Materials for Worship on Christ the King

Rachael writes: Our readings on this Feast of Christ the King offer glimpses of the future. The prophet Jeremiah (23.1-6) describes how God brings all the remnant flock back to the fold where they no longer have reason for fear or dismay. Saint Paul in his letter to the Colossians (1.11-20) assures them of rescue from darkness and their share in the inheritance of the saints of light, with Christ in whom all things are reconciled. Saint Luke records in his gospel (23.33-43) that even in death Christ was offering mercy and hope to those who asked for it. I wonder which of these images resonates with you?

Today, many people will be singing Wesley’s great hymn O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing:

O for a thousand tongues, to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life and health and peace.


A character in the detective novel I’m reading at the moment referred to their society as “a rowboat society”. “What do you mean?” someone asked him. “We move forward while always looking back,” he replied.

Immediately I thought what a perfect description that is of the Church. We are absolutely a rowing boat kind of people. We move forward at a variety of paces but really love to look back to what has gone before. Back to saints and the early church. Back to Christ. Back to the prophets; back to David, and Moses, and Abraham. Back, even, to the very beginning of all things.

Looking back like that can be a brilliant thing. It can show us where we’ve come from, that we’re still in the right lane, and if we’ve done that portion of the race then we can surely manage the next part set before us.

But today is the day in the Church calendar when we look over our shoulder and take a proper look at what is to come ahead, at where we’re going: towards Christ the King. Through whom and for whom all things were created. Who is before all things and holds all things together. Through whom all things are reconciled.

Or as the criminal on the cross beside him put it: “paradise”.

The irony is that Jesus never claimed the title of King for himself. In fact, as we heard in our reading, it was a title used to mock him. Jesus, however, is not the kind of King the world expects. He is the Prince of peace, the Light of the world, the Word become flesh. He didn’t seize dominion or battle for power but rather gave up everything. He set aside the essence of his God-ness to be with us and absorbed in himself all the terrible destructiveness of the human world, to establish a different world order and a new way, so that we might be with him in paradise.

This is the day in the year which gives me hope that one day Christ himself shall rule the earth with justice and righteousness and peace and love. That one-day there will be no reason for fear or dismay. That there shall be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering. I look over my shoulder and I think yes!

If I’m going to keep rowing through the apathy, the misery, the commercialism, and individualism, of this world, I need to know, not just where I have come from but what I am headed for. I could just sit in my boat and let the current move me along until eventually I’ll get there. Or I could row. By the grace of God and gift of the Spirit I could row, choosing a different way and seeking to see that paradise in this world, in this life. That paradise which is manifested in how I speak to people, how I care for my neighbour, how I pay my employees, how I use my position on the board of trustees, how I raise my children and teach my grandchildren. In how I pray and how I hope.

We can all row, knowing where we’ve come from but also with the sure and certain hope of looking Jesus, Christ the King, the Light of the World, full in the face as he says, “today you will be with me in paradise”.

We pray: Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in the kingdom of your well-beloved Son: mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, now divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Perhaps you’d like to sing or pray these closing verses of our hymn:

He speaks; and, listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive,
the mournful broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.

My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim
and spread through all the earth abroad
the honours of thy name.