The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury

November 21, 2021
9:30 am



Almighty ever-living God, it is your will to gather up all things in your beloved one, reigning in the universe in the power that is love, mercifully grant that the whole of creation, freed from slavery, may serve and praise you through Jesus Christ who is alive with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

PRELUDE                   “Royal Oak”               James Edmond


Come! Behold the reign of Christ,
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the dew on the grassy land.
Come! Behold the reign of Christ,
a power that shall not pass away and a love that will never be destroyed.
We belong to the reign of Christ,
the Alpha and Omega, who was, and is, and is to come.

HYMN No. 363          “Rejoice, the Lord Is King!”                        vs. 1-3

1 Rejoice, the Lord is King! 
Your Lord and King adore!
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,
and triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart; lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

2 Our Savior, Jesus, reigns,
the God of truth and love;
when he had purged our stains,
he took his seat above.
Lift up your heart; lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

3 His kingdom cannot fail;
he rules o’er earth and heaven;
the keys of death and hell
are to our Jesus given.
Lift up your heart; lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!


Come, people of God, let us confess our sins. Let us confess how we have fallen short of God’s plans for us. Come, to the font to be redeemed. Let us come to the waters of our baptism to be cleansed.


You, God, are our one and only King. We beg your forgiveness for the other “kings” that we kneel before: money… power… gossip… self-righteousness… racial privilege… We beg your forgiveness, we who are broken and torn apart by our own doings and un-doings. Guide us to be your servants. Lead us to trust in you as the only king we need. Direct our faith in your sovereign power as we strive to follow your Son, through the power of your Holy Spirit, we pray.  Amen.

Silence is observed


We have done wrong to God our king but the good news of the gospel is this: God has chosen mercy over vengeance. Together, through the waters of our baptism, we have been cleansed of our sin and are redeemed as beloved servants of a merciful King.
Alleluia!  Amen!

RESPONSE No. 363, v. 4                  “Rejoice, the Lord Is King!”

Rejoice in glorious hope! For Christ, the Judge, shall come and gather all the saints to their eternal home. Lift up your heart; lift up your voice! Rejoice, again I say, rejoice! 


Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”

ANTHEM                   “Thanksgiving”                     John Ness Beck


(all children will remain in the sanctuary)


Holy God, creator of all that is and is to come, you made the world and called it good. We thank you and praise you, for we have wreaked havoc on your good creation, yet you promise to make all things whole and live among us in joy and peace. Keep us watchful for Christ’s coming, enliven our hope, and support us through the birth pangs of your new creation, that we may welcome you with songs of praise. Amen.

SCRIPTURE               John 18:33-37

33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’


He doesn’t look like a king.  More like a car accident victim.  Or someone who went one too many rounds with Rocky Balboa in the boxing ring.

Whether you call this last Sunday before Advent “Christ the King Sunday” or “Reign of Christ Sunday,” there is a kind of delicious irony to be savored in this snippet of John 18.  After all, we celebrate this Sunday precisely because of our Christian belief that Jesus is the King of kings.  He is the fulfillment of the covenant made with David to forever have one of his heirs sitting on the cosmic throne.  When Handel’s oratorio Messiah is performed and played umpteen times across the upcoming holiday season, those who belt out the words “King of kings and Lord of lords” in that oratorio’s famed “Hallelujah Chorus” will be stating the quintessence of the gospel: namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

Jesus is King.

But in John 18, we encounter that King in a most compromised and humble station.  Hands bound behind him, his lip split and his cheek puffy from where one of the high priest’s officials had whacked him— Jesus looks nothing like a king.  Meanwhile he is being interrogated by a man who did possess at least some of the outer trappings of worldly power and might.  Pilate was no doubt arrayed in his governor’s attire with a entourage of other well-dressed associates at his beck and call and with armed soldiers standing by also at his command.

