21 November, Christ the King Sunday

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The Faith Nurture Forum would like to thank Jessie Fubara-Manuel, Associate Minister of South Leith Parish Church; Minister of The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria; and PhD candidate, World Christianity, at New College, University of Edinburgh, for her thoughts on the Christ the King Sunday.

Weekly Worship, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, is for everyone – in any capacity – who is involved in creating and leading worship.

It provides liturgical material that can be used for worship in all settings. Our writers are asked to share their approaches to creating and delivering this material to equip leaders with a greater confidence and ability to reflect on their own worship practice and experience and encourage them to consider how this material might be adapted for their own context.

We would encourage continual reflection on the changing patterns of worship and spiritual practice that are emerging from disruption and how this might help identify pathways towards development and worship renewal.

We may not all be gathered in the same building, but at this time, when we need each other so much, we are invited to worship together, from where we are – knowing that God can hear us all and can blend even distant voices into one song of worship.

Introduction

Today is Christ the King Sunday, or The Reign of Christ Sunday. It is set aside to reaffirm the Kingship of Christ as lord over all of life, in time and in eternity. On one hand, this Sunday marks the end of the ordinary time in the Christian calendar, commemorating the normality of God's care and protection as integral to the life of the church. Within the Reformed tradition, the sanctuary paraments and clerical stoles are green, representing the survival, growth, and flourishing of the church in God's providence. On the other hand, Christ the King Sunday ushers in the beginning of a new Christian year that points us to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as Lord and King. For this Sunday, the paraments would be white, an expression of the purity and sanctity of Christ elevated and celebrated.

This Sunday also marks the week commencing the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. The 16 Days of Activism is a United Nations campaign that begins on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. It began in 1991, established by women activists to challenge the world for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the campaign. With its theme, ‘From Awareness to Accountability,' the campaign calls us all to self-evaluation about what actions we have taken to speak out against and stop all forms of abuse for women, for girls, and by extension for all persons. The World Council of Churches, other church denominations and Christian organisations have adopted this campaign to raise awareness about and call for appropriate action against the vicious circle of gender-based violence. The Thursdays-in-black (TiB) campaign is one of such strategies to end gender-based violence.

Christ the King Sunday provides an apt opportunity to consider the reign of Christ in the context of violence. The United Nations estimates that one in three women experience gender-based violence, often perpetrated by known persons, such as family members, intimate partners, or friends. A 2018 UN study also found that women with disabilities face up to ten times more incidents of gender-based violence than women who do not have disabilities. With COVID-19, these numbers have gone up significantly. The UN now refers to domestic and gender-based violence as a ‘shadow pandemic.' COVID-19 restrictions are easing; but physical and sexual violence continues to be perpetrated against women and girls. Both victims and survivors suffer psychological, emotional, and mental trauma, with systems of justice often in favour of the perpetrators. Often, the victims are asked ‘what did you do?' or ‘what have you done?', just like Pilate asked Jesus in our gospel reading of John 18. The implication was that Jesus must have done something to warrant being betrayed and victimised by those closest to Him.

Therefore, Christ calls us to be accountable to those who are unable to defend themselves as well as those who seek justice from all forms of violence and discrimination. 2 Samuel 23 verses 4 and 6 provide a vivid differentiation between justice and injustice. Justice is like the "light of the morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, or gleaming from the rain on the glassy land," while injustice is akin to "thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand." Psalm 132 urges us to seek ardently the eternal reign of Christ in righteousness and justice as a form of worship. Revelations 1 reminds us that as King, Christ, the pierced one, comes to us loving and liberating all who would receive Jesus by faith. These passages, which form our readings for today, help us look to Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the Almighty as the King who restores justice and dignity for all.

It is usual practice in my church congregation to call on people to take different aspects of the service. In preparing this weekly worship, I prayerfully spoke with friends and asked one to contribute some prayers as indicated in the prayer section. I consulted the with personnel at the World Council of Churches, Geneva, for current information about the 16th Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence as well as information about Thursdays-in-Black campaign.

In each of the passages below, I have provided some background information to the readings as well as my personal reflections. I hope these would further facilitate the process of identifying thoughts that resonate with your contexts, as sermons and reflections are being prepared. I use the Africa Bible Commentary (2) as a resource in preparing sermons or biblical reflections, because I like its practical application in its commentaries. I often read the Bible verses several times over many days from different translations such as the NRSV, The Good News Version and the New International Version before beginning to write. I try to tease out the theme for the Sunday to make it relevant to the congregation, but always mindful that with livestreaming, many other people outside my immediate congregation may listen in or join in worship.

