Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Year C – Christ the King/ Reign of Christ - Proper 29, 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 27th Sunday after Pentecost (November 24, 2013)

The “Reign of Christ” is generally preferred to “Christ the King” as the name for this Sunday in order to de-emphasize hierarchy.  That is a worthwhile goal.  But especially non-reading children hear “Rain of Christ” instead of “Reign of Christ” and are confused.  So if you use Reign, define it and point out with a laugh what it is not.

U Then explore Christ the King in children’s terms.  In children’s stories kings may be good or bad or simply may be people in a set role.  The king has the right and power to make all the rules and demand that people do what he wants.  When the people do not obey the king has the right to punish them.  Good kings use this power and right well.  Bad kings do not.  Jesus is the very best king ever.  Jesus has all the power and chooses to use it to take care of people.  When his people disobey him (think crucifixion), he forgives them.  In the context of today’s texts, King Jesus chooses to be a Good Shepherd and a forgiver.

U Unless you want to save this for Palm Sunday, display a crown of thorns and a king’s crown from a costume shop.  Talk about the choice Jesus made about the kind of crown he would wear and the kind of king he would be.

U If you are using white and gold paraments today, point them out, explain the significance of their color and any symbols on them.  Recall the other holy days on which they are used.

U If there is a collection of teaching pictures from the life of Jesus in a church school closet, select a series that tell the whole story of Jesus.  Display them one at the time for the children and recall the story behind each.  Then, sing “Jesus Loves Me” or a well-known song praising Jesus. 

U To put the Lord’s Prayer in the context of Christ’s kingship, use the phrase “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory” of the Lord’s Prayer as a congregational response to each of the other lines of the prayer. 

U Songs that trace the life of Christ in words children can follow:

“O Sing a Song of Bethlehem”
“Lord of the Dance”
“The King of Glory Comes the Nation Rejoices”

The Turn of the Christian Year

This Sunday and next, we are at the end and the beginning of the Christian Year.  That is a good opportunity to review and celebrate the entire year.  In the USA in 2013 reviewing the whole year might be a wonderful, relaxed way to worship on the Sunday at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  The first Advent candles could be lit, but fuller observance of the season could wait until the following week when more folks will be around.  In other countries, it might be better observed on the last Sunday of the year so that you are ready to go fully into Advent on its first Sunday.

_ The simplest way to review the Christian Year is to bring out all the stoles and/or banners for all the seasons of the year.  As a children’s time, display them for the children and recall which colors go with which seasons.  Link each season to a well-known story about Jesus.  Conclude by grouping them together and looping the white one around them noting that Jesus holds the whole year together.

_ The University Hill Church in Vancouver has created a Christian year calendar for 2013-14 with seasonal rather than monthly pages.  Each page includes art for that season and a list of ways to celebrate that season in worship.  I have not seen the calendar “in person” but based on sample pages on their web site have ordered one for myself and mention it to you.  Get the details and order it at Salt of the Earth: Christians Seasons Calendar.  Sharing this calendar with children would be a good children’s time for this day.

_ The same church shares a plan for a supper reviewing the Christian Year at Celebrating a Christian New Year's Party.  It includes directions for tables decorated for different seasons.  Congregations that are informal in their worship might use the tables as stops along a worship path set up in the sanctuary.  The University Hill list of items for each season might also be a start for a more formal procession of the seasons in other congregations.

Advent - blue with advent wreath/candle
Christmas - white & gold with nativity
Epiphany - green with star, three gifts, bowl of water
Lent - purple with bowl of ashes & crown of thorns
Holy Week - red with palm leaves, cup & plate, crucifix
Easter - white & gold with resurrection cross & figure, white candle
Pentecost - red with circle of friends

_ Another way to celebrate and review the church year in worship is to follow a lessons and carols format.  For each season read a key story or text and sing one song.  Embellish these with bringing in a banner for that season and or highlighting the color changes.  (Perhaps the worship leaders for each season wear stoles for that season.)