Pilate looks the role of a king-like figure.  And as such, he’s vaguely bored with this little sideshow that the Jews were foisting upon him.  Pilate’s schedule was probably chockfull of appointments and meetings and P.R. appearances as it was.  The last thing he had time for was this pathetic little man who was alleged to be a royal pretender, a usurper of Roman authority, a would-be “King of the Jews.”

For some reason this man from Nazareth (who looked about as threatening as ______________________________________) had his compatriots all stirred up.  They did see him as a threat but couldn’t quite bring themselves to get rid of him on their own and so were looking for a little outside (Roman) help to make it all official.

It was the last thing Pilate needed that day.  So there Pilate was sitting behind his marble desk, idly drumming his fingers on his ink blotter.  He barely even looked up at Jesus as he distractedly asked, “So, are you the king of the Jews or what?”  He stifled a yawn while awaiting the man’s response.

The man’s reply made Pilate look up after all: “Is that your own idea or did someone else tell you that about me?”  Since this Jesus guy was in no position to be cheeky, the answer took Pilate aback.  It also made him about burst out laughing.  Of course, someone else had told this to Pilate because no sane person looking at this Jesus would tumble to the conclusion he was a kingly figure!  So, Pilate tells Jesus that he knows full well this charge came from others and so then asks, “So just what did you do that got your peers all shook up about you?”

“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus says.  Were it a court of law today, the lawyers for the other side would surely arise and say, “Objection!  Move to strike—answer is non-responsive!”  And they’d be right: Jesus’ reply was a non-sequitur.  And yet what it indicated was that Jesus was no threat to the powers that be in this world.  If he were, a pitched battle would already have been fought to prevent Jesus’ arrest.  But he did not resist arrest and was apparently not going to resist anything at all.  The kingdoms of this world really had no need to mess with Jesus, and Pilate senses this pretty keenly.  This man may or may not be a nut case but he clearly was not gunning for Pilate or Herod or the Caesar and so . . .

“People who know the truth listen to me,” Jesus says in the end.  And though the Lectionary grinds us to a halt at verse 37, even moderately literate biblical readers know (and so cannot help but hearing) what comes next as Pilate says “What is truth?”

Was Pilate being cynical?  A relativist?  A postmodern philosopher 2,000 years ahead of his time?   Was he being flippant or ironic?  It’s hard to say.  As some have pointed out, Jesus did not answer Pilate’s “What is truth?” question, maybe in part because Jesus was the truth.  The Truth was standing right in front of Pilate and so what more could The Truth say?

But maybe we can hear in Pilate’s question the desperate pleading that all people make eventually—or at least a great many people arrive at a point in their lives when they just wonder “What’s it all about anyway?  What is the truth?  What is the secret of life?”  Our human attempts to answer those questions typically lead us in the direction of this world’s Pontius Pilates: the rich, the powerful, the beautiful, the well-dressed and upwardly mobile types to whose rising stars we gladly hitch our aspiring wagons.

But the “truth” of John 18 tells us that’s all backwards.  The truth of that scene in Pilate’s office is that the beat-up, dirty, handcuffed man who spoke softly and confusingly really was the King of kings.  The upside-down nature of the kingdom—and of the gospel—is on lyric display in this “Christ the King” / “Reign of Christ” passage.  “What is truth?”

Well, it’s not what you think it is.

The secret of life, the way to life everlasting, and the true path to shalom turns away from the Pilates of the world and in the direction of the humble man from Nazareth who was even then preparing to sacrifice himself for all.

As Jesus goes on to say in verse 37, he is a king.  But altogether too many people then and now would say “I don’t want to be a citizen in any kingdom of which some loser like that is the king!”  In a week we begin Advent once again and for a few weeks, all the world is OK with the idea of God’s Son coming to the world in a form of a baby.  Babies are so cute.  But what we tend to forget is that baby grew up to be a man who impressed very few people who judged him by his outward appearances alone.