[2] Adeyemo, Tokunboh, Solomon Andria, Kwame Bediako, Isabel Apawo Phiri, and Yusufu Turaki, eds. Africa Bible Commentary. Second edition. Nairobi, Kenya: WordAlive Publishers, 2010.

2 Samuel 23:1-7

This passage provides a poetic rendition of some of the last words of David. Within the African context, as in many contexts, the last words of an aged dying person are usually taken very seriously. Often, it is a reminiscence of the person's past, lessons learnt, and advice for the future. Here David takes stock of his life, his relationship with God, and his rule as king of Israel. Verse 1 describes David as the "oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favourite of the Strong One of Israel." But he is also the "son of Jesse," a simple young shepherd boy that God chose to be King of the great nation of Israel. Here we are reminded of the everlasting covenant between God and David that would be extended to David's descendant, hence the expectation for justice from the Kings of Israel.

In verses 3-4, and 6-7, the writer gives a graphic picture of the difference between two rulers – the godly and the ungodly or the just and the unjust. The godly, who rules justly with the fear of God is "like the lighting of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land." The ungodly, on the other hand, "are all like thorns that are thrown away; for they cannot be picked up with the hand; …they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot." The preference is for the just and not the unjust.

David did not always act justly or in a godly manner. David's past was not always pleasing to the Lord; he was not always the model citizen who radiated like the sun on a cloudless day. David's image will always be tainted by his murderous affair with Bethsheba (2 Samuel 11), and the complacency with which he handled the rape of his daughter Tamar by his son Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-22). These incidents would hurt David and would nearly end his reign in shame (2 Samuel 15). Perhaps, it for these reasons that David paints a picture of what justice should look like, or more specifically what his house should be with God (2 Samuel 23:5). It is probably why, on his death bed, he challenged the Israelites to a better way of being as people who fear God and who seek to maintain an everlasting covenant with God.

David's life is a vista of many possibilities – of a just world where the fear of God enables justice and dignity for all. How is a just world possible? How might we ensure that our homes, churches, and nations live in the fear of God? To what extent can we overcome the mistakes of our past to envision and live out a better future? Perhaps we can imagine the sun on a cloudless day in Scotland and imagine the beauty of justice for all.

Psalm 132:1-12

This passage provides a good sequel to our reading and reflection in 2 Samuel. In the opening prayer, we find here what could be interpreted as a close relationship between David and God. David asks the Lord to remember "all the hardships he endured." We recall that the road to the throne was not a particularly easy one for David. From being a fugitive on account of Saul's pursuit of him, to battles with his enemies, within and without his kingdom, to almost being deposed by his son, Absalom.

Amid these difficulties, there is an urgency in David to do something for the Lord, because of which, he would not sleep. "To find a place for the LORD," referred to in verse 5a, could be either David's desire to build a house for the Lord (2 Samuel 7) or the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6/1 Chronicles 15). Whichever is being referred to here, it was to be an act of worship in righteousness and joy as stated in verse 9, "Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your faithful shout for joy." Righteousness is regarded as integral to justice (Amos 5:24). To live righteously is to act justly to God's people everywhere. Put conversely, acts of justice to God's creation are acts of worship to God.

More importantly, relevant to today's theme, is the reaffirmation of God's covenantal promise with David that his descendants would be kings of Israel. This is expressed in verse 11, "The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne." Starting with Matthew's gospel, the New Testament is filled with confirmations of Jesus as descendant of David, in fulfilment of God's promise. Matthew 1:1 reads "an account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Luke 1:32:31-33 provides more information about the kingship of Jesus, linking it appropriately to David as the ancestor of Jesus. The Angel said to Mary:

"And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

Jesus is a worthy king. He fulfilled the condition set in Psalm 132:12, to keep God's covenant. The gospels are replete with the stories of Jesus's drive for justice for the oppressed, restoration of dignity for the abused, and healing for the sick. Jesus, as king and saviour, fulfilled the prophesy in Isaiah 61:1-2:

"The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, […] he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; […] to comfort all who mourn."

The challenge for us is how we might carry on the legacy that David longed for, a world of justice and righteousness in which Christ reigns as King.

