Adult & All Age
Ideas for sermon preparation on John 18.33-37
See also PostScript - Comments, prayers, questions and discussion on the week's news.
- What is power? The conversation between Jesus and Pilate about the nature and origin of kingship is a ‘compare and contrast’ exercise between the might of Rome (absolute power exercised from the top down) and the ‘bottom up’ model of Jesus (through the devotion and obedience of followers). It is not that Jesus does not have more power than the emperor. The difference is how he exercises his power. How do we see power exercised? How does our faith tell us power should be handled? How do you use your power?
- The twenty-first century may be said to be characterised by ‘Facebook lives’. That is, it is so easy to present an idealised, sanitised version of ourselves and our lives to the world. In this world, the notion of truth is seemingly malleable. We live in an era of ‘fake news’, and real news dismissed as fake for personal advantage. John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is the truth, and that if we belong to the truth we will listen to his voice. How can we let the truth of Jesus guide us to live more truthful lives? What difference could this make to our daily living?
- The mysterious, unknown realm of ‘heaven’ has fascinated people for millennia, yet the way we speak about it often has little to do with the biblical description. How do we perceive heaven? Is it a parallel to our own world, rather like ‘Diagon Alley’ in the Harry Potter books? Is it simply the place we go to when we die? Or is it something else entirely? How does praying ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ fit into our understanding of the way the world works? The readings from Daniel, John and Revelation give us some idea of what heaven is, and what it isn’t.
- Biblical imagery can be very strange to our modern eyes. Daniel’s fiery thrones, wheels and streams; the one who ‘comes with the clouds’ in both Daniel and Revelation – and there’s plenty more, even more strange, in those two books and elsewhere in Scripture. Some will dismiss this imagery as nonsense – but is it delusion, a fantasy? Or is it, rather, an attempt to represent a ‘strange truth’? What are those truths? What language might we use to represent or proclaim them in today’s world? Some of the images and concepts in today’s blockbuster films may indeed be fantasy, but do they give us a language that we might use?
- It is the final week of the church year. Next week is Advent, and a new year begins. Advent looks both back to the birth of Jesus and forward to his return, and the apocalyptic literature we encounter in Daniel, Revelation and in parts of the Gospels serves a similar purpose. Christ the King provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our spiritual year past, and a chance to look to the coming year with fresh eyes on God’s plans. Is it time for New Year resolutions of a different kind from those generally associated with 1 January? What ideas come to mind?
You may also find this week's All-age conversation useful.
Connect faith with everyday life
A way for leaders to help all ages explore the reading.
We live in a world in which powerful people make the decisions, and everybody else has to put up with it. That’s just the way it always has been – the strongest in control, and the only way to change things is to be stronger, to beat them in some way. Do you recognise that description? Does it have to be like that? Is there another way?
What do you think of when you imagine a king? What are kings like – or at least, what were they like in history? How do/did they use their power? Jesus speaks of his kingdom, but says it is ‘not of this world’. What does he mean? Where is his kingdom? If the power of a human king comes from being the strongest, where does Jesus’ power come from?
Sometimes we talk about Jesus’ or God’s kingdom, sometimes about heaven. What do you imagine when you hear the word ‘heaven’? Where is heaven? Jesus taught his disciples to pray, ‘Your (i.e. God’s) kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven’. What might that suggest about the relationship between earth and heaven? Is heaven ‘another place’ or is it some place close by?
If we acknowledge Jesus as our king, are we already living in God’s kingdom? Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus says that the kingdom is among you, and within you – what do you think he meant? What can we do so that we become better citizens of God’s kingdom?
You may also find this week's Sermon ideas useful.
Activities based on John 18.33-37
A simple worship activity for all ages
Set up a mirror (more than one, if you have space) and invite people to sit in front of it for a short time, looking at their reflection. Invite them to reflect on what it means to be made in the image of God and to live in God’s kingdom.
Play gentle music to fill the silence. End with a prayer giving thanks for Jesus our king – you could use A prayer of praise. Alternatively, you could combine this activity with A reflective way into prayer.
E S A
Facebook the truth
In small groups, invite people who use social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) to show some images where they have ‘filtered’ what people see – particularly images of themselves. Ask the groups to reflect on the use of such altered images. What other ways do we have to control the way we are seen by others (e.g. clothes)? Why do we do this? Does it have unintended consequences? Does it matter?
W E A
Play the ‘Selective attention test’ video, carefully following the instructions. Invite people to get into small groups, and to reflect on the exercise. What might it suggest about how we fail to notice things in everyday life – and what can we do about it?
What is truth?
Sometimes, truth can be hard to separate from fiction, spin and honest mistakes. Play a game in which individuals (warned in advance, so they can prepare) come to the front and tell one truth and one lie about themselves. Invite everyone else to vote on which is which. What might this say about us? How can we discern truth in our everyday interactions with each other?
