- On November 21, 2021
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My hope is that you have had a good week … and have found reasons to be grateful! It is amazing how expecting the best from other and from the words leads to opportunities to share and to care!
This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday … the last Sunday before we enter into Advent and preparation for Christmas. Each week we pray Thy Kingdom Come. Today’s service provides us time to reflect upon the Kingdom of God and for what it is that we are truly praying.
If you would like to have a pastoral visit – in person, by phone or over Zoom – during Advent please reach out and we will set a time to be meet.
Christmas Poinsettias: Today, November 21st, is the final day for placing orders for poinsettias. If you would like to place an order, please contact Brenda directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. As in previous years we will decorate the Sanctuary for the Advent and Christmas season and deliver Christmas flowers to our members who are unable to join us for worship on a regular basis. If you would like to contribute to these purchases they would be gratefully received.
Student Christmas Care Packages: Again this year we will be sending “care” packages to the university and college students (children and grandchildren) of the members of our congregation. We know that the exam period is a stressful one, so we want to provide encouragement! If you have a student who you would like to receive a package please let Brenda know. At this point we will be sending 10 boxes of encouragement!!
Members of the congregation are invited provide a treat or token of encouragement that can be placed in the boxes. Below is a list of possible items that could be put in the box. The items will need to be collected during the first two weeks of Advent (Nov 28, Dec 4) so that the packages can be mailed on the 5th.
- Tim Horton’s/ Starbucks Gift Card
- Lip balm
- Goldfish / bags of chips
- Chocolate bars
- Soup (microwavable)
- Popcorn (microwavable)
- Joke item / stickers
Women’s Candlelight Service: The service will take place on Wednesday, December 1st, beginning at 7:00pm. This year ladies are invited to The Christmas Café where you will always be welcomed with gratitude and experience the hospitality of a friend who cares. This service is a wonderful opportunity to take the time to center ourselves on the meaning of Christmas. Consider making time for this wonderful service … and inviting a friend.
Advent Sunday School: Would you like to help tell the Christmas story? During the 4 Sundays of Advent, we will be offering a Sunday School for the young children of the congregation, and we need adult leaders. Everything you will need to lead the lesson will be prepared for you – so that you can focus on the children and sharing the special story of Jesus’ birth. If you are able to be a leader for one (or more) of the four Sundays, please speak with Rev. Gushue.
Covid-19 Protocol Update: At its monthly meeting on Friday, Session discussed and updated the protocol for the Advent & Christmas Season. The motion that was adopted was the following:
While the Session of Knox Presbyterian Church Sixteen prefers that all people attending public worship will be double vaccinated, it wishes to create a space that is welcoming for all people. As such, the Session of Knox Presbyterian Church Sixteen, supports that all people, vaccinated or unvaccinated, will be welcome to participate in public worship through the Advent and Christmas season. To facilitate this policy all people attending worship will be required to continue to: 1. adhere to public health screening protocols, and 2. wear a mask throughout the duration of the worship service.
If you have questions regarding the changes to the protocol, please speak to one of the Elders.
Preparing for Christmas: Every year it still surprises me how fast Christmas seems to come – and how often I am not prepared as I would like to be. And so, in January every year I make a resolution to be better prepared next year. Even thought it sounds early, now is the time when we have to make decisions about how we will engage this Christmas season and how we will ensure that we focus our efforts and attention on what matters most. One of the practices that I am going to suggest is making the commitment to be present for worship at each of the 4 Sundays of Advent. I expect that the continuity of worship, through what is often a busy and hectic time, will create a space and make room to welcome the Christ child and fill you with the peace, love, hope and joy of the season.
——————————————————————————————————————————-Knox Presbyterian Church Sixteen
Service of Worship
Sunday, November 21, 2021
Hymn # 433: All creatures of our God and King
Hymn # 449: Lord, listen to your children praying
Hymn # 528: Jesus Calls us here to meet him
Hymn #775: Sent forth by your blessing
1 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;
2 your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.
3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
4 More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,
more majestic than the waves of the sea,
majestic on high is the Lord!
5 Your decrees are very sure;
holiness befits your house,
O Lord, forevermore.