Revelation 1:4b-8

Revelation 1:4b-8 appears to be the peak of our passages for this Sunday's reflection on Christ as the Eternal King. While we read the book of Revelations as an apocalyptic book (considering the future), we cannot miss the uniqueness of these verses for the present. For not only does the writer refer to historical facts, but there is also a confirmation of prophesies concerning the work of Jesus Christ as King and Saviour. It focuses on who Jesus is, what Jesus has accomplished on behalf of the believer, and what Jesus will do in the future. Added to this is the identity and role(s) for the Christian believer.

In verse 5a, Jesus Christ is introduced as the "faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth." Verse 5b clearly states what Christ has done for the world as Christ is described as the "one who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood", while verse 6 expresses what the believer is by virtue of the believer's relationship with Jesus Christ: "made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

To what extent should our ‘priesthood' be informed by the fact that the one who is our King and Chief Priest was ‘pierced' yet loves and frees by the shedding of blood (the testimony of suffering)? How does the piercing (suffering) of Christ resonate with the suffering of many in the world, especially the abuse of women and girls? What hope does it give the believer that in verse 8, Christ self-identifies as "‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Until Christ returns (verse 7), Christ demonstrates that all things from the beginning (alpha) to the end (omega) are under the control of Christ the King. What sort of service is Christ asking of or giving to the believer, who has become a member of Christ's kingdom? (Verse 6b).

Revelations reiterates what we shall see in our passage of John 18:33-37; that the kingdom and dominion of Jesus Christ is not given by this world, and that it is a kingdom that would endure for ever and ever. It is an eternal kingdom. Christ rules over the kings of this world. This calls us to be cautious of unjust dictates by the systems of this world. We can look to Christ, the King who was pierced and who calls us to act justly so we can give good account on Christ's coming.

John 18:33-37

The aim of the gospel of John is clearly stated in the last verse of its last Chapter. John 20:31 states, "But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name." The question of Jesus' divinity, who Jesus was, what Jesus represented, and why Jesus was on earth fills the entire book. When Jesus appeared before Pilate, the first question was about the kingship of Jesus. Pilate asked Jesus in verse 33, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

In the preceding verses, Jesus had been arrested following the betrayal by Judas, one of the disciples. The Jewish religious leaders who ordered the arrest had questioned Jesus. Peter, one of Jesus' close disciples had denied Jesus. And now, Jesus was being quizzed by the Roman Governor. It is possible that Pilate had heard about the life and ministry of Jesus. It is possible that he had heard Jesus being called the ‘king of the Jews.' Perhaps Pilate wanted to know what being king of the Jews meant and how that infringed on his authority as Governor under Caesar. Interestingly, Nathaniel, in John 1:49, had said to Jesus, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel."

Pilate's second question, however, is the strange one. He asked Jesus, "What have you done?" Pilate had literally mocked Jesus, saying that the people who had betrayed, arrested, and handed Him over to be tried were Jesus's own people. ‘What have you done?', is the question that victims can struggle to answer after they have been abused, raped, or violated. As with the first question, Jesus did not attempt to answer. Probably, Jesus knew that no victim ever got justice trying to vindicate themselves. Instead, Jesus points Pilate to the realm of His kingdom as one that has its origin and content from above. With Pilate's third question, "So you are a king?" Jesus answers in the positive. Jesus was a king and His role as King was to "testify to the truth." The truth is Jesus Christ, as stated in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Jesus points Pilate to the fact of His kingship, which is not just one of power, but of truth; the reign of one who had suffered abuse, pain, and death.

The passage demonstrates that we can come to Christ the King as one who endured injustice in both religious and political spaces. We can come to Christ whose trust was broken by those closest to Him, but who triumphed as the truth. The passage also challenges us to critique how we might be faithful to relationships and just to all people.

Sermon ideas

In arriving at sermon ideas, I always tend to read the passages for the day and see how they connect to one another. I ask myself: What are the highlights of the lectionary passages? How do they relate to the theme or current events? What passages should I use, and which ones do I not need to use now? What should be the main thrust or controlling thought for my sermon or reflection? For today, the central theme is worship of Christ as King, and the implications of that worship for Christians – for justice as integral to worship and as ambassadors of the King.

The theme of worship of the King or recognition of the Christ as King runs throughout the readings for today. If we are called to be priests in Christ's kingdom, how might our worship influence actions of justice for the whole of humanity? Worship is not limited to the church, it is integral to our lives as Christian believers, and continues in our personal everyday situations.