Spiritual styles abbreviations
W Word E Emotion S Symbol A Action
Read our Spiritual Styles articles
A short drama sketch for older children
You will need a contestant (C ) and questioner (Q . The contestant makes his way to the chair and the questioner sits behind a desk or table looking stern.
Q: First contestant, please state your name and your chosen subject.
C: My name is Jesus, and my chosen subject is the truth.
Q: Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer questions on Jewish kings, past and future?
C: Why are you trying to ask me about Jewish kings? My chosen subject is the truth.
Q: A lot of the audience, especially the religious ones, have asked to hear you answer these questions.
C: I am not from around here. If my supporters were here they would be shouting for the truth questions!
Q: Oh dear, you’re sure you don’t want to answer about Jewish kings?
C: It’s not my specialist subject – especially as my kingdom is not from around here.
Q: So if you are a king – why not answer the questions?
C: It’s you who is talking about kings all the time. All I want to do is answer questions about the truth – that’s what I was born for, that’s why I entered the contest.
Q: Right, fine. Am I bothered – am I? Question one. Who belongs to the truth?
C: Those who belong to the truth are those who listen to my voice.See more
- What qualities are desirable in a monarch today?
- What is the nature of Jesus’ kingship?
- How might you help God’s kingdom come?
Children & Young People
Do, Make, Pray and Sing activities based on John 18.33-37
Choose from these ideas to help the children make connections between the Bible reading and their lives
Spot the truth 5 mins W E
Play a guessing game
- Ask everyone to think of one unusual thing about themselves that is true, and make up one thing that is not true.
- Invite the children, in turn, to stand up and say, ‘My name is…’ followed by their two statements.
- The rest of the group has to guess which fact is not true.
- Talk together about how we can work out what the truth is.
Where does it lead? 10 mins W
Identify the mystery pictures
You will need: six pictures of entrances to other worlds (suggestions below), paper and pens.
- Beforehand, print off the pictures and display them around the room. Give the children paper and pens, and invite them to go around guessing: 1) what places they are; 2) which book/film/TV programme they are from; 3) where they lead to. Award a point for each correct answer. Who gets the highest score?
- Go through the answers and talk about what happens in each place. Explain that we can’t step through to heaven and come back, as you can in these fictional worlds. The clearest glimpse of heaven we get is through Jesus.
Platform 9¾ from Harry Potter leading to Hogwarts
the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland leading to Wonderland
a wardrobe from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe leading to Narnia
‘Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning’ from Peter Pan leading to Neverland
The Tardis from Dr Who leading to time travel across the universe.
Kingdom cupcakes 15 mins E S
A symbol of Jesus’ earthly and heavenly kingship
You will need: ready-made cupcakes, icing and cake toppings, coloured paper strips, scissors, sticky tape, lolly sticks, string or PVA glue.
- Give each child a cupcake to ice and decorate.
- Make cupcake wrappers in the shape of a crown. Cut out strips that are 2cm longer than the cupcake circumference and 4cm taller. Cut a zig zag edge so that the wrappers look like crowns. Place the crowns around the cakes and secure them with tape.
- Give everyone two lolly sticks, one cut shorter than the other. Fix them together with string or glue to make a cross. Place a cross on the top of each cupcake. Take home to eat or share.
Your kingdom come 10 mins W S A
Draw heaven on earth
You will need: a large sheet of paper, a marker pen, pencils, crayons.
- Beforehand, write on the paper the following lines of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.’ Show the children and ask if they recognise the words.
- Talk with them about how they think God would like us to live together. What would it look like if God’s will was done on earth?
- Draw pictures together from your discussion, around the words.
Heaven and earth 5 mins W S
Pray for earthly leaders
You will need: a toy crown, objects/pictures to represent Jesus’ kingship, e.g. manger, foot washing, crown of thorns, lamb, cross.
- Display the crown. Talk with the children about who usually wears one. What does it represent? Some countries are not ruled by a king or queen, but a president, who may have similar or more power.
- Look together at the symbols of Jesus’ kingship. How are these different from the crown? What does each one represent?
- Invite everyone to choose a symbol and hold it, as they pray for kings, queens and leaders across the world, that they might be more like Jesus. Alternatively, say: Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth, be with all those who are in positions of leadership in our world. May they grow to be more like you. Amen.
More prayers are available via the Prayers page.
Key to abbreviations for hymn book titles
Who’s the king of the jungle?
King of Love, Doug Horley on Top 50 Awesome Action Songs (with actions)
Jesus will never, ever (CHY, HON, CJP, RSJ)
He Came Down, Big Ministries on The All-In Thing
Here I Am to Worship, Tim Hughes on Tim Hughes Ultimate Collection
God, I Look to You, Bethel on Be Lifted High