Scripture: John 18:33-37 (NRSV)
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”
Reflection: Thy Kingdom Come
We prayed this morning … in the same way that we do every time we gather.
Our Father who art in heaven hallowed by thy name …
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done …
On earth as it is in Heaven …
This morning let’s spend a few moments reflecting on that for which we are praying …. that the Kingdom of God will come.
So what is the Kingdom of God for which we are praying? ? Is it the same as the Kingdom that Pontius Pilate represents? Or does the TRUTH lie in some other understanding? (pause)
One of the practices that we use when we engage in Bible study is to read through the passage and then to notice the parts of the passage that cause us to react – whether in an affirming or in a challenging way. As I read through this passage what struck me was the statement of Jesus that said:
If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. (or use the “of” translation)
2 things in this phrase caused strong reactions: The first was that God’s Kingdom was not here – which meant that it was someplace else. And the second phrase, that was even more startling and troubling was that if it was, that if God’s kingdom was here on earth, that his servants would fight to prevent his arrest. Perhaps you can appreciate my angst? It is almost like Jesus is saying … I’ll not fight you here Pilate, but enter onto my turf and then you’ll get a beating!
As I spent time considering the passage from this perspective, these observations appeared to contradict what I have interpreted as the mission and the method of Jesus. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, wasn’t the message that leapt off the page and set my heart to humming. Rather, what appeared on first reading was that the Kingdom of God was no different that the Kingdom of Rome … Jesus was just biding his time until he had the upper hand … and then all hell would break loose! (pause)
You may be thinking … “OK Pat, you seem to have taken this one to the extreme.” And this morning I would have to agree with you. I too believe that such an interpretation would be an incorrect one. However, with that said, a couple of ideas to consider: the first is the concept of Gnosticism, the second is the theory of a just war and the third is the power of collective hate. Each of these concepts arose out of humans grappling with the trails of their lives; each provide real and practical solutions to the dilemmas of life; and each, when taken to, what some considered their logical extension, landed finally in very different places than where they began.
Gnosticism is a collection of religious ideas and systems which originated in the late 1st century AD among Jewish and early Christian sects. These various groups emphasized personal spiritual knowledge – gnosis – above the orthodox teachings, traditions, and authority of traditional religious institutions. You can see how these early Christians, like ourselves, understood the importance of a robust spiritual live including prayer and seeking for deeper connection with God.
However, the extension of this belief led to an understanding that material existence was flawed or evil, which led to their interpretation that salvation came through direct knowledge of the supreme divinity in the form of mystical insight. You can imagine that many Gnostics may have read this passage as proof that Jesus also saw that this world was flawed and that the primary objective of faith was to escape from it. In fact, early Gnostics believed that it was Jesus who brought this knowledge into the world as a messenger of the Supreme Being. They believed that Jesus was divine, but since the flesh was evil, he wasn’t really incarnate. Gnostics believed him to be a purely spiritual being who came to save souls from their entrapment in bodies. Jesus appeared to have a body, but they believed that he didn’t; Jesus seemed as if he was crucified and died, but he really wasn’t and he didn’t. The slippery slope of Gnosticism led to a belief that the material world was irredeemable and the belief that all that mattered was escaping from our human reality. (pause)
The just war theory postulates the belief that war, while it is terrible, is not always the worst option if it is conducted in an honorable fashion. And what could be a justification for war? Important responsibilities, undesirable outcomes, or preventable atrocities would make a war just. In the shadow of Remembrance Day, where we gave thanks for the sacrifices of those who died to protect the freedoms that we enjoy, it is easy for us to appreciate that there are times where war may be required for the safety and protection of our society and way of life. However, the slippery slope of expansion led to the concept of a pre-emptive strike in the cases of imminent threat… which led to the extreme position that was espoused under US President George Bush who broadened the meaning to encompass preventive war as well, in which force may be used even without evidence of an imminent attack to ensure that a serious threat to the United States does not manifest or grow over time. Perhaps you can see how the possibility of abuse and misuse can arise from such a position. (pause)
Research published recently in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has revealed that hatred toward collective entities inspires meaning in life. Researcher Addo Elnakouri postulated what any casual observer of human nature recognizes: that many prominent cultural figures and political movements gain a lot of steam when they have a clear, identifiable enemy that they are fighting against.Hatred, he contended, might be a powerful motivating force. Having someone to hate might energize people giving people a clear purpose against a worthwhile enemy—in other words, a life full of meaning.
