Prayer of the Church I Advent Yr A

Prayer of the Church, I Advent, Year A

P: God of Judah, Jerusalem and all nations: As we begin a new church year, we offer you praise and thanks for every blessing so generously bestowed upon us. In particular, we thank you for the word of hope and peace that you revealed to your prophet Isaiah long ago; a word that fills us with awe and gratitude as we too long for the day when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And so, we pray: C: Amen, come Lord Jesus!

   P: Ancient of Days: In a world held hostage by terror and evil; injustice, conflict and war; we pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls. May there be peace between Jews and Palestinians; Israel and the neighbouring Arab countries; rich and poor; young and old; men and women. And so, we pray: C: Amen, come Lord Jesus!   

   P: God of Salvation: The night is far gone, the day is near; help us to live as people of light and day; as recipients of divine grace to model our lives after Jesus. And so, we pray: C: Amen, come Lord Jesus!

   P: God of Mystery: Over against false prophets, preachers and messiahs, Jesus you taught that only the Father knows the exact day and hour of when the end shall come. Help us to live in the hope that our ultimate future is in your loving hands and we do not have to live in fear of the end. Each day you give us is an opportunity to live life to the fullest; and in so doing, be prepared for the end. And so, we pray: C: Amen, come Lord Jesus!

   P: Sovereign Ruler: Grant wisdom and counsel to the leaders of every nation—that they may govern with peace and justice. Bless and protect especially Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma as they work for a more peaceful, just, and democratic society. In your all powerful providence, work among the leaders of North and South Korea to prevent war there. Protect and give hope to the millions of Christians around the world who are persecuted solely for their faith; especially today we remember Asia Bibi in Pakistan and Pastor Wang Xiaoguang in China. And so, we pray: C: Amen, come Lord Jesus!  

   P: God of Compassion: Look with mercy upon all who are sick, dying or mourning their dead, especially today we remember: [names]. Grant them comfort and healing of mind, body or spirit. And so, we pray: C: Amen, come Lord Jesus!

   P: As we celebrate Advent, may we be bearers of the hope of Jesus our coming Messiah at home, work school and wherever with go; as we pray these prayers and all of our prayers have mercy and hear us. And so, we pray: ALL: Amen, come Lord Jesus!

Sermon Christ the King Yr C

Christ the King Sunday Yr C, 21/11/2010

Jer 23:1-6 & Lk 23:33-43

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“Christ is a different kind of King”

Today is the last Sunday of the Church calendar year. We name it Christ the King Sunday or, in more up-to-date language, Reign of Christ Sunday. When we say Reign of Christ, we do not mean the rain that comes down to earth and floods us out, like it did this past spring and summer! No, not that kind of rain. Rather, reign as in the power and ability to lead people, like heads of state. I think that most of us, when we hear the word in this way—along with the word king, have some definite pictures and concepts of what such words mean. However, in both our first lesson from Jeremiah and our gospel, we are given quite a picture of a different kind of King.

   If we stop and think about it, each one of us likely has certain pictures of Jesus to meet particular needs at different times in life. For example, if we happen to feel lost, we picture Jesus as the Good Shepherd and may even recite from memory the twenty-third Psalm or the Fourth Gospel passage: “I am the good shepherd.” If feel guilty about sins that we have committed, we may see Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as we sing in the liturgy of Holy Communion. If we are ill or suffering from some disability, we may see Jesus as the Great Physician, and remember that he healed the sick, the blind, deaf and lame. Or if we are learning something profound as we ponder and study the Scriptures, we may see Jesus as the Great Teacher who delivered his Sermon on the Mount, offering profound and eternal truths.

   However, when we think of the need for power and leadership in our life and in this world, Christ the King Sunday gives us a different picture. We expect kings and other powerful leaders to live in rich palaces or castles and wear extravagant clothing and jewellery, and associate with other people of power, wealth and influence. Christ however is different. The following story gives us a clearer picture of Christ the King.

   Once there was a time, according to legend, when Ireland was ruled by a king who had no son. The king sent out his couriers to post notice in all the towns of his realm. The notices advised that every qualified young man should apply for an interview with the king as a possible successor to the throne. However, all such candidates must have these two qualifications: They must (1) love God and (2) love their fellow human beings.

   The young man about whom this legend centers saw a notice and reflected that he loved God and, also, his neighbours. One thing stopped him, he was so poor that he had no clothes that would be presentable in the sight of the king. Nor did he have the funds to buy the provisions for the long journey to the castle. So the young man begged here, and borrowed there, finally managing to scrounge enough money for the appropriate clothes and the necessary supplies.

