Christ the King Sunday
(The Last Sunday After Trinity) November 22, 2009
Editor’s Note: The last Sunday of the Church year is frequently celebrated as “Christ the King Sunday.” On this day we celebrate our victorious King who has defeated our enemies, who has all power in Heaven and on earth, who is preserving us for His heavenly kingdom, and with whom we will live and reign forever in glory. This week’s Ministry by Mail meditation is in the form of a song service—a celebration of Christ the King through Scripture readings and song. We pray that it will be edifying and uplifting as it moves Your hearts to celebrate the King and Praise His Holy Name!
Prayer upon entering God’s House
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). Lord, I am glad to be here today. Open my heart to hear, and bless me through Your Word. Let the words of my praises flow from faith and be acceptable in Your sight. Fill my heart with the joy of my salvation. Hear my prayers. Cause my life to be a true reflection of You. Amen.
Pre-Service Meditation: Psalm 97
The LORD reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad! Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, and burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light the world; The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory. Let all be put to shame who serve carved images, who boast of idols. Worship Him, all you gods. Zion hears and is glad, And the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Your judgments, O LORD. For You, LORD, are most high above all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods. You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
Hymn: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty [WS 748 / TLH 39]
Praise to the Lord,
The Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him,
For He is Your health and salvation!
Let all who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Joining in glad adoration.
Praise to the Lord,
Who o’er all things is wondrously reigning,
And, as on wings of an eagle,
Have you not seen all that is needful has been
Sent by His gracious ordaining?
Praise to the Lord,
Who will prosper your work and defend you;
Surely His goodness
And mercy shall daily attend you.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
As with His love He befriends you.
Praise to the Lord,
O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that has life and breath,
Come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly forever we adore Him.
Confession of Sins
Lord God, we come before You to confess our sins which have separated us from You. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We have sinned against You in thought, in words, and in actions. We have sinned by what we have done as well as by what we have not done. We pray, asking You to forgive us for we know that Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross, and that we have redemption in His name. Restore us, lead us, and help us to amend our lives to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.
Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Your Savior, has lived a perfect life in your place. His holiness fulfills God’s Law for you. He has also died for every one of your sins. Through Christ Jesus God has declared the whole world of sinners righteous in His sight. Jesus has given the power to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of those who put their faith in Him. By virtue of the work of your Savior, Jesus, and by the authority He grants to each believer, I forgive you all of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All mankind fell in Adam’s fall;
one common sin infects us all;
from age to age the curse descends
and over all God’s wrath impends.
But Christ, the second Adam, came
to bear our sin and woe and shame,
to be our Life, our Light, our Way,
our only Hope, our only Stay. [TLH 369]
O God, my sin indeed is great;
I groan beneath its dreadful weight.
Be merciful to me, I pray;
take guilt and punishment away.
Help me to mend my ways, O Lord,
and gladly to obey Your Word.
While I here I live, abide with me;
then take me home eternally. [TLH 328]
Through today’s worship service of God’s Word and song, we seek to praise His Holy Name. God’s name and, therefore, Jesus’ name, is everything that God reveals about Himself in His Word. God’s name includes all things that we know about Him. To help us in our understanding, God does refer to Himself with specific names—God, Jesus, Jehovah, Immanuel, Christ, etc. But when we keep in mind that everything we know about Him is part of His name, it helps us understand the Second Commandment, namely, that we should not take the name of the Lord our God in vain—we should not misuse it. This means more than just not using His name to curse or swear. It also applies to how we use all that God has revealed about Himself in our preaching and our teaching and in our Christian lives. When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “hallowed be Thy name” we’re praying that the second commandment be kept, that not only do we teach and preach His Word faithfully, but that we glorify and praise Him in all that we do. We pray that all of our words and actions and thoughts will mirror His will given to us in his Word. The name of Jesus is a name which is filled with meaning and significance. So too, our praises of that name should be with meaning and significance.
The first Scripture reading is Matthew 1:18-25, in which the angel tells Joseph that the coming Savior should be named Jesus.
