ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting & Announcements – Rev. Val
- Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Opening Hymn – Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates (UMH 213)
- Responsive Reading
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – Psalm 93 (NRSV), Revelations 1:4b-8 (CEB), John 18:33-37 (CEB) – Rev. Val
- Hymn – God Is Here (UMH 660)
- Message: You Say That I Am – Rev. Val
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Service of Holy Communion
- Closing Hymn – Come, Christians, Join to Sing (UMH 158)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Good morning! For those who’ve worshiped with us before either in-person or online, welcome back. For those who are joining us for the first time this morning, we’re glad you here. Welcome home!
A few quick announcements:
- Our charge conference is Sunday, November 28th, at First United Methodist Church in Maryville. It begins at 3:00 p.m. Again, please make plans to attend if at all possible. The charge conference is in-person only.
- Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and of the new church year. Take some time over the next few weeks to invite your friends and neighbors to “Come Home for Christmas.”
- A generous anonymous donor has gifted us with a blessing box. The box is located on the table in the Narthex and contains both gift cards and some cash. It is there for anyone that needs some help, no questions asked.
Save the date!
- November 28 – First Sunday of Advent (Hope)
- 3 p.m. – Charge Conference (Maryville First UMC)
- December 5 – Second Sunday of Advent (Love)
- Joint Service with Maryville College Pride Club
- Communion Sunday
- December 12 – Third Sunday of Advent (Joy)
- December 19 – Fourth Sunday of Advent (Peace)
- *December 21 – Finding Comfort*
- *December 24 – Finding the Light*
- December 26 – First Sunday After Christmas
- *December 31 – Watchnight Service*
- January 2 – Second Sunday After Christmas
- Communion Sunday
- January 9 – Epiphany Sunday/Baptism of the Lord*Online only worship. Videos will be available on our Facebook Page & website beginning at 6 p.m. Dec. 21 and 24, and at 11:25 p.m. Dec. 31.
Call to Worship
Rev. Val Ohle
L: In the midst of a world where allegiance to self-declared rulers and authorities, to powers and principalities, and to participation in unjust systems is the way of the world,
P: We gather to proclaim our allegiance to the One who is the Lord of Lords and brings us the Way of the Kin-dom.
L: In a time where we are told to look out for ourselves and to beware, fear and even hate others,
P: We gather to proclaim that we serve the One who taught us to love one another and look out for others.
L: In an era where we’ve been taught to accept that worthy leaders rule by fear, by threat, and by military might,
P: We gather to proclaim we follow the leadership and lordship of the One who is Sovereign over all, the Prince of Peace.
L: God who calls us together,
P: Awaken in our hearts this day an awareness of what it means to live into Your kingdom and a willingness to follow You fully on the path You’ve set before us.
L: Come, let us worship God, as we pray together saying …
Rev. Val Ohle
All: Creator be with us as we join in worship today to celebrate the reign of Your Son, Jesus the Christ. Spirit, open our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that we may truly love one another. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Adapted from “Prayer of the Day”, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, by Thom Schuman, Lectionary Liturgies
L: You raise up the poor, to give them the best rooms in your house; you pull the broken from the dust of the world, brushing them off and clothing them with joy; you exalt those we have pushed aside, and let them say grace at the feast in heaven.
P: You are our God, and we worship you.
L: When we are tempted to wander off after the rumors of sin,
you guard our feet so we can walk as faithful people; when we think we need to pay attention to all the gossip around us, you give us a double portion of good news, so we will not fear.
P: You are the Christ, and we will listen to you.
L: When no one else will listen to us, we can pour out our soul to you; when no one notices us, you see our misery, and fill us with joy; when everyone else forgets who we are, you remember us and call us by name.
P: You are our Spirit of Love, and we welcome you into our hearts.
All: God in Community, Holy in One, we raise our prayers to you. Amen.
Rev. Val Ohle with paraphrases from Nadia Bolz-Weber (1) and Rachel Held Evans (2)
Heavenly Parent, Great Mystery, Creator of the Universe and all in it, in whose image we are each uniquely made, thank you. Thank you because, “Before we do anything wrong and before we do anything right, You have named and claimed us as Your own.” (1) You said you knew us before you knit us in our mothers’ wombs. That means we were with you before we were ever here in the earthly lives we’ve been living. That means you’ve always been with us. And you have loved us, anyway, knowing we would fail you more often than we would serve you well. Thank you for your steadfast faithfulness and enduring love.
