First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
Reign of Christ Sunday
Sunday, November 26, 2017 – 10:30 a.m.
You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.
Greeting: Assisting Elder: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Announcements Assisting Elder:
Preparing for the Word
Musical Call to Worship
Introit “Why Should I Feel Discouraged?” Hymnal 661, Verse 1
Call to Worship: Rev. 22:13
The Lord is a great God who says:
I am the Alpha and Omega,
the first and the last,
the beginning and the end.
Time with Children
*Hymn 265 “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun”
Prayers of Confession
The proof of God’s amazing love is this: While we were strangers Christ died for us. Because we have faith in him, we dare to approach God with confidence. In faith and penitence, let us confess our failings before God and one another….
Almighty God: in love you spread all good gifts before us, more than we need or deserve. You feed, heal, teach, and save us. We confess that we always want more; that we never share as freely as you give. We resent what we lack, and are jealous of our neighbors. We misuse what you intend for good. God, forgive our stubborn greed and our destructiveness. In mercy, help us to take such pleasure in your goodness that we will always be thanking you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Time for silent prayer]
Assurance of Grace John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that God gave the only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. People of God, hear the good news:
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
*Response of Praise, No. 581
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end, Amen, Amen!
Hearing the Word
Anthem “10,000 Reasons” Myrin & Redman, arranged by Larson
Hebrew Bible Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
11For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. 16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
20Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.
Epistle Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23
15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
41Then he 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; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Sermon “Dual Citizenship” Rev. David Ashby
This, the last Sunday of the Christian year, the week before we begin Advent and our preparations for Jesus’ birth on Christmas, has been called Christ the King Sunday, or in a slightly more modernized version, the “Realm of Christ” Sunday. The verbal gimmick comes from the Revelation of John, his assertion that Jesus is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the A and the Z, the Alpha and the Omega. The church year ends with the affirmation that Christ is the Monarch of all, and then we go into our preparations for Jesus being the newborn King. It all goes around; it all comes around; it is the ending of the starting.
But there has always been a tension between Christ as Monarch of All, yet not acting like a king at all. I mean, we start it with that whole being born in a stable in a little county seat in Israel, hardly an epic beginning. And his life is more travelling preacher than politician, and his subjects are twelve lead disciples and a couple of thousand adherents. Not much compared to Herod, for instance, the king of Israel with the attendant government and religious administration. Not much compared to Pilate, for instance, the local administrator for Caesar with Rome’s vaunted political infrastructure and a legion of Roman soldiers. Obviously there was a disparity between the rhetoric of monarchy and the reality of no earthly realm! That little scene in John 18 where Jesus is before Pilate, and Pilate is half-interrogating, half-debating with Jesus with that line about “my kingdom is not of this world” has given theologians and governers fits ever since! Just what on earth (since the in heaven part makes at least some sense, religiously) does it mean for Christ to rule this world? And what on earth does it mean for us?
This has been perhaps the ugliest part of Christianity, how we, in our several different traditions, imagine Jesus to be our earthly ruler. There are way too many times when the answer has been political, arrogant, distrustful, dangerous, self-serving, and violent. We have a nasty way of deciding that Jesus is the kind of king we want! Again and again in our political seasons God has been invited, assumed, or coopted into blessing a particular political or governing agenda. So it’s fresh in our minds, and, it’s probably a lot wiser for the rented preacher to be talking about this stuff now than before the election! Now it gives us a chance to think about what it means for Christ to be our practical ruler and not just our heavenly ruler. A lot of really unexamined things were said, and God was claimed to be endorsing some totally opposite things. But I noticed that even people with totally opposite positions often had the same poor understanding of Christ’s reign in our lives as the people they yelled at.
