Welcome to worship with the
Barwon Heads & Ocean Grove congregations
This service was streamed live via Zoom on November 21st at 10:30am
Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use. Even though public worship is once again available in the church buildings, the service continues to be streamed live for people who cannot be at church. Those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions. If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church.
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“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
CALL TO CELEBRATION
L: Today is the end and climax of the Christian year. Today we indulge ourselves in a holy nonsense which is in fact the most beautiful truth: we celebrate the festival of Christ the King, or more politically correctly, the Reign of Christ. He had no troops and built no palace, yet his rule is now boundless. He had no throne and wore no crown, yet as a king he is on his own. The truth, grace and peace of Christ the King be with you all!
R: And also with you.
L: The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty;
R: The Lord is clothed, he has girded himself with strength.
Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.
R: The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.
L: The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.
R: Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns your house, O Lord, forever.
PRAYER OF AWARENESS
In all our living, may we be freed to see things afresh,
to be more fully alive, and have the courage to keep faith in the future of humanity.
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Reflection “The Web of Life” by Robert T Weston
Each knows a little corner of the world, and lives as if this were his all.
We no more see the farther reaches of the threads
than we see of the future, yet they’re there.
Touch but one thread, no matter which;
the thoughtful eye may trace to distant lands
its firm continuing strand,
yet lose its filaments as they reach out,
but find at last it coming back to him from whom it led.
We move as in a fog, aware of self,
but only dimly conscious of the rest
as they are close to us in sight or feeling.
New objects loom up for a time, fade in and out;
Then, sometimes, as we look on unawares, the fog lifts
And then there’s the web in shimmering beauty,
reaching past all horizons.
We catch our breath; stretch out our eager hands,
and then in comes the fog again, and we go on,
feeling a little foolish, doubting what we had seen.
The hands were right. The web is real.
Our folly is that we so soon forget.
In this time of silence may we move from busy-ness to quietness. God of life, God of peace, God of wonders that will not cease, present with us now (30 seconds silence)
REFLECTING UPON OUR RELATIONSHIPS
L: Humble king of love, your grace reaches through races and nations, neither favouring the righteous nor despising the uncouth; Lord have mercy
R: Lord have mercy.
R: Christ have mercy.
L: Humble king of love, you find us in our wandering and save us from all that would cut us off from the light of God; Lord have mercy.
R: Lord have mercy.
L: God of great mercies, we confess our sins to you, knowing that you see our need much better than we do. Please forgive not only the sins we recognise, but also the many to which the culture in which we live may have blinded us. Uncover any private subterfuge, reprove our compliance with community evil, and bring us again into the blessed state of grace. Through Christ Jesus our Redeemer.
L: Family of God, it is not your fate to carry burdens of guilt, or to be obsessed with painstaking yet vain self-justifications. There is no one who pardons more completely than our God, and no Saviour whose peace is sweeter than that of our Christ. Receive into your heart and mind the rejuvenating life of the Holy Spirit, for the door to life has been opened for us.
R: Thanks be to God!
FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – Dan.7:9-14
9 “I watched till thrones were put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire;
11 “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.
12 As for the rest of the beasts,
they had their dominion taken away,
yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
13 “I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like a Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.
FROM THE PSALMS – Psalm 133, 134
A 21st century exploration by Rev. Dr. Francis Macnab from
A Fine Wind is Blowing.
The psalmist looks for a united and better humanity. How different the world would be if people everywhere would live and worship together!
Our human scene is constantly disrupted by discordant views and divisive behaviour. People take up positions they firmly believe are right and lose respect for people who have taken up other positions.
How different the world could be if people could live together and worship together. That would be like the magnificent transformation of the hills after a heavy downpour of rain.
In such a dialogue of togetherness the best humanity would emerge and we would see something of what life is really about. Everyone would lift their hands in prayer and celebration.
Come all of you searchers of this higher purpose. Come and find that blessing of the God who is Source and Substance of this hope for our world.
FROM THE EPISTLES – Revelation 1: 4b – 8
4b Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him, even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – Jeremiah 23:1-6
23 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. 3 “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord.
5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
6 In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:
FROM THE GOSPELS – John 18:33-38
33 Pilate went back into the palace and called for Jesus. He said, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?”
34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?”
36 “My kingdom,” said Jesus, “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 Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.”