Jesus means Savior and it is more than just a simple “He saved us from our sin.” It comes with a recognition of understanding that to be our Savior Jesus had to live a perfect life for us, to be our Savior he had to die and endure the full punishment of Hell for us, to be that Savior He had to love us with an everlasting love.
Similarly, each of our Savior’s given names has significance. Christ, meaning the Anointed One—the Messiah—points to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was the one promised by God from Old Testament times. Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the office of the Christ.
Immanuel means God with Us and points to the fact that Jesus, God’s Son, came to be with us,. He become man and dwelt among us and He continues to abide with us.
All of this is and much more is wrapped up in the various names by which God has revealed Himself.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Hymn: How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds [TLH 364]
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
and drives away his fear.
Women and Girls
It makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
‘tis manna to the hungry soul
and to the weary, rest.
Men and Boys
Dear Name! The Rock on which I build,
my Shield and Hiding-place;
my never-ending Treasury, filled
with boundless stores of grace,
Jesus, my Shepherd, Guardian, Friend,
my Prophet, Priest, and King,
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
accept the praise I bring.
Weak is the effort of my heart,
and cold my warmest thought;
but when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.
Till then I would Thy love proclaim
with ev’ry fleeting breath;
and may the music of Thy name
refresh my soul in death!
The words with which we end nearly every Sunday service—the words of the benediction—are actually words that God gave to Moses and Aaron to be pronounced upon the people of the Old Testament at the end of their worship. It is an interesting and wonderful conclusion to worship in the Old Testament times as well as in our own New Testament times.
In the Old Testament God prescribed sacrifices, festivals, and specific ways in which the people were to worship Him. All of those rules and laws and festivals were pictures to point the hearts of the people to Jesus, our Savior and our King. At the end, God told Aaron, the high priest, to pronounce His blessing upon the people. The words of the blessing included the name, Jehovah, which we translate as Lord. Using the name Jehovah was not a mistake, not a coincidence, and not without meaning. The name Jehovah is the name for God which points to His promises, it points to the fact that our God is a God of covenant and grace, a God who loved the world, a God who sent Jesus to be our Savior. So as the words of blessing were pronounced in the Old Testament and also now, those being blessed have the assurance and confidence that it is the God of promise—the covenant God—the God of mercy who is pronouncing His blessing upon them. And Oh, how we need that blessing!
To “bless” is literally “to speak well” of someone or something. God blesses us—speaks well of us—not because of who we are for we are sinners. God speaks well of us and blesses us because of the redemption that we have in Jesus our Savior. God is able to look upon us and pronounce us righteous because Jesus redeemed us. God is able to “speak well” of us, because we are clothed in the righteousness of our Savior. By God’s grace through Christ we are blessed in marvelous ways. We are blessed with the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, but He also blesses us with all that we need in this life—all that we need for both body and soul.
The words of blessing in Numbers 6 are the Lord’s pronouncement upon us. They are not a prayer—our asking God to bless us. Rather, they are God’s almighty words pronouncing His blessing upon each one of you. The blessing that He will continue to speak well of you in His grace, to keep us as His children, to shine His face of goodness, kindness, and blessing upon you, to show you His graciousness and to keep you in peace now and forever. Our second Scripture reading is Numbers 6:22-27:
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”’ So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
Hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus [TLH 457]
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge,
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.
Jesus is the name that blesses us and is also a name for us to bless. When God blesses us He speaks well of us out of His grace and provides for our needs. When we bless Him we speak well of Him in our praise. This is not just simply words of praise, we glorify God in how we look and how we live, we glorify Him in how we look at things of this world and where our focus lies. We glorify Him when He is the center of our lives, of our heart’s affections, and all that we do. As we consider all the ways that the Lord blesses us by and through His name, each of those is a reason we have to bless—to glorify—Him.
This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Every one of the things for which we are thankful comes out of God’s grace and mercy. Every one of those things is a reason to bless Him, to praise, and glorify His name. Every time you have felt weak and have found strength, there is a reason to bless His holy name. Every time you’ve needed spiritual renewal, your faith felt as if it were tottering, and the Word of God brought you confidence that is a reason to bless His holy name. All the times that He has dried your tears, chased away fears, reassured you that yes, even your sins are all forgiven—these are all reasons to glorify and bless His name.
