20th November 2022 – Christ the King Eucharist

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22 11 20 Christ the King Eucharist

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The Readings

Jeremiah 23. 1 - 6

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Luke 23. 33 - 43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Revd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes

Jeremiah 23.1-6 and Luke 23.33-43
Like most vicars I get a lot of post from different charities. Magazines and appeals and reminders
about campaigns. One of the organisations that I hear from is the Jerusalem and Middle East Church
Association. It supports the work of the Anglican Church in the Middle East and I’m one of its
trustees. A few years ago, I received a copy of its winter magazine and on the front of it was a picture
of Michelangelo’s Pieta. It’s his sculpture of Mary cradling the body of Jesus after he had been taken
down from the cross. The sculpture is in St Peter’s basilica in Rome. It’s a very beautiful and powerful
work. But what gave the front page of the magazine its real power was that it was placed next to a
modern photograph. A picture of a father in Syria cradling the body of his young son. Weighed down
with grief. Exactly mirroring the statue of Mary and Jesus.
Today we celebrate Christ the King and it would be great to have a reading about Jesus in glory.
Sitting on a throne with the world at his feet. A reading about Jesus being all-powerful and in control.
But instead the lectionary gives us a picture of Jesus at his most vulnerable. On the cross. About to
die. It’s a bit hard for us to get our heads around. This does not fit with any ideas we have about
kings. And this is late November. The last Sunday of the church’s year.
We’re about to start getting ready for Christmas. And suddenly we are sent back in the Bible tardis to
Good Friday. And left to ponder what it means for Christ our King to be dying on a cross.
When we think of kings we tend to think in terms crowns and thrones and of strength. Of armies and
power. But Jesus’ kingship is wholly other. He is completely vulnerable. He doesn’t even have the
security of knowing that God is with him in that moment. On the cross Jesus embraces vulnerability
and in him we see all those who have lost their lives in Syria, and more recently in Ukraine and in the
many places around the world where people are suffering. He is there. His kingdom encompasses all
this. Not just power and strength but failure and disaster. Through him God was pleased to reconcile
to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
In 2013, Colm Toibin’s book The Testament of Mary was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It’s a short,
rather bleak account of that Mary might really have thought about her son going to the cross. And
though it does not have any of the joy of the resurrection it makes some important connections
between what Mary must have gone through at the crucifixion and the suffering of our world. As she
remembers standing at the foot of the cross, Mary recounts:
He was the boy I had given birth to and he was more defenceless now than he had been then. And in
those days after he was born, when I held him and watched him, my thoughts included the thought
that I would have someone to watch over me when I was dying, to look after my body when I had
died. In those days if I had even dreamed that I would see him bloody, and the crowd around filled
with zeal that he should be bloodied more, I would have cried out as I cried out that day and the cry
would have come from a part of me that is the core of me.
Mary is in anguish because of her son’s vulnerability. But Jesus embraces this vulnerability and
invites us to be vulnerable too. He invites us into his kingdom. Not just the parts of us that we would
take to a royal garden party. Not just our Sunday best. But the whole of our lives. The broken messy
parts as well. He invites all of us into his kingdom.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with someone who has just come out of prison. Strangely, they
said, prison had been the best thing that could have happened to them. They had been trying to keep
things together. Trying to present their Sunday best to the world. But then it all fell apart and they
ended up in jail. And in prison they couldn’t pretend any more. They had to be honest with
themselves and with other people. And start again.
And they told me that chapel was a really important part of starting again. And that it was important to
quite a lot of the other inmates too. Outside prison they might have been thought a bit unusual for

going to church but inside it was an accepted thing to do and many prisoners went to services and
Bible studies. And they shared their testimonies and read the Bible and prayed for each other.
And this person I was speaking to said that the most powerful thing that happened to him while he
was in prison was that someone came from the Salvation Army to take a service. And they took a
crisp £10 pound note out of their wallet and asked how much it was worth. £10 came the reply. Then
they screwed it up in a little ball and asked again how much it was worth. £10 came the reply again.
Then they threw it on the floor and stamped on it and asked again how much it was worth. Still £10.
That’s you said the preacher. You may feel screwed up and stamped on at the moment. But in the
eyes of God you are still worth exactly the same as you ever were.
I remembered that story when I read our Gospel today. Jesus words to the criminal crucified with him
always touch me. Even when he was in agony on the cross. Even when God the Father seemed to
have abandoned him, Jesus is able to reach out to someone who is the lowest of the low in worldly
terms. To someone who believed themselves to be guilty and deserving of punishment.
This criminal sees that Jesus is innocent. He sees Jesus’ kingship even though no one else seems to
be able to. Even though Jesus is being mocked. This man asks Jesus to remember him when he
comes into his kingdom. And Jesus replies with those amazing words, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will
be with me in Paradise.’ Jesus’ kingship is one of love and welcome. It is inclusive in a way that the
world can never be. It is not dependent on rank or wealth or education but on faith. Anyone who
recognises Jesus as their Lord and king is welcome in his kingdom. Jesus’ invitation to us is the same
as it was for that criminal hanging on the cross. You too will be with me in Paradise. Amen.




The Prayers

Let us with confidence present our prayers and supplications to the throne of grace.

We pray for all those in positions of power,
that they may govern with wisdom and integrity,
serving the needs of their people.
May your kingdom come;
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for the Church, the sign of your reign,
that it may extend your welcome to people of every
race and background.
May your kingdom come;
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for Christians of every denomination,
that together we may come to understand
the royal priesthood you bestowed on us in baptism.
May your kingdom come;
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for those whose commitment to truth
brings them into conflict with earthly powers,
that they may have the courage to endure.
May your kingdom come;
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for this community of faith,
that attentive to your word
we may always worship in spirit and in truth.
May your kingdom come;
Lord, hear our prayer.