_ To sing through the Christian year, sing one or more verses from these songs which are more child friendly than others.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” or “Let All Mortal Flesh”
    Children follow the feelings rather than the words in
    these songs

“Once in Royal David’s City” or “Away in the Manger”
    Simple words retell the story and our relationship to it

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”

“Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley”
    The verses tell what Jesus did and what he calls us to do

“Were You There When the Crucified My Lord?”
    Simple words tell the story

“Jesus Christ is Risen Today”
    Even non-readers can join on the Alleluias

“Breathe on Me Breath of God” or “Spirit”
    The words of the first tell the story better, but
    the chorus of the second invites early readers to sing

“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” or “He is King of Kings”
    For Christ the King Sunday

Today’s Texts

Jeremiah 23:1-6

U Especially in the United States this fall, most people of all political persuasions, resonate with Jeremiah’s wish for political leaders who are good shepherds, i.e. leaders who have the well-being of the people as their focus.  In the context of today’s theme, Jesus is that leader.  He is a king who has the good of the people as clearly in mind as a shepherd has the well-being of the sheep in mind. 

U For children shepherds are people who take care of sheep.  They will need to be clearly told that in the Bible Jesus is often referred to as a shepherd not of sheep but of people.  One way to do this is to show a picture of Jesus with sheep in his arms (Google “good shepherd pictures”) and a picture of Jesus with people (you may have a picture of Jesus and the children in the church school). 

Catacomb of Callixtus - The Good Shepherd,
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
[retrieved October 23, 2013]. Original source:
U The earliest painting of Jesus is this painting of Jesus as a good shepherd.  It is found in the catacombs  (tunnels under the city of Rome) where the first Christians hid out from Romans who wanted to feed them to the lions.  This painting on the wall reminded them that Jesus would take care of them.

U If you are celebrating Christ the King/ Reign of Christ gather symbols for Christ, perhaps processing them in as you read the various texts.  Or, simply present and explore one of the symbols.

Jeremiah: a shepherd’s staff
Colossians: crown
Luke 23: a cross

Jeremiah says God is the kind of king who cares for or shepherds his people.  Note how odd it is to see one person wear a crown and carry a staff.  Enjoy God/Jesus who does just that.  (If bishops carry staffs in your tradition this would be a good day to point to and explain them.)

Luke 1:68-79 – (It’s a song paired with Jeremiah here)

U Before reading Zechariah’s song, briefly tell the story behind it.  Elderly, childless Zechariah had not believed the angel who told him he would have a son.  Because he had not believed, he was unable to speak until the baby (John the Baptist) was born.  These were his first words after nine silent months.  Either invite worshipers to imagine old John holding his newborn son in his arms saying these words to God and everyone around him.  Or, if your congregation includes an older man who could speak the words dramatically from memory , ask him to present the reading (perhaps holding a wrapped baby doll in his arms).

U MERCY as a key word todays texts.  Jesus is the King of Mercy.  To help children understand this word that is not used everyday today, write it on a large poster.  Present the poster and define the word before the call to worship.  Encourage worshipers to listen for the word in today’s worship and draw a star on their bulletin every time they hear it, sing it, or say it.  Jump to the Luke 23 resources for ideas about highlighting mercy in the prayers of confession. 
Synonyms for children: kindness, forgiving, pity, compassion
Antonyms for children: harshness, demanding, unforgiving


U This psalm celebrates what the other texts for the day describe.  We are safe in the presence of God.  We don’t have to be afraid.  Verses 10-11 sum it up most simply for children. 

U “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is based on this psalm.  Martin Luther’s words are difficult for children to understand.  What they can get is the feel of fearlessness and the passion with the congregation sings this familiar, loved hymn.  Before singing it, note that Martin Luther wrote this song while his friends were hiding him in a castle from people who wanted to kill him.  Invite singers to imagine how he felt as they sang his song together.

Colossians 1:11-20

U The hymn to Christ in verses 15-20 is the heart of this text.   Unfortunately for children, it is filled with so many pronouns and interchangeable names for Jesus that it is hard to follow.  Choosing to read either Today’s English Version or The Contemporary English Version rather than the King James or NRSV may help.  But, even they need to be interpreted.  The hymn boils down to six statements about Jesus.  Children will recognize some of them and be interested in exploring them as a set of ideas about Jesus. 