In Roman and medieval times, the arrangement was pretty simple and non-self-critical. Jesus was king of heaven, the king is king of the kingdom. You have earthly power which pretty basic and kinda brutal and controls land and people’s bodies and wealth. The Church was concerned with the realm of the spirit, Christ’s heavenly kingdom. There was a pretty universal expectation that it would be a whole lot better of an existence, and if this one was miserable for you, heaven would be a lot better, which helped people get through. If you followed the rules of Jesus here and now, you’d do well in the afterlife as a reward. The church could encourage good behavior and a glorious and comforting vision of the age to come, which was a powerful spiritual draw in the earthly arena, too. Act also like you are a subject of Jesus as well as the king, and it will be good. Since the basic thing is that you are controlled by where you are, if you are alive, your king is your ruler. If you are dead and your spirit is in heaven, Jesus is your king. Of course, lots of people were counting on the blessings of Christ’s realm to make up for the one they lived through. But in terms of reading John 18, Jesus’ kingdom was not of this earth; it was heaven. Pilate’s realm was not of spirit; it was of earth. Good for Pilate. Bad for Jesus at that point of the story, but conceptually very clear. It got more complicated with the Renaissance and Enlightenment and Reformation and the rise of other forms of government, and in an era when most of us don’t live in monarchies, how on earth (!) do we contemplate our citizenship in Christ’s reality while living in our complex reality? I kinda lean toward that word I just used, “citizenship.” How are we— while being citizens of the village of Honeoye Falls, town of Mendon, county of Monroe, state of New York, United States of America— also citizens in Christ’s realm? And since we don’t have that medieval notion of serial citizenship, that is of being first citizens of earth and then of heaven, we might want to consider ourselves having “dual citizenship.” While there are some people who use having dual passports as a way of escaping responsibility, most see themselves as responsible and responsive to both nations, that they act in the best versions of both, that they live in the overlapping good of the two systems. So most of us have grown up living as both Christians and New Yorkers, and that we abide with both sets of rules and advantages. And mostly it works. There are not a lot of times when following our government is in conflict with our religion, and most of the times the slack in the joints is good enough and the stakes are small enough that it doesn’t super matter. Christians drive over the speed limit and don’t find it a big moral dilemma. You might be a pacifist or pro-life or vegan and not like that your country engages in war or that abortion is legal or that the USDA inspects meat plants. Yet there are those who work strenuously to change the laws of the land to reflect the laws they see in the Bible. Some people find the religious component much weaker and easily accommodate the social rules over the spiritual rules. So some people lean to the state side when citizenships clash, and some to the spiritual side. To me the important thing is to keep alive in your head and your heart that you have two citizenships to balance. I’ve grown up and been taught that both matter and must be balanced, even when there is tension. And I believe that things get really ugly when someone stops holding the two in each hand and tries to force only one to be the singular citizenship.
The classic theory on the various interactions between church and state, culture and faith, reason and revelation, Christ and Culture, was written by Richard Niebuhr, the brother of Reinhold, the guy who wrote the “Serenity Prayer.” He said people place “Christ against culture” the separatists, “Christ of culture” who identify the church’s interests as the same as culture’s, “Christ above culture” where culture slowly gives way to Christ, “Christ and culture in paradox,” in which the two aspects are in dialectical tension, and his insight, “Christ transforming culture,” in which the power of Christ’s revelation converts culture into something better and stronger. Since I went to a strongly Presbyterian seminary, guess which I go with? Yep, our Christian citizenship converts and transforms our secular world into so much more, the realm equally of God’s grace, not apart from it. And the real value of Niebuhr’s model is that it helps you understand all the variations of living with two realms.
An example from my tradition: the PCUS (the southern branch of the Presbyterian tradition from the civil war until 1983) pretty much sat out the civil rights movement because “it wasn’t the church’s business” to be involved in politics and social policy and racial justice. The white leadership insisted on the “spirituality of the church,” keeping it unsullied by the civil rights struggle. The kingdom of church had nothing to say to the kingdom of humans. Lots of us now refer to it as the captivity of the Southern Church, for it turns out lots of other denominations and lots of PCUS members knew full well it was time for Christ to transform that oppressive culture. Interestingly, there are echoes of those debates now over rights and inclusion of gays and lesbians in church leadership, and anew with Black Lives Matter, asking what would Jesus do?
