Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Year B - Proper 29, Reign of Christ or Christ the King (November 22, 2015)

IN 2015 This is the Sunday before Thanksgiving in the US.  Go toYear B Thanksgiving to find ideas for worshiping around the Year B Thanksgiving texts.  It will also direct you to a more general article that will be useful in planning both for Thanksgiving worship in your own congregation on either Sunday or Wednesday/Thursday and for community services.

Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday

t  “Reign of Christ” is the preferred name because it de-emphasizes triumphalism and monarchical power.  But, “Christ the King” makes more immediate sense to children.  For one thing non-readers hear “RAIN of Christ” when you say “REIGN of Christ.”  So at the very least point that out so children know it is really “Rule of Christ” Sunday rather than a weather forecast. 

t  This year the overall theme that Christ is King of the Universe is more easily explored with children than are the specific texts for the day.  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.  Even when his people disobey him (think crucifixion), he forgives them.   

t  Reign of Christ Sunday is a good day to highlight the section of the Apostles’ Creed about Jesus.  Direct worshipers to turn to it in their hymnals or printed order of worship.  Point to the section that tells the whole life of Jesus.  Read each phrase taking time to briefly elaborate on it.  Then, invite the whole congregation to say or read it together.  This could be done with the whole congregation or as a children’s time.  Below are some notes to help explain the phrases for children.

“conceived by the Holy Spirit”
Jesus was God’s son.  Another creed says, “Jesus was born was born of woman as is every child, yet born of God’s power as was no other child.”  (A Declaration of Faith, PCUSA)
“born of the Virgin Mary”
Recall the birth in the barn.  For most children “Virgin Mary” is simply Mary’s name so there is no need to deal with questions of the Virgin birth here.
“suffered under Pontius Pilate”
Point out that the creed skips a big chunk of Jesus life.  Together list some of the things Jesus did – teach, heal, make friends, feed the crowd, tell stories.  Then, note that people who did not like what Jesus did arrested him and turned him over to Pontius Pilate who condemned him to death.
“was crucified, dead and buried”
Briefly recall Jesus being killed on the cross and buried in a cave tomb.
“he descended into hell”
If you include this phrase, for children it simply means that Jesus died, really died and was quite dead for three days.
“The third day he arose from the dead”
Retell the empty tomb story.
“and ascended to heaven.  From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead”
This answers the question “where is Jesus now?”  He is in heaven.  From heaven he rules and judges the world.  One day heaven and earth will be one and Jesus will rule both the quick (the living – like us) and the dead.

t  On the last day of the church year, highlight the last phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.”  Before praying the prayer or just after praying it, point to this phrase.  Connect it to Christ the King who rules the whole world.  Note that the power of Christ the King is the power of love rather than the power of armies or force.  Delight in the glory of a world ruled by such a God/Christ.  If there is time, remind worshipers that AMEN means “I say so” or “I agree with this” or “count me in.”  When we say the phrase at the end of the prayer every Sunday, but especially today we are saying, “I belong to Christ, the King of the world.”  Then invite worshipers to pray the whole pray together or pray it again.

t  In the DVD “Chariots of Fire,” British Olympic athlete Eric Liddell must decide whether to run an Olympic race for which he has trained hard on Sunday.  He believes racing on that day would be breaking the third commandment about keeping the Sabbath.  There is a scene in which he must meet with the Prince and the Olympic Committee and is challenged to obey the Prince rather than God.  Showing that scene gives everyone a very understandable example about choosing whom you will serve and obey. 

t  Sing for Christ the King:

Children appreciate the easy vocabulary and repeated phrases of He is King of Kings,  Rejoice the Lord is King and Come Christians Join To Sing.  The vocabulary of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” and “Crown Him with Many Crowns” challenges even older elementary school readers.

Before singing Be Thou My Vision introduce the High King of Heaven verse with the story of St Patrick standing up to the Irish High King of Logaire.   (See Hymntime: Be thou My Vision)

The King of Glory Comes, The Nation Rejoices can be an upbeat processional that involves those in the pews is singing, even doing a simple dance step, with those processing.