Jesus is God made visible.
Jesus is better than anyone else or anything else in all creation.
God made the world through Jesus and for Jesus.
Jesus (and God) existed before anything else.
Jesus is the head of the church and what keeps it alive.
God forgave us through Jesus’ death on the cross.

U If you must offer a children’s time, invite the children to join you with the big Bible from the front of the church.  Introduce the text as a song about Jesus that the very first Christians sang.  Pause in your reading to put each big idea about Jesus in your own words.  You might want to reread this without interruptions later or this might be the epistle reading for the day.

U No matter which translation of this song you use, three names appear – Jesus, Christ, and Son.  Before reading the text, point out these names and briefly explain each one.  To add a visual, present each name on a poster that can be left in full view during the reading.

Jesus is the name his family and friends called Jesus – like Susan or Lou.

Christ is actually a title rather than a name.  It is not Jesus’ last name (a common misperception among children).  The title means God’s Chosen One and applies only to Jesus.

Jesus is called God’s Son or simply the Son.  Just as people say of a son that he is just like his father, people say of Jesus that he not only is like God but is God in human form.

U The text refers to Jesus at both the beginning and end of time.  If there are Alpha and Omega symbols on today’s paraments or elsewhere in the sanctuary, point them out and explain them.  Enjoy the children’s question “but what came before that…” and the mysterious answer that before anything there was God and Christ.  And, after everything there will be God and Christ.  

U After exploring this text, add a crown to the worship center with words about Christ’s lordship over all times and places.

Luke 23:33-43

U Luke’s account of the crucifixion centers on Jesus’ forgiving those who crucified him and the thief who asked for forgiveness.  On this Sunday it emphasizes Christ’s work forgiving us.  In children’s stories kings don’t have to forgive.  But, King Jesus, the king of the universe, chooses to forgive us at great cost to himself. 

U It is a good day for worship education about confession and assurance of pardon as they are practiced in your worship.  Point to that section of worship in a bulletin.  Walk worshipers through the prayers and responses, putting things in your own words as you go. 

In my congregation it would go something like this:  We say together that we all know we do things that are sinful, then in the silence we each tell God some of the bad stuff we have done in the last week.  We ask God to forgive us and then hear the minister remind us that God will forgive us.  We respond with a happy song thanking God for forgiving us and shake hands to “pass the peace” that we get from God to those sitting around us. 

U Rehearse any standard responses or refrains together.  For example, explain that “Kyrie Eleison” means “Christ have mercy” or “Christ forgive us,” then sing it through once.   

U To emphasize the purpose of the prayer of confession, create a responsive prayer.  The congregation’s response to each plea is “Christ, forgive us.”

U After exploring this story, add a/another cross to the worship center

1 comment:

  1. On the first Sunday of Advent we used two of your suggestions, by framing the entire worship service by reading Matthew 24 – be prepared. During announcements the congregation was helped to understand our liturgy for the day. We then sang O Come, O Come Emmanuel, to express what we are waiting for and then moved through the life of Jesus, using the suggested hymns in place of a spoken Call to Worship, Prayer of Confession, ect. Below are the hymns we sang under each heading.

    Introit (v1 & 3) O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

    New Testament Matthew 24:36-39, 42 and 44

    Call to Worship
    Hymn Away in the Manger
    Hymn We Three Kings of Orient Are HARP Offering
    Please meditate on the words

    Prayer of Confession
    Hymn Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley
    Hymn (v1,2,4) Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?

    (A Time for Silent Confession and Conversation with God)

    Assurance of God’s Forgiveness
    Hymn (v1,2,4) Jesus Christ is Risen Today

    Affirmation of Faith
    Hymn Spirit of the Living God
    Hymn Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates

    Message Be Prepared

    Lighting of the Advent Candle
    Leader: Today we light the first candle of Advent, the candle of Hope.
    People: Today we sing O Little Town of Bethlehem to celebrate the hope we have because of Jesus.
    Leader: We will sing verses 1 and 4 of Hymn #44, O Little Town of Bethlehem.

    *Hymn (v1,2,4) “Let All Mortal Flesh”

    Lord’s Supper


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