Sunday Reflection

Sunday Morning Reflection   22.11.20   

Good Morning , I am Karen Harbison, the Minister of Westburn Parish Church , Greenock and I thank you for letting me join you wherever you are and so to share in this time of worship. We are each in our own places, our own homes,  yet we are united as God’s family, God’s community as we come to offer our worship to God who is love.

Today in our worship online, by phone and in person we mark the final Sunday of the Christian year. Before moving on to Advent, we pause for a moment to celebrate the Reign of Christ the King.The pandemic we are all living through and the recent election in America mean that those who are charged with the responsibility of leadership in our nation and in our world, are very much, perhaps even more so than usual, in our thoughts  and having an impact on the way we live our lives day by day. What can we learn about leadership, about being the King from the stories and images we consider on this Reign of Christ the King day ?  What can we learn for the  way we live our lives day by day from the stories and images we consider on this Reign of Christ the King day ?

Opening words

Based on Psalm 100.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

We worship the Lord with gladness, we come into his presence with joy.

Know that the Lord is God, and it is God that made us.

We are God’s people the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.

We give thanks to God and bless God’s name.

Let us worship the Lord our God

Hymn for Christ the King Sunday – Crown him with many crowns

Let us pray

God who reigns over heaven and earth, may we know your presence among us.

Gathered and sent may we celebrate your reign in our worship now

and in our service to others  wherever the week ahead takes us.

You chose to make your dwelling among us.

May we make our dwelling with you.

God forgive us when we forget that our worship

is not confined to a particular space or place but that you call us to serve you in all things—

not least in creating community and caring for each other.

As we serve and are served may we see your face before us in each person we encounter,

those in need and those we need.

Give us the courage to be vulnerable knowing that you risked vulnerability with us.

May we always be willing to share what we have and to ask for what we need.

Christ our King, reign in us and transform us in our daily living,

empower us to serve you by serving one another,

knowing ourselves to be citizens of the commonwealth of heaven,

And hear us as we pray as you  taught

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.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil

for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory

Now and forever . Amen

Today we read passages from the book of the prophet Ezekiel and from the gospel of Matthew which help us to think about the way Christ reigns as King and what such a king calls us to do and be. The focus from the readings seems to be more to do with our response to those who are the least and our ability to show compassion and to act for justice, more to do with the way we see others than with our having signed up to ‘correct’ beliefs. Today Jennifer will read for us.

Reading  – Ezekiel 34:11-16,20-24 Matthew 25:31-46

Reflection

What kind of image do you have in your mind of Jesus? How do you picture Jesus ? How do you see Jesus ? The pictures, images we have, the ways we see Jesus are probably influenced by paintings, stained glass, films and story book images we have looked at over the years. It is interesting to look at such images and to take note of how Jesus has been portrayed by different generations and cultures and  to see which parts of Jesus’ story are highlighted by the images.

Today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel brought to my mind an image entitled ‘Christ of the breadline’ which is a wood cutting by Fritz Eichenberg, from 1951.  Please take a moment to check out the image via the internet. It is a striking image in black and white. In the image  we see Jesus Christ standing in line at a soup kitchen, waiting with the rest of the homeless  for his turn to be served. In front of him and behind him are other scruffy people, hands in their pockets, wrapped up in thread bare layers, anxiously waiting for food, a meal they couldn’t prepare for themselves. This though is not a typical portrayal of Jesus. Eichenberg’s Jesus is weak, wrapped in a blanket. He’s entirely in shadow and like the ‘riff-raff’ stands silent and still. They stand, with the Lord of the universe in their midst, motionless in their deep poverty and hunger, wanting the same thing He wants—rest, fulfilment, and an end to suffering. Although Jesus is the central figure, and the only source of light in the entire image is his halo, the details are with those in the soup kitchen line standing with Jesus and not Jesus himself. It has been noted by many studying this image that the others in the queue can only be seen by the light of His crown. 

The question in the story from Matthew’s gospel ‘ When Lord did we ever see you….. see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison…. ? ‘ ‘When Lord did we see you? and do or not do something to help  …. is a question about how we see each and everyone of our neighbours, a question about our response to the needs of others, about seeing and treating our neighbours as we would see and treat  Jesus, about acting with compassion and for justice because Jesus is in every face and among us always.

It is about the choices we make, the values we live by , the actions we take as individuals and as communities and nations.Given this is the last Sunday of the church year, or as it is popularly called Reign of Christ Sunday then the passage is a lesson about the kind of reign that we celebrate, the reign of Christ as illustrated in this passage. The tradition of this Sunday grew out of an increasing secularisation of the world. It is a Sunday that is a corrective to the abuse of power, the abuse of choices that nations and politics make between the elite and the poor, the wealthy and the poor. This is who Jesus has chosen to abide with most clearly. This is where all that power, all that authority, creativity, imagination, ought to be focused. While the idea of judgement in thestory is something that is future-focused, the story itself is very much present focused. A future judgement is based on how we decide to live now. And such thoughts are not just about individual choices but about how institutions and nations choose to live. Given we are living through the consequences of a pandemic, may it be now that we choose how our future will be shaped. May we make our present choices towards all those who are standing in the breadlines of our world for Christ the King is there among them and he calls us to see his face and to love his way. Amen.

Let us pray

Jesus King and Lord

we see you, kneeling at our feet, showing us how to serve and be served,

we see you, touching the unclean, showing us how to heal and be healed,

we see you, hanging out with outcasts, showing us how to be in community.

So may we follow your example, seeing the need in our world and being first in line to step up and make a difference.

May we also recognise our own limitations and make room for those who are differently abled and differently gifted, knowing that in the economy of your kingdom, no gift is wasted, no talent rejected.

 Lord, when we despair at the state of our world, may our despair compel us to join you in the work of peace and justice for all, beginning wherever we are, following your lead.

Lord may we know your healing, in our lives, in the life of our community, in the life of the world.

Hear us as in quietness we pray for people and situations we are concerned about at this time.

May we live so conscious of your presence in all that we cannot turn our back or withhold your love from another but know fulfilment only when we have given our all to serve you by serving our neighbour.

 So Jesus, King and Lord , one  act of kindness at a time, may God’s kingdom come, on earth as in heaven. Amen.

Already here. Unrecognised.

Loitering in the shadows with the poor and the outcasts,

the downtrodden and the marginalised.

Already here, bringing light into darkness and hope into fear

and we shall see God when we look at our neighbour.

Already here. Incarnation.

God with us now.

God’s kingdom, not some future hope but here,

now as Christ lives among us, always showing up, bringing light and love, revealing the kingdom.

Already here

 Blessing

At the turn of the Christian year let us commit ourselves to being Christ in the world. As we step into Advent, and once more prepare to welcome the infant Jesus

Go purposefully, loved by God, guided by Jesus and inspired by the Spirit.

And may the blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you today and always . Amen

And as we go we hear the tune

Longing for light CH4 543

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