Reign of Christ–November 21
An Intergenerational Service
for Reign of Christ Sunday
November 21, 2021
Lectionary Texts: 2 Samuel 23:1-7, Psalm 132, Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37
This liturgy includes several strategies to engage the whole congregation in reflecting on what it means to think of Christ as a monarch. Other strategies for engaging congregants of a variety of ages and learning styles may be found at the end of this service.
Most Americans do not have a first-hand experience of a human monarchy. The United States was founded as a democratic alternative to monarchic power structures. Nonetheless, the vestiges of monarchy are a part of our sacred and secular literatures. Many fairy tales, children’s books, and fantasy novels feature kings and queens, princes and princesses, and literary conventions dictate that a happy ending will feature the ascent of a good monarch and a royal wedding. American children dress up as princes and princesses, living out a simplified ideal in which monarchs have all the privileges but none of the responsibilities of rule. Various media keep Americans abreast of the activities of the British figurehead monarchy, who have come to be stripped of both the power and the responsibility of lawmaking, but retain economic privilege and social responsibility. Yet neither of these modernized monarchies should act as models as we celebrate the reign of Christ.
In the ancient Near East, a very different monarchal ideal prevailed: one of divinely ordained just rule. We see this reflected in 2 Samuel 23:3. It is further exemplified in the Royal Psalms (2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 101, 110, 132, 144), one of which we read today, and later in the life of Christ. This ideal suggests that a monarch is divinely chosen to represent God’s reign on earth, and as God’s representative is the offspring of God. God’s representative is not chosen to exploit this privilege, but rather to serve both God and the people over whom the monarch rules. A king or queen is quite literally a public servant, who, like God, protects and speaks up for the poor and disenfranchised when others would exploit their powerlessness. A monarch who rules justly in this way is God’s own. Many rulers claimed to fulfill this ancient ideal, but fell sadly short. As we recover from the election season, we are painfully aware that public servants today continue to fall short of the ideals we set forth for them and even those they set forth for themselves, not to mention those of God’s sacred just rule. They will continue to do so, but in claiming and celebrating the reign of Christ, we perpetuate the ideal of just rule and hold it up as a standard to which we all can aspire. Like the early Christians who proclaimed that Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord, we can proudly state, “Jesus is my public servant,” and seek to follow his example of leadership, rather than the flawed human examples that surround us. We are all children of God, and in the ways we interact with others, we can work toward a just rule in which each of us is a true public servant.
HYMN Eternal Christ, You Rule TNCH 302
CALL TO WORSHIP Psalm 132 TNCH pg 711
To make this call to worship more accessible to pre-literate or visually impaired congregants, introduce the sung response before you begin, introducing a gesture you will make that will cue their response, “Let us go to God’s dwelling place!” If this practice is new to the congregation, practice this call and response a few times before beginning.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
You who rule over all of us with justice and care,
We your people confess that we do not submit ourselves to your rule,
That we do not always participate in your reign of equity and integrity,
That we have not followed the example you set forth.
Instead we often place our trust in leaders who let us down,
And in our own flawed leadership of others.
Lead us, Christ our Sovereign,
And set us on the path to righteous rule in all that we do. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Leader: We who are dependent upon our divine ruler
have Christ’s example ever before us,
to give us guidance and hope.
Take heart that you are forgiven
and may return to that example again.
HYMN My Heart is Overflowing TNCH 15
MULTIGENERATIONAL SERMON ACTIVITY
Making the balance required for just rule concrete for worshipers of all ages
Note: Ask your church musician to provide quiet background music during this activity to encourage patience in the participants.
A Multigenerational Sermon Activity is an interactive activity that can introduce, conclude, or be integrated in a sermon so as to encourage a more embodied experience for people of all ages. It may also be used as a children’s sermon, but is most effective when broad participation is encouraged.
Title: Hanging in the Balance
This is an art/craft activity. Participants will be making mobiles. When introducing manual activities such as this, it is important to remember the generational multitasking divide that exists for many Americans. Younger generations often listen better while their hands are busy, while older generations focus more easily on one thing at a time. Of course, within generations, individuals have varying attitudes toward multitasking. Therefore, you can discern whether your congregation would prefer to work on this project while you are speaking, after you have spoken, or have the option to do either or both.
Making a mobile requires many large and small adjustments to keep the many pieces in balance, an experience similar to that we are exploring and celebrating today. To make mobiles, provide congregants with dowel rods or wire hangers, string or twine, notecards or card stock paper, pictures of a variety of people from magazines or the internet, scissors, hole punches, and markers or colored pencils. Several weeks ahead of time, you can ask congregants to begin gathering these things from home. They may wish to bring photocopies or print-outs of photos of family members as well. With these materials, each person or small group of people will make a mobile, balancing the hanging images of a variety of people who have differing needs and desires. As or before they do this, talk about the responsibilities of a monarch to hold many people’s needs and desires in balance. Encourage them to think about the just reign of Christ, asking themselves whose needs and desires they hold in balance in their lives and how they can aspire to a Christ-like exercise of their power and their care for people from their biological families to their local church, school, and work, to their world community. Encourage participants to share their work with others nearby.
CALL FOR THE OFFERING
Christ our sovereign and servant sets forth a just and compassionate domain
in which the needs of the vulnerable and the powerful hang in righteous balance.
Let us share what we have as we work toward Christ’s reign here on earth.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Righteous ruler, accept all that we have offered to you.
May these gifts we gather participate in your realm of truth.
HYMN O Holy City, Seen of John TNCH 613
As you enter your own domain today,
remember Christ’s reign of justice and compassion,
setting it before you as an example now and always.
Just Rule, An Intergenerational Liturgy for Reign of Christ Sunday, was written by the Rev. Dr. Laurel Koepf Taylor, Eden Theological Seminary, Saint Louis, Missouri.
Copyright 2021 Faith INFO Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.
5 Ways to Welcome Children in Worship
The Rev. Dr. Laurel Koepf Taylor
Engage the Senses
Your worship service already engages multiple senses in more ways than you realize! Emphasize this and come up with more ways of creating active, multisensory worship that will be authentic to your congregation’s worship style. Doing this will welcome children as well as a wider range of adults!
Provide Sabbath Toys
When we think of Sabbath Toys, we usually think of our Puritan roots, when children were only allowed to play with Noah’s Ark on Sundays. Revive this old tradition with a twist! Provide soft toys that follow the liturgical seasons or the theme of the day’s worship so that children’s play will be a part of the community’s worship, not a distraction from it! Biblical felt pieces or a pictorial worship bulletin are simple ways to get started.
Go Beyond Children’s Sermons
We communicate our welcome of children in worship most clearly in the liturgical actions we value most in our tradition. Invite children to take lay leadership roles in worship and make sermons accessible through conversational style, team preaching, sermon activities, and preaching illustrations that appeal to a variety of life stages.
Encourage Church Family
Extended families rarely live close to one another anymore but people still need intergenerational relationships and support. Church is a great place to provide this! Members of the extended church family who wish to experience spiritual renewal by worshipping with a child can volunteer to give tired parents a break on Sunday morning. Be sure to oversee this practice in a way that complies with safe church policies.
Include Children in the Full Life of the Church!
Adults and children will be more tolerant and loving of one another if they know each other as people. Encourage children’s participation in church life and create opportunities for friendships to grow across generations.