Sunday, 20 November 2016

Can't make it to church - 20 November 2016

Today we reach the end of the Church year as we celebrate 'Christ the King' - next week sees a new liturgical year (year A) begin with Advent Sunday. The Church of England rotates through three years (A, B and C) - each has one of the Gospels as its focus (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and by following the calendar and the readings for each set you'll find that you've managed to read everything there is to be read in the Bible.

Some people struggle with the word 'liturgy' because they think that liturgy is the words we say and, thinking the words to be a bit boring and dreary, they clamour for the excitement of  'worship', which they think means the singing stuff. But, wouldn't you know it, they are wrong.

All of the service, the words and the prayers and the singing and musical bits are all worship and the word 'liturgy' (which comes from the Greek word 'Litourgeia' which basically means 'the work of the people'' (I like to think of it as being, "It's what we do! The origins were that it was the people coming together to respond to a call - in our Church setting, this call is to worship God - simple innit?

And the words?

Just as when we have a song where tensions are created and hooks, which cause words and tunes to stick (Meatloaf and 'I would do anything for love' being a great example), the same is true in the words we speak in our service. Liturgy should not be dull or repetitive tosh (most dull services have a dull person leading them) but should create a tension which draws us in and then resolves it - liturgy is music to God's ears played in our mouths from our hearts. It is planned and structured and formal and yet provides space for responding to God in singing and silence, but it is always ordered and decent and looking to Jesus, the Christ. A problem exists in that many struggle to do silence (in case we hear God perhaps?) and try to fill those pauses, those breathing spaces, with the next offering from Hillsong or the Rend Collective (which I enjoy listening to, but in the right time and place). This isn't liturgy or even worship - it's anarchy; we seek to please us and tickle our ears rather than bring an offering of praise - tough words, sorry!

So now that's been said, hopefully you'll respond to people talking about liturgy with the words, "It's what we do!" ('We being the people of God by the way!) and we can now, at last I hear you cry, get on to Christ the King!

Jesus is like a King no one would ever image - a king riding on a donkey (without a golden crown) - a king who is whipped, kicked, beaten and crucified as part of His coronation service - a shepherd of His flock who cares and tends and dies for his flock. One whose second coming we eagerly await and  as next week is the start of four weeks in which we look to the the birth of a child in Bethlehem which will end with a death in Jerusalem.

A King like no other King, He comes to reconcile us to God and to tell us that we are loved and forgiven, not in a soft indulgent way that glosses over our wrongs but in an honesty that seeks the best for us and helps us to be the best we can be. Jesus is the King who brings to those who were far off from God the promise that ‘Truly, we will be with Him in Paradise.’

May His Kingdom come soon - and may we worship Him now as we will worship Him them - with our whole hearts, minds, bodies and souls.

The Collect
God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. Amen.

And a little 'Thought for the day': could the problems Church has be more about the quality of us 'Shepherds' thatn the antagonism of the world?

Jeremiah 23.1-6
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Colossians 1.11-20
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Luke 23.33-43
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Post Communion Prayer
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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