As you know full well, certain religious positions have been appropriated by U.S. political parties. Progressive, neo-orthodox, and liberal theology has been co-opted by the Democratic Party, and evangelical and conservative theology has been taken hostage by the Republican Party, demonstratively in both the historical and demographic sense in the last twenty years. Niebuhr’s model helps you sort out who are saying that this realm as a matter practicality trumps all that religious stuff and who charges at things of this world with the revelation of God which beats every mere mortal position. But, given our national history and civil theology we keep coming back to realizing that blurring the line between church and state, or religion and policies, is fraught with problems. The most popular danger is too easily identifying country with being people of God. It’s not just the TV preachers or Franklin Graham who can be made fun of, or Israel and Hamas fighting over ancient land and covenant, or ISIS’ attempt to restablish the caliphate, but some of the most accomplished confusers, were, ironically enough this week, the Puritans. Yep, they were absolutely sure that the New World was to be a holy nation, a theocracy in fact, following Biblical laws and customs. To be a citizen of the colony was to be a citizen of heaven: same thing. Given the time in history, not too odd, but the problem is importing their rhetoric about the city set upon a hill into the 21st century. You just can’t make the easy equivalence that human government is God’s government. Jesus reminded us that they are not the same when he said his realm was not of Pilate’s world. The new covenant people of God are not— Jonathan Edwards and John Cotton not withstanding— the American colonies or the United States, but the Church. The church stands apart from society and government. It is not covered up by it or walked all over, nor does it stomp all over human activities and governance. The two must be, in my mind, always in equal conversation and positive interaction, even though we may choose Christ’s path ultimately. We cannot diminish this world; we are citizens of both. It is much easier for total secularists who ignore God and for Mennonites who step away from the world. We who inhabit the middle, believe in and live in both realms, who have both New York driver’s licenses and baptismal certificates may have a more complex life, but it is surely more rich and rewarding.
Not that this is anything new. I mean, Jesus himself set us up for it, right? And he certainly lived in an equally demanding environment. From getting a history of American religious history, now we get some ancient Biblical history and Israelite politics. Lucky you! Jesus had constant running debates with the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees were actually the stronger of the two; they were the Temple Party. Sadducees were the institutional, government party. They would say religious interests and secular interests were the same. What’s good for the Temple is good for Rome. What’s good for Rome is good for the Temple. Jesus was bad for both’s business. The Pharisees were the other pole. They stressed individual belief and behavior, a personal piety and morality that was apart from the temple sacrifices and religious corporations. They remembered the exile when the official religious establishment was wiped out, truly, so they knew they couldn’t rely on the altar on Mount Zion being there for them. They picked up the scroll of the law, Torah, and saw in it a way to carry faith and community anywhere they could carry the Word of God. They came up with the spiritual community of the synagogue for places that weren’t the Temple in Jerusalem. In a lot of ways, they were pre-echoes of the Reformation’s credo that believers carry God with us in God’s Word and use that to live well and wisely in the world. The scroll of Torah or the Bible are our passports for God’s realm. Faith transforms culture. Nor were they good with Jesus saying that he (Jesus) further transforms the spiritual realm in his own self, which is why they were ok with Jesus running up against Pilate. The state could do the dirty work for the synagogue. They all had vested interests; none of the three could tolerate Christ being king of heaven and king of human hearts. It is we believers after Easter who understand how it all actually, finally, wonderfully works out. And this Sunday we whirl around in the time vortex, if you will, of the Alpha-Omega of it all, the end of the beginning, the beginning of the new year, the crossover ramp between the last act of one year and the far-away notes of a new pregnancy and new birth. It’s kind of cool, isn’t it.