David's last words in 2 Samuel 23:1-7 reiterate the need for justice as something profound and significantly life-changing. How can we talk about justice as a form of worship, recognising that righteousness without justice is a misnomer? Justice and worship are mutually inclusive and effective when done in awe and fear of God. Psalm 132 supports this theme of worship by creating an atmosphere where we worship in righteousness and joy. It is possibly this sense that is in Psalm 133:1, "how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!" People who are abused do not know joy; they do not experience good or pleasant kindred-ship. How might our worship recognise the pains of those who suffer and empower all to reclaim their full humanity in Christ?

John 18:33-37 and Revelations 1:4b-8 carry the theme of the town crier who announces the kingship of Jesus Christ. It is a proclamation of Christ as King. Pilate does so indirectly, providing Jesus with an opportunity to ascertain Christ's eternal reign that is beyond but over this world. Revelation provides the descriptive names for the King, who was pierced, yet loves and frees. Christ is the "Alpha and Omega, the Almighty." Hebrews 4:14 assures us that Christ our high priest has been tested in every respect, so understands us, in our pain and suffering. It is this High Priest, who is also King, Saviour, and Redeemer that the proclamation is made for us to look to. A brief background surrounding the crucifixion may be necessary to set the tone of Christ's rise to kingship. Critical to this proclamation is our place as members of Christ's kingdom to act on behalf of the king in this world as ambassadors (Matthew 25:31-46). If we say that Jesus Christ is King, what is our obligation as we come into the King's court to worship?

Alternative Approaches

For adults – Contextual Bible Study (CBS)

CBS is a Bible Study methodology that engages with the text of Scripture in ways that resonate with the experiences of the readers. It allows an engagement between the biblical and contemporary contexts that connect the Bible with present day realities. In discussing, rather than merely answering, given questions, CBS provides a safe and open forum for participants to embody a passage of Scripture and initiate a response. This could be an alternative for an activity within the week for churches that have mid-week events. It could provide ideas for reflections or sermons (3). I have found the CBS methodology useful for both adults and young people.

Discussion Points and Questions for CBS on John 18:33-37: Jesus is brought before Pilate
  1. Read the Bible passage out loud. Have one or two persons retell the story in their own words.
  2. Who are the main characters in the story and what do you know about them?
    • Who are the ‘others' that Jesus referred to in Verse 34?
    • Pilate says in verse 35, ‘your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me.' What did he mean?
    • Try to name all the people and groups mentioned by Jesus and Pilate in this interrogation.
  3. Why do you think Pilate repeatedly asked Jesus if Jesus was the king of the Jews?
    • What do trials look like in your context? How different it is from Jesus' trial before Pilate?
    • What do you think of Jesus's responses to Pilate?
  4. Pilate asked Jesus, ‘what have you done?' Does this line of questioning seem strange or not?
    • What other question could be asked?
    • What does this question indicate in the face of gender-based violence such as rape, domestic violence, or acts of discrimination?
  5. Where do you see yourself in this story? Do you know anyone facing unjust trial? Do you know any woman or girl, or anyone being abused or oppressed? Do you feel called to do anything within your context and influence?

[3] A resource manual for doing Contextual Bible Study is available for download.

For children

This could be used for Messy Church, young children with different learning needs as well as children's groups in the church. These art works may be done at work, as COVID-19 restrictions may still inhibit close contact. Virtual Art Time for Children is also a possibility.

Hands in Solidarity (Handprints in Solidarity)

Solidarity is one empowering way of supporting people who suffer gender-based violence or any kind of abuse. Knowing that they are not alone, that they are not blamed, but supported, is one key to overcoming stigma. Handprints also indicate expressions of friendship. Young people could create handprints in solidarity with women and girls in abusive circumstances. Participants may write their names on their handprints if they so desire. Handprints could be given as gifts to members of the church, where possible, (COVID restrictions permitting), as reminders for all to be in solidarity with those who suffer.

Materials:

Cardboard paper

Washable paints and brushes

Alternative readings for young people from the Dramatised Bible

John 18:33-37, Jesus is brought before Pilate

Narrator: Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus

Pilate: Are you the King of the Jews?

Narrator: Jesus answered

Jesus: Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?

Pilate: Do you think I am a Jew? It was your own people and the chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done?

Jesus: My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!

Pilate: Are you a king, then? (Pause)

Jesus: You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.