Thank you for your gift of grace delivered to us because You loved us so much, you entered this world as a tiny vulnerable baby the way all babies enter this world … through the blood and mess and pain of labor and delivery. A baby that had to rely on its mother for food, for giving it clean diapers, for helping it learn to walk and talk. A baby that had to rely on its earthly father to protect it and provide for it. A baby that would experience all the things plain old ordinary us experience – our fears, our pain, our morning sickness, our ear infections, our refugee crises, and our endurance of Empire in smelly barns and unimpressive backwater towns … that in all these things, You are with us … You are for us.” (2)
So, yes God, thank you for the gift of Your Son who brought to us and taught us the Way we should follow to build your kingdom, and whose sovereign and eternal reign on earth we celebrate today.
And thank you for your Spirit who nudges and tugs and sometimes has to give us a hard shove back onto that Way when we stumble or stray, and we are prone to stumble and stray.
Thank you from the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds. Thank you for the blessings you pour on us daily, particularly for those things we aren’t even aware are blessings.
We come now, God, to lift up our hearts to You in prayer once again, trusting in Your help:
Great Physician, we lift to you all who are suffering any infirmity, affliction, or illness of body, mind, or heart, and ask that You would be with them, uphold them, and grant them healing according to Your will.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God Who Sees, we lift to you all who are struggling to make ends meet, struggling to survive, struggling to escape oppression or persecution, struggling to find equity, and ask that You protect them, provide for them, and strengthen them.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God Who Is Our Comfort and Protector, we lift up to you all who are grieving and ask that the void they’re feeling be filled with your peace.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God we lift up to you our ongoing prayers and petitions …
- For the eradication of COVID-19 in every form and an end to the pandemic.
- For protection of all innocents in all war torn nations and authoritarian regimes.
- For lands and places stricken by natural disasters, drought and wildfires.
- For the healing of the planet.
- For the protection and preservation of democracy here and around the world
- For an end to discrimination and oppression in any and all forms
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
May your love take root in our lives, and we may walk by faith as we pray the words your Son taught us,
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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
Draw us close, Holy Spirit, as the Scriptures are read and the Word is proclaimed. Let the word of faith be on our lips and in our hearts, and let all other words slip away. May there be one voice we hear today — the voice of truth and grace.
Psalm 93 (NRSV)
The LORD is king, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved; your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the LORD!
Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.
Revelations 1:4b-8 (CEB)
Grace and peace to you from the one who is and was and is coming, and from the seven spirits that are before God’s throne, and from Jesus Christ—the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To the one who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, who made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and always. Amen.
Look, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye will see him, including those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of him. This is so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and was and is coming, the Almighty.”
John 18:33-37 (CEB)
Pilate went back into the palace. He summoned Jesus and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others spoken to you about me?”
Pilate responded, “I’m not a Jew, am I? Your nation and its chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus replied, “My kingdom doesn’t originate from this world. If it did, my guards would fight so that I wouldn’t have been arrested by the Jewish leaders. My kingdom isn’t from here.”
“So you are a king?” Pilate said.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – You Say That I Am
Includes excerpts from Everyone Who Belongs, Dr. Rev. Derek C. Weber, Discipleship Ministries
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
The “pilgrimage” through the gospels we’ve been on since Pentecost comes to a conclusion today which is fitting. Today is Reign of Christ Sunday, formerly known as Christ the King Sunday. And, if you think about the history of this Holy Day, it makes sense given the socio-political events of these times we live in.
You see, Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 through his encyclical, Quas primus, in response to growing secularism and nationalism, and in the context of the unresolved Roman Question. I don’t want to get into all the details of the power struggles and confrontations that led to the Roman Question but, long story short, On 9 February 1849, the Roman Republic took over the government of the Papal States. In the following July, an intervention by French troops restored Pope Pius IX to power, making the Roman Question a hotly debated one even in the internal politics of France. The Lateran Treaty resolved the Roman Question in 1929; the Holy See acknowledged Italian sovereignty over the former Papal States and Italy recognized papal sovereignty over Vatican City.