37 Then Pilate said, “So, are you a king or not?”
Jesus answered, “You tell me. Because I am King, 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, recognises my voice.”
38 Pilate said, “What is truth?” Then he went back out to the Jews and told them, “I find nothing wrong in this man.
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS
“Between the Already and the Not Yet: The Saga of the Not Yet King”
“Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18: 33)
Two men were living on a houseboat. One night, while the men were sleeping, the boat broke loose from its mooring and drifted into the open sea. One of the men got up in the morning before his mate and, going out on deck, noticed that there was not land in sight anywhere. Excitedly, he called to his mate, “Joe, get up quick; we ain’t here any more!”
Changes take place, as if overnight, for all of us. How often have we read the morning paper to discover that we ain’t here anymore. As we have slept, the world has passed from the past into a new present – completely outside of our control.
Some people fear the changes which the new present brings; for they often require effort to adjust to them. Sometimes the change is from a time of tranquility into a crisis. But our Old Testament authors and those to whom they wrote longed for the new present. Because for them it was a time of crisis which they wanted to hurry up and end. For Jeremiah’s people it was the exile in Babylon and they longed to return home. For the audience of the author of Daniel, it was freedom from the persecution of the Greek ruler, Antiochus IV or ‘Epiphanies’ as he was known.
These people were caught in the ‘Between’, and they didn’t like it. I’m sure that everyone of you can identify with the between feeling, for that’s where most of life is led: between jobs, between semesters, between appointments, between flights, between paycheques, between deadlines, and more commonly these days, between spouses.
Professional sportsmen say that the worst part of their lives is between games. Actors and actresses have fallen into alcoholism and drug dependency because of that awful, empty time between performances. ‘Between’ is a dangerous place, fraught with anxiety and weariness. In the Hebrew Scriptures we read of people trapped between the saving acts of God which they remembered in their history and the future promise of peace and prosperity in their homeland.
The Book of Revelation introduced to us the notion of the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, which is, of course, God who is and who was and who is to come. The Bible holds for us the message that life is like the books between two bookends: the already and the not yet. It is by faith in the God whom we know from our past and hope in the promise of the God who is to come that we can make it through the ‘between’ time. When that sense of the past is lost and when a hopeful anticipation of the newness of the future is not exercised, the ‘between’ cannot easily be handled.
Given the huge percentage of its 4000-year history that Israel was under foreign rule (all but about 600 years), it is not surprising that a common description of the hope for the future was in terms of a king whom God would bring on the scene to lead the people out of frightful between-time. This hope became one of the major themes interpreting the concept of a messiah, an earthly political ruler who would liberate the nation.
The reading from Jeremiah conveys the messiah-king theme: “See, the days are coming when I will raise a virtuous branch for David, who will reign as true king and be wise, practicing honesty and integrity in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel dwell in confidence.”
The author of Daniel likewise talks of the end of the reign of Antiochus and of a new king: “And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man…On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship.” (Dan.7:13)
When Jesus came upon the scene, the nation’s expectations of a new king were raised. Pilate, amid the messianic fervour that surrounded Jesus, asked him, “Are you King of the Jews?”, meaning, “Are you a political ruler who will challenge the power of Rome?”
We have tended to read those Old Testament passages which refer to the Messiah King, and assume that Jesus was the one whom they had waited for. We celebrate the last Sunday before Advent as the Realm of Christ Sunday (formerly known in less politically-correct days as Christ the King Sunday), as though the Hebrew Scriptures had accurately predicted an event which has since come to pass, and we are at the end of the ‘Between’ time.
But I think that before we celebrate like the Palm Sunday crowds did, we need to do a bit or reality testing. A story is told of a Hasidic rabbi who moved to Palestine. He wanted to be on the spot in case the Messiah arrived in his life-time. According to tradition the arrival of the Messiah would be announced by a trumpet sound from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Some prankster heard about this and sounded a trumpet from the Mount early one morning. The rabbi, barely awake, stumbled to the window excitedly to see the redeemed world. And what did he see? A man beating his donkey. The rabbi went back to bed, muttering to himself, “I don’t have to see anything else. So long as people still beat their donkeys, the world is not redeemed.”
When Jeremiah presents us with his vision in the reading today, we have to acknowledge that people are still beating their donkeys and each other… 2000 years after Jesus. The common Jewish-Christian dream of a king of righteousness is still part of the not yet. The trumpet has not sounded. We are still in the ‘Between’.