Perry, Michael, ed. The Dramatised Bible. London: Marshall Pickering and Bible Society. 1990, 238-9 (New Testament section) (Jesus is brought before Pilate)

2 Samuel 23:1-7: David's last words

Narrator: David, son of Jesse was a man whom God made great, whom the God of Jacob chose to be king, and who was the composer of beautiful songs for Israel. These are David's last words:

David: The spirit of the Lord speaks through me; his message is on my lips. The God of Israel has spoken; the protector of Israel said to me.

Voice of God: The king who rules with justice, who rules in obedience to God, is like the sun shining on a cloudless dawn, the sun that makes the grass sparkle after rain.

David: And that is how God will bless my descendants, because he has made an eternal covenant with me, an agreement that will not be broken, a promise that will not be changed. This is all I desire; that will be my victory, and God will surely bring it about. But godless men are like thorns that are thrown away; no one can touch them with bare hands. You must use an iron tool or spear; they will be burnt completely.

Cast: This is the word of the Lord.

All: This is the word of the Lord.

Perry, Michael, ed. The Dramatised Bible. London: Marshall Pickering and Bible Society. 1990, 301 (Old Testament section) (David's last words)

Prayers

The prayers are based on Psalm 24, 132, and Revelation 1:4b-8. This is to enable the entire service to stay close to the day's themes as much as possible, while being flexible enough to be used in differing contexts. I never have a fixed style for prayers. Often, I come to it as I feel prayerfully led during my preparations. Sometimes, like with the Call to Worship, I pick verbatim verses from the Psalms, rephrase some portions of a Scriptural verse, or as with the Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession, use a free-flow style. I like to write my prayers, though I may not always read it at the time of praying. Writing my prayers form part of my preparation. Depending on the duration of the service, I may read a couple of verses for Call to Worship, or simply say the Call to Worship (‘Come let us worship God'), instead of the responsive Psalm. If leading the entire worship, I usually would ask a colleague or member of the congregation to offer a prayer or read a Scripture. Thanks to Reverend Nicole Ashwood, Programme Executive, Just Community of Women and Men, World Council of Churches, for contributing the Gathering Prayer and Prayer of Confession.

Call to worship (Psalm 24:7-10)

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors!
That the King of glory may come in.

We lift our hearts in worship, Come O eternal King

Who is the King of glory?

The Lord, strong and mighty,
The Lord, mighty in battle.
We lift our hearts in worship, Come O empowering King

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors!
That the King of glory may come in.

We lift our hearts in worship, Come O redeemer King

Who is this King of glory?

The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.
We lift our hearts in worship, Come O Christ our King

Gathering/Opening prayer

Hallelujah to You Oh LORD our King, You are robed in majesty
and girded with strength.
For establishing the world through Your decrees
which are very sure;

We praise Your name, O Lord our King

You are the God who is and who was and who is to come,
who reign over all that come before Your throne,

We praise Your name, O Lord our King

Lord Jesus Christ, our Faithful Witness,
the Firstborn of the dead,
and ruler of all.
You put to right the wrongs against Your children,

We praise Your name, O Lord our King

For loving us and freeing us from our sins by Your blood,
and making us kingdom priests and priestesses
serving God our Sovereign,

To You be glory and dominion forever and ever

Jesus, You are the "Alpha and the Omega,"
the Almighty; rescuing widows, orphans, and those in bondage;
reigning in victory,
coming in the clouds.

To You be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen

Prayer of confession

Loving God on this day we celebrate Christ as King,
yet we fail to let Him reign in our lives, our thoughts and deeds.
We spout vain words – of worship, honour and adoration
while in His name we conquer, impose dominion and injustice,
To God be the glory we say, and Christ be our sovereign.
but we lash out in anger when others do not do as we say.
Imposing views on holiness, living the King's way;
and far too often we do not make time to pray.

On others we impose our own will, not Yours
especially on the weak, the poor, the vulnerable.
We design rules to satisfy ourselves, our wants, our desires
and in Jesus' name we declare some less human than others.

Lord we have wronged You, Forgive us we have sinned.
Help us begin again, to love again, to live again
the Faith we espouse, and to espouse the Faith that we live.

Caring for others, not counting the cost,
righting the wrongs that selfishness brings
Lord may our lives once again point the way
to You the Good Shepherd, and Your paths of Peace
where abuse is unheard of, and Jesus is King.

