household of God, let us be salt in our communities.
As the people of God, let us be light to the world.
(by Julie M. Hulme, ‘Companion to the RCL’, Vol. II, p. 202.)


David MacGregor’s music suggestions, Together to Celebrate website


1. Christ’s is the world in which we move;
Christ’s are the folk we’re summoned to love;
Christ’s is the voice which calls us to care,
and Christ is the one who meets us here.

To the lost Christ shows his face,
to the unloved he gives his embrace,
to those who cry in pain or disgrace,
Christ makes, with his friends, a touching place.

2. Feel for the people we most avoid,
strange or bereaved or never employed.
Feel for the women and feel for the men
who fear that their living is all in vain … Refrain

3. Feel for the parents who’ve lost their child,
feel for the women whom men have defiled,
feel for the baby for whom there’s no breast,
and feel for the weary who find no rest … Refrain

4. Feel for the lives by life confused,
riddled with doubt, in loving abused;
feel for the lonely heart, conscious of sin,
which longs to be pure, but fears to begin … Refrain

Words: John L. Bell (1949-) and Graham Maule (1958-)
Music: Scottish Traditional Melody
Tune: DREAM ANGUS irregular
Permissions: Wild Goose Publications, UK.

John Maynard resources

Pilgrim 8am Sunday service, reign-of-christ-a-8am-service

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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