Sunday 22nd November 2020 – Christ the King

Welcome

Welcome to our service this week. The service has been planned and recorded by a team of congregation members from across our churches.

Zoom Coffee is at 11.30am on Sunday and you will find the link on the email notice sheet, or contact Revd Liz via the contact page, above. Bring your coffee, have a chat, get to know some people from our churches.

YouTube Playlist

Service written out in full

Call to Worship

Let us worship God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

The Lord be with you,
and also with you.

This is the day that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Lord, direct our thoughts and teach us to pray.
Lift up our hearts to worship you in spirit and in truth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect

Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen

Hymn – Rejoice the Lord is King

Confession

Lord, we confess that we pay lip-service to the values of your Kingdom.
We love those who love us,
but we find it impossible even to like our enemies.
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

We confess that too easily we accept the standards of the world
and not those of Christ.
Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Forgive us, Lord, that our striving against temptation is so weak
and our struggle for what is right is so short-lived.
Forgive us, renew and empower us
to stand
and to strive
and to struggle
for Christ and the Kingdom.
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Assurance of forgiveness

Almighty God,
who in Jesus Christ
has given us a kingdom
that can never be destroyed:
forgive us our sins,
open our eyes to God’s truth,
strengthen us to do God’s will
and give us the joy of
his kingdom through
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Blessed is the Lord,
for he has heard the voice of our prayer:
therefore shall our hearts dance for joy,
and in our song we will praise our God.

Psalm 95:1-7

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his and he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Come let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Hymn – The King of Love

Readings

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Matthew 25:31-46

Talk (written by Roy Collard)

Sheep and goats – is that what it all comes down to? Is that what we are trying to achieve in our earthly life? To be a sheep not a goat, to live a good life not a bad one, to seek God’s favour rather than his condemnation? Sheep and goats, an expression so many of use all the time – it’s in common parlance, like so many phrases from the King James’ bible from 400 years ago, – used widely by English speakers, regardless of whether they know its origins or meaning.

The passage we heard today from the end of chapter 25 in the gospel of St. Matthew is the climax of Christ’ teaching on earth – following this, Matthew concentrates on the end of Christ’s mortal life. The entire gospel has been building up to these words – to the revelation that Christ will sit on God’s right hand on the throne of glory, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion….not only in this age but in the age to come”. That’s how Paul describes Christ’s coming as the King of glory in the letter to the Ephesians that is today’s epistle. That’s why this last Sunday before Advent when the church year begins once again, is designated Christ the King – for this is the culmination of all that has gone before, the purpose of Christ’s mission on earth is revealed.

For us, this image of Christ enthroned is magnificent, proof that Christ is no ordinary man, – but, equally, the image is also disturbing. For here we see a King – who is also a Judge – with all the nations before Him, separating us into sheep and goats, dividing those who are invited to receive their rightful inheritance from those who are to be banished, not welcome in the divine kingdom. Over the previous weeks we have been warned – parables of the foolish virgins and the servant who hid his talent reveal their sins of omission – or acts of disobedience – the virgins punished for negligence, the servant punished for doing nothing and now the goats, punished for failing to notice the many opportunities that had been given to them for showing kindness. The sin of omission, the failure to do God’s will.

This would have been nothing new to the people of Israel to whom Christ was addressing his words. They would know the prophesies of Ezekiel and that passage we have heard today about the fat sheep and the lean sheep, between whom God promises to judge. Ezekiel addresses those “who pushed with flank and shoulder and butted all the weak with their horns to scatter them far and wide”, and he warns them of their fate. It’s like being in a busy supermarket at Christmas, pushed and shoved out of the way by those wielding a laden trolley, shoppers too self-absorbed to notice the old man gripping his basket with the few items he can afford or the struggling mother rifling through the reduced items to find something to feed her children. I often dwell on how we drive as a demonstration of a Christian life, – those fat sheep butting their neighbours are like the drivers who stick on your tail trying to push you to go faster, or those ones who treat roundabouts as grandprix circuits, attempting to gain an advantage on almost every other road user. I hold my hand up, neither my supermarket nor my road behaviour is exemplary – it’s too easy for us to fail, but it’s a greater failing when we know how we should behave.

And in case we don’t know how to behave, Christ spells it out in these verses of Matthew.

Whenever I pass though King’s Cross station, I am troubled. I see them wherever I look, at the top of the stairs to the underground, on the forecourt towards the Euston Road, or in the dark doorways of the surrounding streets – they’re huddled into dirty sleeping bags, the cold, hard pavement softened by cardboard, their eyes longing, their faces and bodies often emaciated, usually holding out a used paper coffee cup with a few coins in it. What do I do? Leave them to rely on the night-time soup kitchens, abide by the notices around the station that tell me that I shouldn’t give them money as they are catered for by the authorities? In them I see Christ, and if I ignore them am I ignoring Christ? That’s the sin of omission that Christ warns us of – not to shut our eyes to the spectacle of human misery or turn a deaf ear to the cries of our suffering fellow beings. For if we do, if we ignore the hungry, the thirsty, a stranger, the naked, the sick or the imprisoned we are shutting our minds to Him.