   Properly attired and well-suited, the young man set out on his quest, and had almost completed the journey when he came upon a poor beggar by the side of the road. The beggar sat trembling, clad only in tattered rags. His extended arms pleaded for help. His weak voice croaked, “I’m hungry and cold. Please help me…please?”

   The young man was so moved by this beggar’s need that he immediately stripped off his new clothes and put on the tattered threads of the beggar. Without a second thought he gave the beggar all his provisions as well. Then, somewhat hesitantly, he continued his journey to the castle dressed in the rags of the beggar, lacking provisions for his return trek home. Upon his arrival at the castle, a king’s attendant showed him in to the great hall. After a brief respite to clean off the journey’s grime, he was finally admitted to the throne room of the king.

   The young man bowed low before his majesty. When he raised his eyes, he gaped in astonishment. “You…it’s you! You’re the beggar by the side of the road.”

   “Yes,” the king replied with a twinkle, “I was that beggar.”

   “But…bu…buu…you are not really a beggar. You are the king for real. Well, then, why did you do this to me?” the young man stammered after gaining more of his composure.

   “Because I had to find out if you genuinely love God and your fellow human beings,” said the king. “I knew that if I came to you as king, you would have been impressed by my gem-encrusted golden crown and my royal robes. You would have done anything I asked of you because of my regal character. But that way I would never have known what is truly in your heart. So I used a ruse. I came to you as a beggar with no claims on you except for the love in your heart. And I discovered that you sincerely do love God and your fellow human beings. You will be my successor,” promised the king. “You will inherit my kingdom.”1

   This beautiful story illustrates that Christ is a different kind of King. When most of us think of kings, we probably picture people like David, Solomon, Henry VIII, or Richard the lion-hearted. In short, the kings of old were often the most powerful and wealthy people of the land.

   How different was the king in our story, and how different is Christ our King. In today’s gospel, we are given a very surprising picture of kingship. Most of the people failed to recognise Christ the King. They were looking for a powerful military and political leader. They were expecting an elegant figure displaying his royal prowess by dictating his orders to the people.

   Instead, they were given a humble man who had no intentions of being a military and political leader. A man who displayed his kingship by servanthood. A man who called and associated with even the poorest of the poor. He was prepared to show his love to humankind by suffering and dying the death of a criminal on a cross. He was willing to be scoffed at, mocked, and derided to save us all.

   Christ the King, our Righteous Branch is a different kind of King than all other kings of this world. His kingdom differs from all other worldly kingdoms. So many worldly kingdoms are propped up and survive by the rich and powerful exploiting the poor and living off of personal, selfish gain by systems of injustice. King Jesus and his realm are different. His realm is rooted in true mercy and justice. As he rules from his throne, which is the cross—mercy and justice meet, embrace and kiss each other. We meet Christ our King and enter his realm whenever we give or receive self-giving, unconditional love and sacrifice; whenever his mercy and justice are lived out through us.

   We have received the promise of Jeremiah: “The LORD is our righteousness,” Jesus our Messiah is Christ the King. We, like the one criminal on the cross are made righteous; are clothed in his righteousness; thanks to Christ’s suffering and death. Christ has chosen us, like he chose that criminal to be with him in Paradise, right now, today, as we gather to hear his Word and receive the sacrament.

   The pages of history have shown that the kings and kingdoms of this world turn into dust and ashes because of sin, violence, evil, and greed. What a comfort it is for us to trust in Christ our King and live in his kingdom! Thanks to the saving power of his crucifixion and resurrection, we too can sing those wonderful words of George Friedrich Handel’s Messiah with joyful and confident hearts and minds:

Hallelujah!

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of

our Lord and of his Christ!

And he shall reign forever and ever.

King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Forever, and ever!

Hallelujah!  

1 Cited from: Brian Cavanaugh, More Sower’s Seeds (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1992), pp. 6-8.

Sermon 25 Pentecost Yr C

25 Pentecost Yr C, 14/11/2010

Lk 21:5-19

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“Enduring to the end”

As the church year winds down, the passages of Scripture focus more on the end times. Many people are filled with fear when they read passages like our gospel today. There are certainly a lot of scary things described about the end times in today’s gospel.

   For starters, Jesus predicts that the symbol of stability and security in Jerusalem; the temple will be destroyed. Temple stones that were up to forty feet long and weighed as much as one hundred tons were going to come tumbling down. The Romans would destroy the temple and all that would remain is what you can see today in Jerusalem, known as “the wailing wall.”