Theology is fun (at least for me) but here’s a “real-life” way that you probably already find yourself living in the overlapping citizenship of the two realms, which are actually both Christ’s realms in the long run, right? As you go through the Christmas crazy season, you know how you have that argument going in your head about “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “keeping Christ in Christmas” while you are gagging on the gicky advertising and massive conspicuous consumption of the merchandising season? How tacky, gimmie-gimmie commercials use sacred music? And you feel like you have a foot in two rowboats, Christ’s Nativity and Santa’s commercial holiday? You can’t ignore secular Christmas; it’s kinda fun, and it is good to share gifts. But there is more to it than that. Sacred and secular get all tangled up together like two different colored strands of Christmas lights. And that is ok, I think. Pretending that the sales don’t exist is unrealistic. Equally unrealistic is to pretend Jesus doesn’t matter. It’s navigating that both/and, that tension that makes us actual, real-live Christians in the modern world. It shows we are paying attention. And our faithful perspective is what transforms it all into expectation. Faith is what makes the pre-Christmas rush… into Advent!
So when you are at your wit’s end and about to scream, pretend to pat your pocket or your purse or your wallet or wherever you would carry your passport as a citizen of Christ’s world. Pat it, remind yourself that you are baptized into Christ Jesus, the Savior, and smile peacefully to yourself, citizen of heaven.
*Hymn 268 “Crown Him with Many Crowns”
Responding to the Word
Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
O Christ our eternal monarch, we bless and praise your name, and place ourselves and our church under your sovereign sway. Grant that we will be worthy subjects, O Christ our king. Improve our willingness to serve you, increase our sense of your work in this community, expand our vision, strengthen our resolve, embolden our hearts, open our minds, refresh our spirits. May we live and act like we are devoted servants, employees, of you, our Messiah, our Christ, our King, our Monarch.
O Prince of Peace: we begin to prepare for your Advent, for your presence among us, we lift the world and all its hardships, hurts, trials, tribulations, crimes, strife, violence, unrest, terror, warfare, greed, sectarianism, and injustice. We are troubled by the many, many displaced persons, by fear, terror, strife caused by religions; surely you are even more troubled by our human hatreds. That other grim word, one we thought we had gotten past, genocide has arisen again this week, with the conviction of The Butcher of Bosnia Ratko Mladić for the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, but the world still suffers the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohyinga in Myanmar, the killings in Sudan and Somalia and South Sudan, and the horrific attack on Sufis in Sinai and other places where governments drive out groups of people violently. We pray, and we hopefully work for peace. Dona nobis pacem; give us peace, so no family in any nation need to worry about their safety or the safety of loved ones.
O God of all places and peoples, we pray for those in need, in dire circumstances, in poverty, in hunger, in prisons literal and figurative, those naked and homeless, those thirsting for water, justice, and hope. As some of us have collected or packed things into the clothing, HUGS, Toys for Tots, and gifts for others around the world, we pray now that we are also packing an extra portion of your love, grace, and Spirit into each package as it leaves our hands and begins their voyage to those who will receive it. We lift our worries and concerns and celebrations and hopes and prayers for many: …………. …………….. ……….. …. ………. Remind us that every opportunity neglected to make someone’s situation better is a missed chance to worship you, that every opportunity used is a chance to warm your heart as well as to help our least sisters and brothers. May our service be as glorious to you as the music rising from the sanctuary! Bless the members and friends of this congregation, the Pastor Nominating Committee, our leaders, our future, and everyone whom you can touch through these hands, these hands reaching out to our neighbors, these hands lifting the gospel of Jesus Christ, these hands raised in gladness toward heaven, these hands clasped in prayer, as we count your blessings and pray together
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.
Presentation of Our Gifts and Offerings
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
*Prayer of Dedication
Almighty God, you raised Christ from the dead and established him as Lord over every rebellious power. Give us grace to serve him wisely and faithfully that the world may see his glorious inheritance among the saints and recognize the freedom of joyful obedience in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
*Hymn 269 “Lead On, O King Eternal!”
*Charge and Benediction Philippians 4:8-9 (ed.)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in Christ, do; and the God of peace will be with you.
The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
*Choral Response “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”