The third Scripture reading is words of King David written by inspiration—the words of Psalm 103. In this psalm King David recounts many of the reasons why he blessed God’s name. They are all reasons for us to also bless and glorify our Lord.
David speaks of forgiveness—God forgives our sins as far as the east is from the west. Consider that! God has totally removed our sins from us. Elsewhere God assures us that He will remember our sins no more (cf. Jeremiah 31:34)! God is so infinitely better at forgiving sins than we are. Even when we truly forgive the sins of one another, somewhere in the back of our minds, more times than not, we remember what the other person did. We may not hold it against them, we may not be bitter, we may forgive them, but we still have that memory of how they hurt us, how they sinned against us. But God says, I have removed your sins as far as the east is from the west—I will remember them no more. That is how complete God’s forgiveness is, how full and how awesome.
David compares God to a father loving his children. Just as a loving earthly father will have compassion on his children, seek nothing but the best for them, and show his love to them in every possible way, so our heavenly Father loves us with an everlasting love and has mercy on us.
God knows our frame. He is not ignorant of our weakness. He is not ignorant of our frailties. He knows us for who we are. He knows that we are sinners. He knows that we are dust and He keeps that in mind as he deals ever so graciously with us.
After listing so many things for which he blessed the Lord, King David explodes with praise and declares: “Bless the Lord Oh, my soul!” The more we meditate on all that God has given and continues to give to us and all the ways He blesses us each and every day, the more our souls will simply erupt in praise and blessing.
As you read Psalm 103, consider the things that David mentions and apply them to your own lives and feel your own heart and soul swell with thanksgiving and glory to God.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD executes righteousness And justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them. The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.
Bless the LORD, you His angels, excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Hymn: Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven [WS 742 / TLH alt, 27]
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to His feet your tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
evermore his praises sing:
Praise the everlasting King.
Praise Him for His grace and favor
to His people in distress;
praise Him still the same forever,
slow to chide and swift to bless:
Glorious in His faithfulness.
Father-like, He tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame He knows;
in His hand He gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet his mercy flows.
Angels, help us to adore Him;
You behold Him face to face;
sun and moon, bow down before Him,
dwellers all in time and space.
Praise with us the God of grace.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In Christ Jesus, the name which we honor, dear fellow citizens of His Kingdom:
We have seen that our Lord’s name is one of meaning. We know how richly He blesses us through that name, and for that reason we glorify and praise His name. Closely related to blessing and glorifying His name is giving His name honor. These words of the apostle Paul to the Philippians illustrate two things: 1) they are the verses that very plainly teach us concerning Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation. 2) But in the larger context, Jesus’ state of humiliation is really an example to show us how we are to conduct ourselves in our lives.
We first consider the teaching itself. The apostle Paul describes what Jesus did in order to be our Savior. He was true God. Paul said, “…being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” [v.6] Jesus did not consider His divinity, His Godhead, something to be held onto, something to kept only for Himself, something that He would never sacrifice or set aside for anyone. That was not Jesus’ attitude. Rather, Jesus set aside the full use of His divine power, He set aside His divine glory, and He “made Himself of no reputation” [v.7] and became a man.
When Jesus became man and walked on the earth He did not appear glorious at all. He did not walk about or appear in such a way that anyone would have ever supposed that He was true God. He took on the form of a slave. He came to this life as an ordinary human being and as one largely despised. Throughout His ministry Jesus had no home, no place to lay His head, no wealth. There was nothing about His appearance would indicate that He was the true Son of God, only His miracles and teaching did that.
He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a slave…and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” [vv.7-8] Here we find the fullness of Jesus’ state of humiliation. Not only did He become an ordinary man, but He came to die. He came to endure the things that are described in Isaiah 53. He was despised and rejected by men. He came to endure the things that fulfilled the prophesy in Isaiah—He was hit, He was spit upon, He was taunted and mocked, soldiers put the crown of thorns on His head and dressed Him in a robe all the while ridiculing and jeering Him as a king. Laughing at him and sneering at Him they said, “Hah! You who claimed you could raise the temple in three days! You who claimed to be the Son of God, come down from the cross if you are! You fraud!”