Elnakouri, appears to prove something that we know to be true. That when people rally together for a common cause they find meaning and purpose – whether that purpose is to tear down for the benefit of one group over another or if that purpose is to lift up for common good: food drives are but one example of how people rally against the common enemy of poverty. But even seemingly good things when taken to the extreme lead away from the Kingdom of God. Consider the times throughout history where a group blame their collective problems or ascribe their sins onto the weak, the marginalized or the different … and then vilify them. This is what we understand as systemic racism and is the basis of scapegoating where the innocent are persecuted so that the group can feel good about themselves. It is better for one person to die than for a whole nation to perish. (John 11:50)
Perhaps you can appreciate how each of these examples, that emanate from certain interpretations of this passage, seem to challenge our understanding of the message and mission of Jesus. Gnostics believed that Jesus was divine but in their extreme interpretations they dismissed the humanity of Jesus and denied the blessedness of creation. Proponents of a preemptive strike created a reason for war that was based on the fear of possible threats. And those who rally around the cry of hate toward a common enemy have created mechanism for scapegoating that are now ingrained in our societal structures. Which brings us full circle to the question of how the Kingdom of God could be envisioned.
So what is the Kingdom of God for which we are praying? Is it the same as the Kingdom that Pontius Pilate represents? Or does the TRUTH lie in some other understanding?
Let us suppose that when Jesus says If my kingdom were from this world, then my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. He meant for Pilot, and for us, to understand it in a different way.
Sometimes when we use different words, we can hear their meaning in a different way. Listen now to an interpretation of the conversation between Pilate and Jesus.
Pilate, If I were a King in the way that you believe a King should be, then my followers would fight to rescue me. However, the Kingdom of God is not a place that espouses violence to overcome violence and I am not a King who behaves in the way that you believe a King should act. The Kingdom of God is a very different place than the Empire of Rome.
And where does this Kingdom exist? In this world or in some other place?
“Certainly, in some other place,” we can hear Jesus say, “but also in this present time and this present place.”
And how does your King rule over his subjects?
“In the Kingdom of God, he who would be King does not rule over his subjects. In the Kingdom of God the strong serve the weak.” Pilot I was born for this! My message has been healing, inclusion and love and my mission is to shine a light on the injustices that marginalize the weak, the outsider and the poor. In this way all people will be redeemed and saved.
And you can imagine Pontius Pilot uttering the words … “Truly your Kingdom is not of this world.” Meaning that the Kingdom of God is different from the Kingdom of Rome. And that the Kingdom of God exists in a different way ….and that those who belong to the Kingdom of God have a different understanding of what a King is and how they should respond as subjects of God’s Kingdom.
And you can image Jesus offering to Pilot the invitation that he offered to all he met, “You too can become part of the Kingdom of God … follow my voice, serve others, seek the truth.”
“What is truth?” retorts Pilate as he leaves knowing that Jesus is innocent and that by handing him over to the Jews that he was making Jesus the scapegoat: a common enemy for all of them to hate together. (pause)
So what is the Kingdom of God for which we are praying? Different, I expect, than the Kingdom that Pontius Pilot represents. However, can we truly imagine what it would be like? And are we so fearless that we are willing to make the changes necessary in our world to make the Kingdom of God a reality?
As we end our reflection today, I would like to share with you a contemporary interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Perhaps in hearing it we may draw closer to the truth, … and that for which we are praying, may become that much more of a reality.
Let us Pray
Eternal Spirit, Earth Maker, Pain Bearer, Life Giver,
Father and Mother of us all,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Loving God, in whom heaven and earth reside.
The hallowing of your name echoes throughout the universe!
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
For the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In the times of temptation, strengthen us.
From the trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
May the way of your justice be followed by peoples of the world!
May your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
May your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
Eternal Spirit, Earth Maker, Pain Bearer, Life Giver,
we pray for your Kingdom of justice, mercy and love to come. Amen