And it all comes to a head here in John 18 when Pilate rolls his eyes over this disaster of a human being standing in front of him and responds with the incredulous question: “Are you the king of the Jews??!!”

Yes, he is.  Blessed are those who see the truth and enter, by grace alone, the kingdom of light.  Blessed are those who can say “Jesus is King” without snickering, without irony or eye-rolling but with the sincere conviction that they are in touch with The Truth —the King of Kings—the Lord of Lords—the one whom we should bend a knee before —Jesus Christ!

Commentary and liturgy provided by Scott Hoezee, Leonard Vander Zee, David Lose, and Karoline Lewis

*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH            from A Brief Statement of Faith (PCUSA)

In life and in death we belong to God. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel, whom alone we worship and serve. We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed and blessing the children, healing the sick and binding up the brokenhearted, eating with outcasts, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised this Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal. With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

*HYMN No. 643                    “Now Thank We All Our God”

1 Now thank we all our God
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things hath done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who, from our mothers’ arms,
hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

2 O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us in God’s grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
in this world and the next.

3 All praise and thanks to God,
who reigns in highest heaven,
to Father and to Son
and Spirit now be given:
the one eternal God,
whom heaven and earth adore,
the God who was, and is,
and shall be evermore. 


Oh Jesus,
You are the King of Glory,
You are the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.
And we pray that your Kingdom will reign forever in our hearts and in this world.

Lord, we pray for your Kingdom to come here now,
bringing a kingdom of justice, righteousness, hope, love,
peace, mercy and grace for all.
Lord, we ask that you rule in our hearts,
lead in this world and govern over your kingdom.

But Lord honestly,
We often have our own plans and agendas
and we want to be rulers of our world.
Forgive us for those times.
And Lord we live in a time that would rather idolize the King of Pop
than worship you.
Help us to know how to live as your Kingdom People in these times.
And Lord there are a lot of Kings in this world who terrorize, over tax, humiliate,
over exploit, and abuse those they are to lead.
Help us to spread the good news of the different kind of King you are.

Lord, thank you for being a different kind of King.
Thank you for your goodness and kindness in our lives.
Thank you for your generosity.
Thank you for loving us.
Thank you for your Kingdom that is unlike any
Kingdom in this world.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.


The flowers in the sanctuary are given in the glory and honor of God
by Marian Craig in loving memory of her husband John Craig


We are a blessed people.  In this season of Thanksgiving, it is good that we recall God’s many gifts in our lives, and grace which God has given us to help us use them all for good.  As we ready ourselves to join the great Feast of Thanksgiving, a feast which God has made for us in Christ Jesus, let us consider just how welcome we are to receive of it – all of us – and to share the gifts of it for the sake of the world.  For the gifts of God are many, and they are made real in this meal, and in the family of God gathered around it.  Let us pass forth our tithes and offerings.



Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below.  Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully know; Creator, Word and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. 


Jesus, our Teacher and Savior, truly you are God’s Son. For the sake of your kingdom, you insist that we surrender our power. For the sake of your abundance, you invite us to give our resources away. For the sake of your glory, you call us to serve the least among us. Receive these offerings as signs of our joyful and trusting obedience, and let them sustain your people in their every need. Amen.


*HYMN No. 36                      “For the First of All Creation”

1 For the fruit of all creation,
thanks be to God.
For the gifts to every nation,
thanks be to God.
For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safekeeping,
thanks be to God.

2 In the just reward of labor,
God’s will be done.
In the help we give our neighbor,
God’s will be done.
In our worldwide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvests we are sharing,
God’s will be done.

3 For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God.
For the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all that love has found us,
thanks be to God. 


It is not enough to acclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and King. Our mission in life is to make his kingdom a reality among us and to bring it to those around us by our words and deeds. The way to do this is to live as he lived: for others, in love and service. May almighty God bless you for this task: The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord and to give shape to his kingdom. Thanks be to God!