In every imaginable way, Jesus, the eternal Son of God with eternal glory, was mocked and ridiculed by His creation—human beings. Not only that, but while He was suffering He was bearing the eternal punishment of Hell for every sin. For this reason Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” During the three hours of darkness, Jesus was experiencing the equivalent of eternal damnation for every sin of every sinner. This was the goal for which He had set aside the divine glory and power. He humbled Himself to be our slave, to be the one to lay down His life for us.
But when that work was completed and because it was completed, God “highly exalted Him and [has] given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [vv.9-11]
God the Father exalted Jesus and gave Him full honor and glory as the eternal Son of God, as our Savior who has successfully redeemed us, our Victor and King who went into battle against sin, death, and the Devil and has conquered them all and given us the victory. Now, at the name of Jesus every knee bows—though not right now. There are many who still scoff and scorn Him, but on the Last Day when Jesus returns there will not be a soul who will not honor and glorify Him and recognize Him as the eternal Son of God and Savior of the world. For those who have rejected Jesus and removed themselves from Him it will be too late. They will have no choice but to honor Him because that is the truth, but it will be too late for their souls because they rejected Him during their times of grace.
That name of Jesus which God the Father Himself exalts and honors is the name that is above every name. That name of Jesus, our Savior, is the only name by which there is salvation forgiveness and eternal life. That is the name we also seek to honor, with our love and our thanksgiving for what He has done.
That brings us back to the very beginning of these verses in which Paul said: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” [vv.3-5]
Paul explained Jesus’ whole state of humiliation to illustrate Christ’s mind—His attitude. Out of His great love for us, He was willing to humble Himself. He gave up all that He gave up and suffered all that He suffered for you, for me, for all sinners. That mind of self-sacrifice, that mind of sacrificing in love, is what God desires to have us pursue.
We honor Jesus by how we live and that also includes how we deal with others. We honor Jesus when we have His mind in our hearts and minds, when we look out for others and esteem others better than ourselves, when we don’t pursue selfish ambition but seek the benefit of others, and when we follow His Word and will in all that we do.
God the Father has given Jesus the name that is above every name, the honor above all honor, and it stands regardless of what we do. But as Luther explains in his Small Catechism, “We pray that His name be hallowed, kept holy, and honored, among us.
Jesus is the name of our salvation, the name of which we boast, the name we honor to his glory. Amen.
Hymn: The Head That Once Was Crowned [TLH 219]
The head that once was crowned with thorns
is crowned with glory now;
a royal diadem adorns
the mighty Victor’s brow.
The highest place that heav’n affords
is His, is His by right -
the King of Kings and Lord of Lords
and heav’n’s eternal light.
Women and Girls
The Joy of all who dwell above,
the Joy of all below
to whom He manifests His love
and grants His name to know.
Men and Boys
To them the cross, with all its shame,
with all its grace, is giv’n;
Their name an everlasting name,
their joy the joy of heav’n.
They suffer with their Lord below,
they reign with Him above,
their profit and their joy to know
the mystery of His love.
The cross He bore is life and health,
though shame and death to Him;
His people’s hope, His people’s wealth,
their everlasting theme.
A Name in which to Thank - Offerings to the King from Thankful Hearts
A Name in which to Pray - The Lord’s Prayer
A Name with Which to Go Forward - The Blessing of the King Upon His People
Congregational Response: Amen! Amen! Amen!
Hymn: Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise [TLH 47]
Savior, again to Thy dear name we raise
With one accord our parting hymn of praise.
Once more we bless Thee ere our worship cease,
Then, lowly bending, wait Thy word of peace.
Grant us Thy peace upon our homeward way;
With Thee began, with Thee shall end, the day;
Guard Thou the lips from sin, the hearts from shame,
That in this house have called upon Thy name.
Grant us Thy peace, Lord, through the coming night;
Turn Thou for us its darkness into light.
From harm and danger keep Thy children free,
For dark and light are both alike to Thee.
Grant us Thy peace throughout our earthly life,
Our balm in sorrow and our stay in strife;
Then, when Thy voice shall bid our conflict cease,
Call us, O Lord, to Thine eternal peace. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.