In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the date from the Sunday immediately preceding All Saints Day to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and moved it from the rank of a first class feast day to a day of solemnity, where it has remained ever since. It continues to be celebrated by the Roman Catholic church and a number of protestant churches including the United Methodist Church.
I wanted to tell you about the history of Reign of Christ Sunday because it came to be as a response to nationalism and secularism, both of which are playing a significant role in the state of the principality in which we live and in many other principalities around the globe.
BUT … there’s a lesson for us regarding that in today’s scriptures, especially the passage from John. In both 33 AD and in 1925, the Roman “empire” was asserting its authority over the “church” … in 33 AD, the Temple, and in 1925, the “Holy Roman Empire.”
In John’s passage, we find Jesus on the day of his trial, crucifixion, and death. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus has been arrested in the garden, tied up by the temple police, and taken to be interrogated by Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas, the Chief Priest, and then sent to Caiaphas who, in turn has sent him to Pilate, the Roman governor of Jerusalem to be judged.
Pilate demands to know why they’ve brought Jesus to him, what their charge they’re bringing against him, and their response … their only accusation … is, “If he hadn’t been doing something evil, do you think we’d be here bothering you?”
No real charge. Nothing they can provide evidence of. Just a … “trust us, he’s evil” accusation. And Pilate tells them to deal with it themselves. Of course they can’t do that. The temple authorities wanted Jesus dead, out of the way, but they couldn’t do it themselves because of that whole “Thou shalt not kill” thing.
At this point, Pilate must be getting frustrated. He knows they want him to execute Jesus, but they haven’t made a case against him, and Pilate can’t make one either. He leaves the priests and temple police outside, goes back into his chambers, and calls his own guard to bring Jesus to him.
Pilate is the Roman Governor of Jerusalem. The top dog. The issuer of executive orders. The only one with more power than Pilate is Caesar himself. I can imagine Pilate taking a moment to size Jesus up before he sneers, “Are you the king of the Jews?” and most likely thinking to himself, “this sorry excuse for a holy man doesn’t look very kingly to me.”
Jesus asks, “Do you say this on your own or are you saying this because of something they told you about me?”
And it’s in that moment that the power shifts. It’s in that moment that Jesus, as he always does, takes control of the conversation, before Pilate even realizes what’s happening.
Throughout the gospel of John, the ones who thought they could trick him were left floundering; those who wanted him to leave them alone were surprised at the depth of his caring; those who thought flattery would get them everywhere were challenged to think differently; and even those who gave up everything to follow him were left open-mouthed at a glimpse of a reality they had no idea even existed.
Pilate knows those blasted priests have him caught in a mess he can’t get out of. The only response he can give Jesus is, “I’m not a Jew. It’s not me doing this to you. Your people, your religious leaders brought you to me. What did you do?”
Jesus answers, “My kingdom isn’t from here.”
“So you are a king?” Pilate says, and I imagine he has at least a moment of joyous “I’ve got you now” relief, except that …
Jesus answers, “You say that I am. I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.”
Talk about a biblical mic drop moment. At the very least, I’m guessing Pilate’s jaw must have dropped. I mean, Jesus just calmly looked at him and said, “My kingdom doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the priests. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.” I can hear the exasperation in his voice when Pilate again asks, “So, are you a king or not?”
“You say that I am but here’s what I really am … I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.”
At this point, Pilate had to be fit to be tied. I imagine he was speaking almost to himself when he said, “What is truth?”
Now, remember, I said there’s a lesson in this, one that is relevant to today’s world.
If only Pilate had known the truth. If only Pilate had followed through on that last question and asked Jesus to explain the truth to him. How different things might have turned out.
And what did Jesus mean when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world”? Is our faith, in the end, about getting out of this world as unscathed as we possibly can? Is it about some spiritual reality that has nothing to do with the flesh and blood and bone of the existence that defines us now? Are we simply passing through, waiting for something somewhere else?