   Jesus goes on to provide several other events that usher in the end times. False Messiahs will claim that they are Jesus, and lead people astray. This has happened in every century since Jesus’ time and continues to happen even in our age; whenever a crackpot charlatan comes along and makes outlandish claims to hoodwink the public into believing that they are the Messiah.

   Jesus goes on to say that there will be wars and insurrections; nations and kingdoms will rise up against each other. Well, ever since the time of Jesus, history has been full of wars and conflicts. In fact, there are some historians who have claimed that war claimed the lives of more people in the last century—the twentieth century—than in all the other centuries combined.

   Added to this list of apocalyptic events are earthquakes, famines and plagues. Once again, ever since the time of Jesus the history of the world has seen earthquakes, famines and plagues.

   Jesus continues with his predictions that his followers could expect difficult times ahead—they would be arrested, persecuted and imprisoned. Moreover, parents, brothers, relatives and friends will betray Jesus’ followers and even put some of them to death. As we know, such predictions have come true in the history of the Church—countless Christians down through the ages and even today have been, and in some cases still are, persecuted and martyred solely because of their faithfulness to Christ.

   Yet, even though this long apocalyptic list of things may seem scary; Jesus admonishes us not to live in fear of such things. Rather, such events give us the opportunity to testify to the world our faith in Christ. Furthermore, under such conditions of persecution, Jesus promises to be with us and give us words and a wisdom that none of our opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. And, says Jesus: “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

   I know this may sound offensive or scandalous, but it has been a truism that the persecuted Church has actually strengthened the faith of Christians. Some of you may know that during times of drought bees produce better quality honey; even though there is less honey. Since the quality of honey is related to moisture content; so during a drought there is less moisture in the honey to begin with. In times of persecution the quality of Christian faith has often been stronger than in times of prosperity. As the apostle Paul once said, suffering is very productive: “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Rom 5:4-5)

   Here is a story of one follower of Jesus as told by his son, Michael (Mihai) Wurmbrand, who was strengthened in his faith by enduring persecution.

   In December 1965, my father, Rev. Richard Wurmbrand…was freshly ransomed from communist Romania for $10,000 by Scandinavian Christians after 14 years of torture in prisons there.

   His worldwide bestseller, Tortured for Christ, appeared and was translated into more than 85 languages. We started a worldwide missionary organization to help the persecuted Christians in communist countries, called today The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). My father’s message was the biblical message: Hate sin but redeem in love the sinner, redeem through Christian love the persecutors by changing their heart with Christian love.

   God granted that Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, after 1989, was able to personally visit and preach to large audiences in many countries behind the former Iron Curtain. Richard Wurmbrand died just shy of his 92nd birthday, which would have been on March 24, 2001.

   In 2006, the Romanian government-owned TV Broadcasting station (TVR), in cooperation with one of the largest newspapers of the country (Evenimentul Zilei, “The Daily Event”), started a poll among readers and viewers as to who were or are the greatest, most admired Romanian personalities throughout history. The television station promised to prepare one-hour TV documentaries about each of the top ten finalists. These secular promoters were flabbergasted to find out that nearly 400,000 random participants chose, right behind the top three most-known kings of Romania and Romania’s national poet, as the fifth most admired Romanian personality of all times, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. All the other personalities were part of Romanian history, even during more than 40 years of communism, while nothing could be publicized about Richard Wurmbrand during the communist regime. Christians in Romania rose as one to name their brother who had made their persecution at the hands of communists known worldwide and as a praise to God for His everlasting love.1

   Pastor Wurmbrand’s story is a living testimony of how, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” He was able to endure the persecution and grew much stronger in his faith because of it—not that he, or for that matter any of us, go looking to be persecuted. However, when persecution comes, we can let faith rather than fear prevail. Why? Because we trust and know that Jesus is with us; he will walk through it with us; he will provide us with whatever we require to endure it. So, don’t be afraid of all the apocalyptic gloom and doom. Rather, continue to live a life of faith in Jesus from day to day; in so doing, you shall be able, with his presence and help, to endure anything; that’s his GOOD NEWS promise for you today. 

1 Cited from, and edited for this sermon: Michael (Mihai) Wurmbrand, SNAPSHOTS: A SON REMEMBERS HIS FATHER, at <http://torturedforchrist.com/remember/>, © 2009 The Voice of the Martyrs.

Bruce Cockburn prophet of our time

I’ve always appreciated the music of Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. His lyrics remind me of the classic Hebrew Bible prophets, full of passion for justice, spoken (in Bruce’s case, sung) with deep love and care. Many of his songs are laments like the prophetic oracles of Jeremiah or Amos and others. In this video [scroll down to play it] Bruce sings one of his quintessential laments on behalf of the two-thirds world, “Call It Democracy.”