Celebrate Christ the King by singing The Hallelujah Chorus.  Note that it is usually sung at Christmas to say the baby in the manger is the King or at Easter to say the one who was killed and rose again is indeed the King.  Insist that it is a song we can sing every day because Christ is King every day.  Print the text in the bulletin and encourage children to listen for all the Christ is the King phrases we sing over and over again.

Turn of the Christian Year

This Sunday is New Year’s Eve of the church year.  We conclude the year remembering that Christ is the beginning and end of all life and remembering his story as we have followed it through the concluding year. Next Sunday we begin again.  That makes this a good opportunity to take the long view of the church year.  

t  Bring out all the seasonal paraments and drape them over the central table in order.  Connect each one to its season.  If you have banner for each season, parade them in during the opening processional and display them all during the service. 

t  Give the children a coloring sheet of the church year and crayons with which to color in the seasons adding important words and pictures that go with each season.

I would give this sketch to an atist in the congregaiton for "slicking up."

t  Devote the whole service or just the sermon to reviewing the year.  Using the lessons and carols format, read a key text, talk about the main theme, prayer a prayer, and sing a song from each season.  One worship leader who did this changed her stole to match each season.  Recall the ways your congregation has celebrated each season during the past year.  Praise God for the journey through the seasons each year.  In another year when this service also fell on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in the USA, one preacher concluded with a traditional Thanksgiving song making thanks for God’s big story the main reason for Thanksgiving that year.   

t  Put the focus on the life of the Lord of the seasons.  Tell a story of Jesus and sing a song about Jesus for each season.  Children who often do not connect all the stories about Jesus into a whole especially benefit from the chance to connect them all.  Adults benefit from rehearsing the long arc of the story and placing it in both all of history and the cycle of the church year.  Choose such child friendly songs as:

“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 along
“He is King of Kings”
       For Christ the King Sunday

Texts for Today

2 Samuel 23:1-7

t  Children need help to hear David’s comparison of good and bad kings.  Before reading the whole passage, introduce King David as he dies thinking over his life and the kind of king he has tried to be.  Then, read his description of a good king in verses 3b-4 and a bad king in verses 6 and 7.  Clarify the differences.  If you are sitting with the children to do this, list together your own ideas about what makes for a good and a bad king.  Then, read verse 5 asking whether David thought he was a good king or a bad king.  Only then, read the whole passage in its biblical order.

Psalm 132:1-12 (13-18)

t  To understand this psalm, readers have to know stories about David that almost no children and few adults know.  On a day with so much else going on, I’d not try to tell and connect all these unknown stories.  Psalm 93 has clearer royal images.

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

t  Before reading this text identify the two characters.  In the NRSV “the Ancient One” is God and “the one who comes in the clouds” is Jesus.  Urge children to listen for what each is like and what they do in this story.

t  This vivid apocalyptic picture is meant to be experienced not explained.  So, invite worshipers to close their eyes and see with their imaginations what they are hearing as the verses are read.  Challenge children to draw what they see.  Even provide paper printed with the verses for the children to illustrate.  Together explore such questions as:
Is God powerful or weak?
How important is God?
Why do you think there is fire around the throne? (no right answer to this)
What does the poet want us to know about God? 
What does the poet want us to know about Jesus?

t  Sing Immortal Invisible God Only Wise to celebrate God who is hidden in light.  Before singing it, point out the “ancient one” in the first verse connecting it to the vision in Daniel and admitting that it paints as mysterious a picture of God as Daniel does. 

This may be used for non-commercial purposes with attribution to Worshiping with Children.

t  Sing Holy, Holy, Holy using the illustrated word sheet.  Before singing it tell children that in it another poet telling us about God and challenging them to listen and watch for what we say when we sing the poet’s words.

Psalm 93

t  Psalm 93 celebrates God who is more powerful than the flood waters or the sea surf.   Especially if you have experienced water storms or floods recently, children appreciate this picture of God’s power.  If you have a sound team, work with them to produce a recording of powerful water sounds to play as the congregation reads the psalm aloud – loudly to be heard over the recording. Or, use drums and other instruments to make water sounds.

Verses 1,2,5    any water sounds
Verse 3            rushing water sounds (flood or big waterfall)
Verse 4            heavy surf sounds

Revelation 1:4b-8

t  Invite the children forward to hear this text with you.  As you read, pause to explain key phrases.  Then, reread the whole text emphasizing key words and phrases you have explored.  (Working through the text with the children will help the adults pay attention to a text they might otherwise tune out of as it starts.)

