Church of England Diocese of Birmingham St. Paul Blackheath

A short service for Sunday 22nd November 2020 Christ the King

A short service for Sunday 22nd November 2020
Christ the King

Call to worship

We have been called into the pastures of God,
where there is nurture, a place to rest,
safety, and kindness among all.
Let us draw near, in the goodness of God,
to be with each other,
and to praise the shepherd who has gathered us here.
Amen.

A gathering prayer

God, we have been a scattered people,
roaming, looking for places to call home.
You have called us home, gathered us in,
given us a land of belonging where all are welcome.
You have sought us out, brought us in,
and held us in this great story.
Amen.

A prayer of approach

We come to you,
people who are hungry,
people who are thirsty,
strangers, imprisoned, exposed,
knowing that you have come to us, too,
in these same guises.
In our brokenness, welcome us.
And open up our defences as we come to you,
O Lord of many guises.
Amen.

A prayer of confession

Truly, we say to you that we have seen the broken
and have not been moved to compassion.

Truly, we say to you that we have heard people mourning
and have not given them our time.

Truly, we say to you that we have witnessed oppression
and have not raised our voices.

Truly, we say to you that we have seen the stranger
and not said a word.

God, hiding in all strangers, all around us,
we are truly sorry for what we have done,
and what we have not done.
And we ask you to deepen your welcome in us,
so that we might deepen our welcome around us.

Amen.

Psalm 95

A Song of Praise

Come, let us praise the Lord!
Let us sing for joy to God, who protects us!
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and sing joyful songs of praise.
For the Lord is a mighty God,
a mighty king over all the gods.
He rules over the whole earth,
from the deepest caves to the highest hills.
He rules over the sea, which he made;
the land also, which he himself formed.

Come, let us bow down and worship him;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
He is our God;
we are the people he cares for,
the flock for which he provides.

Bible reading Matthew 25.14-30

The Final Judgment

31 When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne, 32 and the people of all the nations will be gathered before him. Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the righteous people at his right and the others at his left. Then the King will say to the people on his right, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world. 35 I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, 36 naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37 The righteous will then answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Away from me, you that are under God's curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels! 42 I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink; 43 I was a stranger but you would not welcome me in your homes, naked but you would not clothe me; I was sick and in prison but you would not take care of me.’ 44 Then they will answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and we would not help you?’ 45 The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.’ 46 These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.”

Talk

The signs that Christmas is approaching are all around us and here I am not thinking about a star that appeared in the east to guide three kings to a stable in Bethlehem. If you want to find that account look in Matthew chapter 2.

Last evening, driving home Christmas decorations were already lit up in homes and upon lampposts. Charity appeal letters arrive with increasing frequency, illustrating all too vividly the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable in our communities and appealing for help. Shopping and especially online shopping is ramping up, and we see the work load etched upon the faces of postwomen and delivery drivers across our land.

Across all these signs of preparation there are some key themes that emerge. Firstly that of celebration as we remember the birth of Christ the King in Bethlehem. Secondly, that of grace and generosity, as God Emmanuel, chooses to be born and live amongst us, transforming what was a distant relationship, to one of profound intimacy and nearness. How often in Jesus’ ministry he was heard to declare to everyone around him that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near, and the origin of that approach is what we are preparing to celebrate. Some of us for the first time, some of us for the umpteenth time, and yet still the miracle of God’s love for us and all of creation shines as brightly as ever. Love, and divine love looks magnificent at Christmas.

A pre-Christmas habit that I have, in the company of many other people is to give money to various charities. This might be for a particular gift, like a new plough to someone in another part of the world, or a general gift to perhaps support medical research in a particular area. Over the years particular charities have grown close to my heart, but there is always room for a new one, because the needs of the vulnerable have not gone away.

Our bible reading from Matthew shines a bright light upon our behavior and attitude towards the stranger, the disadvantaged, and the vulnerable.

Often as Christians, great emphasis is rightly put upon the detail of what we actually believe about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We may use the descriptive word orthodox, to describe a faith in God, which remains faithful to the original teaching of Jesus and his apostles. An important role for any church, is helping those who belong to adhere to the key elements of our Christian faith. To stay close to the creeds and statements of faith that have been passionately debated in the past and are received today as a priceless gift.

But our bible reading highlights something more, of equal importance. Here Matthew sets out a position which says that, what you and I truly believe in terms of faith in God, is not so much reflected in what we say, but rather by what we do. It is our behavior, our decision making, our priorities and our practice of life that most fully reveals what we truly believe. We are told in 1 John 4.20 that
“Whoever claims to love God, yet hates his brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen”.
This throws up another word to conjure with which is orthopraxy, that is all about doing the right thing and taking the right action in life. Actions which reflect, and do not undermine the greatest commandment which is to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

In Matthew’s words we find an invitation to everyone whose behavior and lifestyle has been characterized by doing the right thing
“Come and possess the kingdom”, we are told, “which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world”.
And the evidence for doing the right thing is this
“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me” (verses 35-36).
What is extraordinary is the reaction of those people who behaved in this way. They were genuinely surprised, because these acts had been almost second nature to them. When did we do these things they asked, to which a sobering reply is given
“I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!”

There are echoes here with The Sermon on the mount and the Beatitudes which began Jesus’ teaching ministry and which we find in Matthew chapter 5. Here in Matthew chapter 25, in his final teaching session we find Jesus expressing a similar message. This is the expectation that Jesus has for all those who believe in him and what a high calling it is. That said of course, none of us are capable of always doing the right thing which is why confession and forgiveness are always essential components of a flourishing and living faith. Sadly, we cannot escape our need for second, third and many more chances to begin again.

So our words and statements of faith matter, our behavior and actions matter and so does our ability to say sorry and confess our sins when things have not gone well, so that through the cross we can receive forgiveness and make a fresh start.

Amen.

Rev Mike Sermon Vicar St Paul’s Church Blackheath

Prayers

Yours is the earth and all in it.
The valleys, mountains, seas and spray;
the land, the pastures, the trees and fauna.
All around us, we see stories of your bounty,
your exuberant goodness, your flourishing provision.
You have made us to live here,
nurtured by this earth, and by work.
We find joy in this vocation, to be your people,
living, working, resting, supporting.
We thank you for the gifts of living,
and for these gifts of bounty all around us.
Amen.

For the times when we are sick:
may we have healing.
For the times when we are isolated:
may we have company.
For the times when we are oppressed:
may we have justice.
For the times when we are exposed:
may we have dignity.
For the times when we are mistreated:
may we have humanity.
For the times when we are ignored:
may we be heard.
For the times when we ignore, or isolate,
or oppress, 
or expose or mistreat:
may we change.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

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.

Hymn

When I needed a neighbor,
were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbor,
were you there?

And the creed and the colour
and the name won’t matter
were you there?

I was hungry and thirsty,
were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty,
were you there?

I was cold, I was naked,
were you there, were you there?
I was cold, I was naked,
were you there?

When I needed a shelter,
were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter,
were you there?

When I needed a healer,
were you there, were you there?
When I needed a healer,
were you there?

Wherever you travel,
I’ll be there, I’ll be there,
wherever you travel,
I’ll be there.

Sydney Carter (b. 1915) © 1965 Stainer & Bell Ltd.

.

Let us go in peace,

In the name of Christ. Amen.

© Copyright 2002-2020, ROOTS for Churches Ltd. All rights reserved.

Good News Translation (GNT) Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society