I sometimes think about why I have a social conscience, where my sense of social justice comes from? I was a child of the 1960s – a great time of change and of highlighting injustice – Martin Luther King, Bob Dylan, Trevor Huddleston, Rachel Carson – is that where it comes from? Or is it part of my DNA, my genetic make-up, always to champion the cause of the underdog – I am a West Ham fan, after all. Or is it something much bigger? Is it because I have accepted God’s will and am trying to fulfil it?

But it’s not just doing His will, it’s how we do it – unobtrusively, not – to use a modern idiom – by virtue signalling, but by doing good deeds without ulterior motive, and looking for no recognition. And with these thoughts comes a contradiction – is our motive in pursuing social justice simply to secure our own place in His divine kingdom? Isn’t that self-interest, a sin the goats are accused of? Saving ourselves, come what may? No. I don’t see it like that. I see it as allowing Christ’s quiet rule through us here and now on this earth in a world where the innocent are caught in the cross-fire, where they’re exploited for human lust or manipulated by the unscrupulous. He is present – suffering with those victims – and we are letting Him work though us to alleviate that pain.

Christ is the King – and today we celebrate His coming in glory on God’s right hand, with all nations gathered before Him – ready to judge the sheep and the goats. I believe it is for us to see his justice, his judgement in very positive terms – as we live out that sense of justice, social justice – or in other words, a human passion for justice that comes from God himself. And through loving our neighbour, our fellow sheep, we are living out his expectation for us.

Affirmation of Faith

We believe in God the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and earth is named.

We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith, and fills us with love.

We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us with power from on high.

We believe in one God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Hymn – When I needed a neighbour

Prayers – written by Guy Wilson

God our father and creator we pray to you and to your son, our Lord and Shepherd, Jesus Christ. These days are days of clouds and darkness for us. We, like sheep are frightened, uncertain, hesitant, lost. We cannot see an end to our troubles. We are scattered and lonely and hurting. Look kindly on us, guard us and rescue us, we pray. Aid the injured, strengthen the weak, and bring us back to the safe haven of your love.

Lord God, Lord Jesus, We put our trust in you

Lord Jesus, you know what it is to be human, you have shared our doubts and fears. Strengthen the leaders of your churches, we pray that they may show us your ways, teach us your paths, help us know you better and so guide us to your truth. And especially we pray for Stephen and Liz. They, too, like all of us are suffering in these dark days. Give them the strength to continue to guide us through faith and action to the light of your presence, the light that is never extinguished.

Lord God, Lord Jesus, We put our trust in you

God our father, a world turned upside down is not an easy place to govern. The maps are useless, the plans redundant, economies collapse, people suffer. Yet critical decisions with far reaching consequences must be made. And there is no guide, except you. Give strength and guidance to those who govern your world at this troubled time. Imbue them with your love and embolden them with the hope of a better tomorrow so that they may lead your world to greener pastures.

Lord God, Lord Jesus, We put our trust in you

Lord Jesus, today there are too many in pain and sickness, too many grieving and bereaved, too many gone too soon. Wrap the strong arms of your love around all of them, we pray. Comfort them, show them the light of eternal hope that you offer in this life and beyond, and bring all of them, and us in our time, safe home to you.

Lord God, Lord Jesus, We put our trust in you

Deliver us from our troubles, Oh Lord. Fill us with your eternal hope and send us out into the world refreshed and determined to offer help to friend and stranger alike. Give us the strength to rise above our own troubles and to worship you as you would have us do by helping each other and giving succour to those in greatest need. Give us the strength to do this for you, O Lord.

Lord God, Lord Jesus, We put our trust in you

The Lord’s Prayer (Guy)

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours,
now and forever.
Amen.

Offertory Prayer (Sian)

Generous God, we thank you
for all you have given us.
We thank you for all the ways
we can give to you in return.
We ask that, through our gifts,
we will see your kingdom grow:
in our hearts, in our homes,
in our neighbourhoods,
and in our nations
to the glory of your name, Amen.

Hymn – The Servant King

Prayer

Today is Stir-up Sunday – time to make your Christmas puddings if you haven’t already!

Stir up, O Lord, the wills
of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously
bringing forth the fruit of
good works, may by you
be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ
our Lord.
Amen.

Blessing

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you,
scatter the darkness from before your path,
and make you ready to meet him when
he comes in glory;
and the blessing of God Almighty, Father,
Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all this day
and for evermore.
Amen.

Sending out

We go into the world in the name of Christ,
with the love of God
and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We go, but we do not go alone.
We go together and Christ goes with us.
Amen.

Copyright Notices

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Common Worship, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council.