The view out our window corresponds with the statement of Ernest Block in the The Future of Hope:
“The world is regulated by forces of opposition from yesterday and the day before yesterday. To make matters worse, the old does not want to pass away, and the new does not wish to come into being. We’re trapped in the middle.”
Often the response of the Christian to the continuing discomfort of the ‘Between’ has been to look forward to Jesus’ return. He didn’t fix things up the first time, but surely the next time round he will clean up the world. Well, if so, why not just return to Judaism and watch with Jews for the coming Messiah?
I think that Daniel gives us a clue as to the not-yet king. Daniel may be one of the most unread and misread books in the Bible for, like Revelation, it is written in that confusing mysterious style called apocalyptic. People, including some very intelligent people read that part of chapter 7 we heard today, and go away with the impression of the Son of Man coming in glory on the clouds to bring God’s judgment. But listen to the words once again:
“…I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man. He came to the one of great age and was led into his presence. On him was conferred sovereignty…” In the first place he doesn’t come on the clouds to earth from God. He comes to God. In the second place it is not THE Son of Man, but one like a son of man, i.e. a human figure, someone or something which represents humanity. We didn’t read far enough earlier to gain any more information, but if we go to the end of chapter 7 where the dream is being interpreted, we read in verse 27, “and the sovereignty and kingship and the splendours of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” Kingship is not given to one person, but the figure in the dream represents all of God’s children. We ALL receive sovereignty and kingship.
This creates quite a different concept of Jesus as King. Jesus is a king in that he accepted the ‘kingship’ which God offers, and so becomes an agent of God’s kingdom within an unjust and cruel world. For us, he is the first of many kings and queens who, in taking up the sovereignty which God gives, stand for a kingdom of justice, truth, goodness and peace that stands over the status quo against the politics of deceit and dishonesty, intimidation by force, and self-centred materialism. In Jesus we have been shown that we are lords of the ‘Between’. God has made us such. We can either let the world go its own way and suffer the consequences, OR we can take hold of the reigns and take up responsibility God has given to us and shown to us in Jesus.
God has always called his people – all of us – to be a community in transition; to move the ‘Between’, transforming the world into the community of righteousness. This is our arena yet today, where we are to be, like Jesus, co-creators and co-rulers with God, faithfully applying ourselves to the present, using the confidence which comes from the past to move toward our hope for the future.
A CELEBRATION OF FAITH
L:Beckoning Christ, you call us out of our comfortable ghetto of ‘us’ and ‘them’ to risk discipleship without walls.
R: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where God is worshipped above all other.
L: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where prayer is offered day and night.
L: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where each person has something to give to the whole.
R: You call us into a world-wide fellowship where compassion and respect shape missionary endeavour.
L: Keep on beckoning us out of our safe havens into your rich fellowship of challenge and reconciliation, faith and hope.
WE OFFER OUR CONCERNS TO GOD
L: Come to us, Healer of hurts.
R: Touch us with your fingers and we shall be saved.
L: Come to broken hearts and grieving spirits, to wild anxieties and lost sanity. Come Healer of hurts.
R: Mend us and we shall be whole.
R: Mend us and we shall be whole.
L: Come to broken dreams and painful memories, to betrayed values and lost opportunities. Come Healer of hurts.
R: Mend us and we shall be whole.
L: Come to broken wills and dried-up love, to abandoned hopes and lost faith. Come Healer of hurts.
R: Mend us and we shall be whole.
L: Healer of hurts, Lord of perfect wholeness, Come to us with your holiness; Come Healer of hurts.
R: Let our reordered lives express the beauty of your peace.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us in the time of trial, and deliver us from evil; for the kingdom and the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen
THE SENDING OUT
As we depart one from another, let our hearts be secure through every human season.
Let our hearts be secure
in seasons of anguish as in seasons of joy,
in seasons of failure as in seasons of success,
in seasons of uncertainty as in seasons of security.
Let our hearts be secure, for hearts know and understand and will respond if invited in.
May the road never seem so long to the homestead.
May the sea breeze always blow softly on your verandah.
May you always find shade from the blazing sun.
May the rain fall on your paddocks just when you need it.
Until we meet again,
God hold you in the lee of the thunderstorm.