Sunday, November 26th 2023 The Feast of Christ the King Kingdom Season 4
One of the most important and meaningful symbols in the early church was the image of ‘Christ Pantocrator’, the all-powerful and all-knowing God who sees all things, knows all things, and judges all things as the supreme ruler and judge of the entire universe. The image can usually be seen high up in the curved apses of most eastern-orthodox churches directly above the altar where it depicts the glorified Christ seated on his throne from which he judges both the living and the dead with one hand raised in blessing, and the other holding the ‘Book of Life’ in which the deeds of each and every one of us, both good and bad, are recorded (Revelation 20:12).
It is a striking image of divine authority in which the penetrating and seemingly inescapable gaze, deeply furrowed brow, and stern mouth of Christ can instil feelings of both reverence and fear. No wonder then, that St Augustine wrote, ‘very rarely, no never, does it happen that someone comes to us with the wish to become a Christian who has not been struck by some fear of God’ (On Catechizing the Uninstructed 5.9, 400 AD). The image of Christ Pantocrator offers us an antidote to the mawkish and over sentimentalised depiction of Jesus as ‘The Good Shepherd’ much beloved of Victorian surrealist painters and hymn writers such as Christina Rosetti. The soft-hued and often delicately outlined features of Christ the Good Shepherd have done much to diminish the godly fear or reverence in which Jesus as ‘The Christ’ was held by early Christians, and I do think that the modern tendency to emphasize the notion of Jesus as our ‘friend’ or ‘brother’ have done great disservice to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of just who the historical Jesus truly is.
There is a reason why those who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane ‘drew back and fell to the ground’ when he answered ‘I am he’ when told whom they had come for (John 18:6), because the words ‘I am’ or ‘I am he’ contain the very essence of his divine identity, not only as the good shepherd of the sheep (Ezekiel 34:11), but as the almighty and all powerful creator of the universe who will not only separate the sheep from the goats, but the good sheep from the bad sheep, as the one whose name is above every name, and to whom all authority, dominion and power have been given not only in this age, but in the age to come (Ephesians 1:21).
Collect and Readings for Sunday the 26th of November 2023.
God the Father,
Help us to hear the call of Christ the King, and to follow in his service,
Whose kingdom has no end.
For he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever.
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Be For thus says the Lord God. I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice…
… Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
Please pray for:
Those who labour under the weight of unrepented sin, that they would have godly sorrow and turn to Christ for forgiveness. Pray too that we all prepare spiritually for the penitential season of Advent and the coming of our King!
This Week’s Events
Bell ringing at 7.30pm in St Laurence. Contact Jan for more information on 07835 461361.
Zoom In Morning Prayer on Tuesday at 9am. Meeting ID: 748 9970 4493
Password: Trinity or contact Didier on [email protected]
Daytime Bible Study Group contact Paula on 07803 942 687 for more information.
Evening House-group contact Jo on 07803 942 687 for more information.
Wednesday (Day of Prayer for Missionary Work in the Church)
Morning Coffee from 10.00-11.45 in the St Laurence Room.
Midweek Holy Communion on Wednesday at 12 noon in St Laurence Church.
Thursday (The Apostle Andrew)
Friday (Charles de Foucauld, missionary and hermit, 1916)
Junior Choir at 6.30 pm followed by full Choir Practice at 7.30pm. Do contact Derry on [email protected] if you would like to join in this term.
3rd December, Faithfully LGBTQI+ MK Eucharist, 3pm St Laurence Church.
3rd December, Advent Carol Service, 6pm St Laurence Church.