Or, what if, instead of making a reference to life in the kingdom of Heaven, he was trying to describe a new way of living in this world? What if he was setting aside centuries of power politics wielded at the end of a sharp stick?
“If my kingdom were of this world,” he goes on to describe, “you’d have a war on your hands, an insurrection designed to get what we think we deserve. But that’s not how we make our way in the world. The revolution I’m leading is like nothing you have ever seen; the kingdom I’m proclaiming, the kingdom I’m leading reworks human relationship at its most fundamental level. It’s a whole new world.”
“Are you a king?”
Pilate didn’t ask for the truth, but Jesus spoke truth that day and he spoke it from power.
“You say I am …” Pilate asks him if he is a king because Pilate thinks in kings, thinks in power, thinks in conflict and authority and rule. Pilate knows how to deal with kings. That’s his comfort zone. Kings can be conquered, removed from their power seats like one removes trash.
There’s a reason why the name of this special Holy Day was change from Christ the King to Reign of Christ. It isn’t that we no longer want to claim that Christ is our guide, our example, our savior and friend, that all true authority rests in him. It’s because even we think in kings. We know that earthly kings and would be kings, those in power and control or seeking power and control rule by fear, by threat, by military might. We know because we’ve watched it play out over and over throughout our known history. Sometimes we’ve even participated in it.
But in this passage from John, Jesus avoids the whole “king” thing. Why?
“You want to talk about kingdoms, I want to talk about truth.” That’s where Jesus went with this king idea. “I have come to bear witness to the truth.” The truth about living, the truth about faith, the truth about meaning and purpose. The truth about grace and reconciliation. This is the truth that Christ came to testify to. And everyone, hear this, “everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
A life that matters is a life that belongs to the truth. A life of truth-telling and truth-living. We cannot be sustained by a lie. We cannot be redeemed by a lie, even a beautiful lie, even a longed-for lie. To claim the reign of Christ is to put an end to untruth, which is harder than we want to admit.
Pilate couldn’t do that. He mutters, “What is truth?” Then he goes and says he finds no case against Jesus but has him killed anyway. He claims to not be acquainted with truth so that he can perpetuate a lie.
Rev. Steven Charleston, retired Episcopalean Bishop, wrote just this morning: “We are still fighting the pandemic I am not talking about the medical one, but the other one, the psycological one: fear and anger. The two go hand in hand. As fear continues to chase people into corners, fracturing community and obscuring reality, people become more frustrated and angry. Against this condition there is no vaccine other than faith. We must be motivated by something stronger than what makes us afraid. We must act out of a greater purpose than anger. Faith is the antidote and every faith community the clinic. Pray strength to all those seeking to replace fear with love and anger with compassion.
Today is a day for declaring our intention to live a life that matters, a life of radical generosity that holds all our possessions and our very lives lightly. It is a life of serving others in service to our God. It is a life of speaking truth to power, of freeing the prisoner, of liberating the oppressed. A life of belonging to the truth, a truth that transcends individual limited perspective and allows the community to hear the voice of Christ as the guide and hope for living a life that matters. It is a life lived under the Reign of Christ, following the one who said, “You say that I am …” and responding, “Yes, Lord.”
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
God of majesty and power, you have dominion over all the universe, and yet you chose to rule not in power but in love. The gifts we give to you are not given from fear or in petition for your favor, but in the deepest gratitude for all your blessings that keep us and sustain us. May our whole lives reflect to the world that there is one who rules us with love and compassion, above all this world’s nations and principalities. In the name of your Son, the Christ, we pray.
SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION
Rev. Dr. Pat Whittemoore, ALPS & Tennessee-Memphis-Holston Course of Study
We do not provide a transcript of this portion of our service.
Excerpt from “Reign of Christ” prayer, And Also With You: Worship Resources based on the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, (OSL Publications, 1993), 149
Thank you for being here this morning, whether in-person or through our live-stream, whether member or visitor, and I hope you found some value in today’s service.
Now hear this benediction:
Jesus was born to come into the world and bear witness to the truth. He has said that whoever is of the truth hears his voice. By the outpouring of your Holy Spirit equip us to bear witness to that same truth and so help others in hearing your voice.
In the name of God, Creator of All, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
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