Prayer of thanksgiving and intercession

Loving God,
It is such a blessing to be in Your presence
To offer our worship and praise
To listen to Your word
And to respond to You in the various ways You enable us to
And to know that wherever we are, You are with us
Receive our thanks.

Gracious God,
We thank You for the gift of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ
In whom we live and move and have our being
For the gift of life, of family, of friends
For our church community
And the many ways we connect with one another
We give You thanks.

Almighty God,
We thank You for the embrace of Your love
Your unfailing faithfulness and kindness
For Your care, protection, and provision
For the continuous assurance
That You are in control of this world
We thank you, Oh Lord.

Merciful God,
You know too well
That we worry and have fears
That sometimes doubts and apprehensions seem to overwhelm us
Often, our faith is little or there is none,
Yet you call us to come to You
Your ears are open to our prayers
Hear us now, O Lord

We pray for all who suffer
To all for whom this global pandemic is a daily nightmare
For the sick, for those who care for the sick.
For those whose jobs are affected
And who worry about the next meal or how to be safe
For those battling with loneliness and isolation.
Lord, be our healer, our provider, and our abiding presence.

We pray for all who continue to live with injustice
Whose lives are filled with violence and abuse
Those who face discrimination and are treated unfairly
Those who ask, how long before there is relief?
Those who are asked ‘what did you do?' instead of ‘how can we help!'
Lord, please grant that Your Spirit will move us to collective actions of love and care.

We pray for those in authority
As they make tough response decisions concerning the COVID pandemic
As restriction rules become more complex
And political alliances threaten social action
And health care workers and health systems become over-stretched
Lord, be our wisdom, our strength and guide.

We pray for Your church,
Help us to find new ways of being a community
Where all are truly and honestly welcome
Where our liturgies do not leave out anyone
Where we are relevant to old and new generations
Lord God, make us Your disciples indeed.

We pray for ourselves
Give us a heart that trusts You completely
Grant us grace to do what is right, to fight for justice, and to speak up for those who cannot do so for themselves.
Give us thankful hearts
Heart that would see You in everyone, and welcome all as we would welcome You
Lord, help us to mirror You.
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen

Blessing/Closing Prayer (Psalm 132:1-12)

You have worshipped in the presence of your King.

We rejoice, and we are glad

Your hardships have been remembered, you have received God's favour

We rejoice, and we are glad

You have made your hearts a dwelling place for the mighty One of Jacob.

We rejoice, and we are glad

You are clothed with righteousness and empowered with justice

We rejoice, and we are glad

Your King reigns for ever, the Son of David, the Son of God.

We rejoice, and we are glad. Amen

Alternative Material - focus on COP26

The General Assembly has endorsed the ‘Five Marks of Mission', which includes the commitment to Christian mission, "To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth." Care for the environment continues to be a core part of what it means to be a Christian, and in the context of the climate crisis our response as the Church of Scotland will be a demonstration of our commitment to working for the integrity of creation. As we approach the COP26 international climate summit being held in Glasgow in November 2021 we invite congregations, ministers and worship leaders to reflect on and communicate the following ideas:

  • The urgency and gravity of the situation, as highlighted by the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was described as a ‘code red for humanity', and the acknowledgement that the climate and biodiversity crisis not only represent a failure of our stewardship of God's creation but that the precipitous decline in global ecosystems threatens the wellbeing of billions of lives dependent upon them
  • The role of faith, communal worship and prayer in helping to shape our attitudes and behaviours, including to continue to have hope even (or especially) when a situation is difficult, and in particular to have the chance to remember the situation of sisters and brothers all over the world suffering from the impact of global heating
  • The practical decisions the Church has taken for itself, including to disinvest from fossil fuel companies and setting the church on a pathway to Net Zero carbon emissions by the year 2030
  • The importance of decisions by governments from countries around the world to set more ambitious carbon reductions targets, for rich countries to be generous in the sharing of wealth to support poorer nations affected by loss and damage caused by the changing climate, and for an end to government subsidies and investment in fossil fuel businesses
  • How to support young people within and outwith the Church through the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) to raise them up and let their voices be heard

For further resources on COP26 activity from Church related organisations visit

Suggestions for hymns around the theme of care for creation and COP26

For further information about what the Church of Scotland is doing in relation to COP26 and carbon reduction, please email faithimpact@churchofscotland.org.uk

Musical suggestions

Our online music resource is on the Church of Scotland website; you can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship. You will also find playlists for this week and liturgical seasons and themes on the Weekly Worship and Inspire Me tabs.