1:4b Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come,
Who is and was and is to come?  God
and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,
Present the seven spirits as a Revelation code word for all the churches. 
There were only seven churches at that time.  Note where those churches 
are in this picture
1:5 and from Jesus Christ,
               Stop to review who is here: God, the church and Jesus. 
Then urge children to listen for what is said about Jesus.
the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
               Celebrate how cool and powerful Jesus is
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood,
Celebrate how much Jesus loves us.
1:6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father,
Ask what Jesus wants us to do and be
to him (Jesus) be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1:7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
Briefly point out that for the first readers, life was really hard. 
Insist that John wants them to know that it will not always be hard.
1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was 
and who is to come, the Almighty.

t  On a seminary sponsored podcast a group of professors talked about how many times they had to see “The Wizard of Oz” before they could stay in the room for the scary parts.  Only seeing the ending multiple times finally enabled them to face the scary parts on the way to that ending.  I suspect this is a common experience and a good way to share this passage with children.  We need to tell them that at the end God will be in full control and everything will be “right” and that knowing that helps us work through the rough times before the ending. 
Identify a variety of rough times, i.e. refugee children walking across Europe with their families looking for new homes, bad years at school when the teacher is hard and it feels like no one likes you, hard times at home when there is not enough money or when everyone is fighting… 

Alpha and Omega, from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library,
Nashville, TN. 

[retrieved November 2, 2012]
t  Alpha and Omega – again!  It has showed up in many of the recent readings.  If you haven’t featured it yet, here is another chance.  Bring out any paraments that include it.  Point it out wherever it appears in your sanctuary.  Compare the first and last letters in several different alphabets.  And, celebrate Christ who was before anything else was and will still be when everything else is over.

t  If you have been working through Hebrews with all the priesthood talk, keep the big poster out today.  Jesus is still Lord! and in verse 6 insists that we are called to priests with him.  We are to pray for and sacrifice for others as Jesus did for us.  We are to join him in caring for the people of the world.

t  Especially if you explored this text in some detail during the service, use it as the benediction.  If possible, recite it rather than read it.  Emphasize the key words (grace to you and peace, who is and who was and who is to come, Jesus Christ, Look!), maybe omit some of the longer descriptive phrases and conclude with “So, go in peace.”

John 18:33-37

Ge, N. N. (Nikolaĭ Nikolaevich), 1831-1894. "What is truth?" Christ and Pilate,
from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved November 2, 2012]

t  Display this painting of Christ before Pilate.  (Download it free from Vanderbilt Divinity School Library to use with the attribution.)  Ask
Who looks like a king here?  Why do you think that? 
Who does not look like a king?  Why do you think that? 
Then, name Pilate briefly identifying him and Jesus.  That leads to discussion of who is really the king?  Finally ask “What do we learn about King Jesus from this painting.”

t  If this text is going to lead you to explore Holy Week themes, display two crowns: a crown of thorns and a costume kings crown.  Talk about who wears each of the crowns and how they are different.  Note which crown Jesus chose to wear.

t  For most children truth is the opposite of lie.  That is not the case in Jesus’ discussion with Pilate.  In this discussion truth is “what is the most important thing in the world.”  To have this discussion add verse 38, “Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’”  Pilate was not sure what the most important thing in the world was.  He only knew he had to do his job as Rome’s governor and that he’d get in trouble if he did not do it well.  Jesus knew that the most important thing in the world is love.  Everything he did he did because of love.  Even older children will have a hard time thinking about truth in that way.  But, if you are going to talk at some length about truth, you might want to introduce this new definition of truth to them.


  1. Dear Carolyn, thank you very much indeed for your great ideas in teaching. I look at your page almost every week for ideas, and usually find something really useful. Especially I enjoy how you teach me to use simple language for complicated things. Thank you very much!

  2. Hello Carolyn. Just wanted to say thank-you again for your ministry. I'm going to use one of these ideas in a service I'm doing at the local care home on the 28th. Ideas that work well with children often also work well with folk experiencing various levels of dementia - and those who are mentally competent still appreciate an accessible approach to Scripture. Thanks!


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