You can find further musical suggestions for this week in a range of styles on the Songs for Sunday blog from Trinity College Glasgow.

  • CH4 129 – "The Lord is King! Lift up thy voice" – this hymn, as well as 127 and 448, could serve as the opening hymn. They introduce the theme of the kingship of Jesus and call the congregation to worship.
  • CH4 127 – "O worship the King, all glorious above"
  • CH4 448 – "Lord, the light of Your love is shining"
  • CH4 459 – "Crown him with many crowns" – suitable before the sermon. It is an invitation to participate in the crowning of Christ as King for righteous living and a just world.
  • CH4 470 – "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun" – suitable for the introit or the music, without the lyrics could be played as hymn for reflection after the sermon. This interlude gives the congregation a moment to think about the sermon.
  • CH4 770 – "I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice" – suitable for reflection after the sermon or teaching.
  • CH4 449 – "Rejoice! the Lord is king" – I think this would fit well as the last hymn. Worship is integral to all of life. Psalm 132 speaks about the worship with shouts of joy. It is also a song of hope, that through the violence and pain, it is okay to rejoice because Jesus Christ is king over all the earth.
  • CH4 824 – "Amen siakudumisa" – could provide a playful milieu for a recessional hymn or postlude.

For services that are live-streamed, quiet organ music would do well as the camera shows the inner sanctuary. Sometimes, allowing the chatter as people come into the church could give a welcome connection between those worshipping in the sanctuary and those online.

Hymns for children

For the children's hymns, there is an intention to have ‘action songs' where there is some movement and some sound such as clapping, moving around or even jumping to the songs. The use of musical instruments is recommended for children and young peoples' songs. Some verses from the following could be considered for children and young people.

  • CH4 38 – "God mounts his throne to the shouts of joy" (All you peoples clap your hands)
  • CH4 185 – "Come, children, join to sing"
  • CH4 106 – "Bring to the Lord a glad new song" (stanza 1)

Reflecting on our worship practice

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the way we worship has changed and we need to reflect on the changing or newly established patterns that emerged and continue to emerge as a result of the disruption.

We can facilitate worship for all by exploring imaginative approaches to inclusion, participation and our use of technologies in ways that suit our contexts. This is not an exhaustive list, but some things we could consider are:

  • Framing various parts of the worship service in accessible language to help worshippers understand the character and purpose of each part. This is essential for creating worship for all (intergenerational worship) that reflects your community of faith.
  • Holding spaces for reflection and encouraging prayer to be articulated in verbal and non-verbal ways, individually and in online breakout rooms
  • In online formats the effective use of the chat function and microphone settings encourages active participation in prayer, e.g. saying the Lord's Prayer together unmuted, in a moment of ‘holy chaos'
  • While singing in our congregations is still restricted, we can worship corporately by using antiphonal psalm readings, creeds and participative prayers
  • Using music and the arts as part of the worship encourages the use of imagination in place of sung or spoken words
  • Use of silence, sensory and kinaesthetic practices allow for experience and expression beyond regular audio and visual mediums.

The following questions might help you develop a habit of reflecting on how we create and deliver content and its effectiveness and impact, and then applying what we learn to develop our practice.

  • How inclusive was the worship?
    Could the worship delivery and content be described as worship for all/ intergenerational? Was it sensitive to different "Spiritual Styles"?
  • How was the balance between passive and active participation?
  • How were people empowered to connect with or encounter God?
    What helped this? What hindered this?
  • How cohesive was the worship?
    Did it function well as a whole?
    How effective was each of the individual elements in fulfilling its purpose?
  • How balanced was the worship?
    What themes/topics/doctrines/areas of Christian life were included?
  • How did the worship connect with your context/contemporary issues?
    Was it relevant in the everyday lives of those attending and in the wider parish/ community?
    How well did the worship connect with local and national issues?
    How well did the worship connect with world events/issues?
  • What have I learned that can help me next time I plan and deliver worship?

Up-to-date information for churches around COVID-19 can be found in our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice for churches section.

You can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship in our online hymnary.

You can find an introduction to spiritual styles in our worship resources section

You are free to download, project, print and circulate multiple copies of any of this material for use in worship services, bible studies, parish magazines, etc., but reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Please note that the views expressed in these materials are those of the individual writer and not necessarily the official view of the Church of Scotland, which can be laid down only by the General Assembly.