Didsbury URC – Service for 22nd November 2020

Service on Sunday, 22/11/2020 provided by Roger Newton, Lay Preacher from a local Didsbury church.

(Christ the King Sunday)
This short act of worship has been prepared for you to spend a few moments with God, knowing that other people are sharing this act of worship with you.

Call to Worship
God as we hail you today, Christ the King, we ponder the kingly image that you portray:  a hungry king, a thirsty king, a king bedraggled, homeless, sitting on our kerbsides, ignored by your subjects.
Quietly you wait for us to notice and take action: to lift you out of the gutter, to clothe you and feed you and care for you.
You do not cry out, you simply wait and hope.
Christ the King, as your hopes are dashed time and again, awaken us and shake us out of our complacency by your quiet, persistent loving.
May we reach out to you by reaching out to each other and to those who live in the gutters in our neighbourhoods.
Help us to do this without seeking recognition but simply because we can do no other.

Usually we close our worship with a blessing but today, as we come before God in prayer, we open
with a reverse blessing

A Non-traditional Blessing
 –  Sister Ruth Marlene Fox OSB

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy. Amen

 

Hymn: The King of Love my Shepherd is

1.The King of love my shepherd is, 
whose goodness faileth never. 
I nothing lack if I am his, 
and he is mine forever.

2.Where streams of living water flow, 
my ransomed soul he leadeth; 
and where the verdant pastures grow, 
with food celestial feedeth.

3.Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed, 
but yet in love he sought me; 
and on his shoulder gently laid, 
and home, rejoicing, brought me.

4.In death’s dark vale I fear no ill, 
with thee, dear Lord, beside me; 
thy rod and staff my comfort still, 
thy cross before to guide me.

5.Thou spreadst a table in my sight; 
thy unction grace bestoweth; 
and oh, what transport of delight 
from thy pure chalice floweth!

6.And so through all the length of days 
thy goodness faileth never; 
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise 
within thy house forever.

H.W. Baker (1821-77) © Public Domain

 

Prayer of Approach
Sacredise

How we underestimate your compassion, Jesus; we are too easily convinced that you frown more than you smile, that our weakness and ignorance, our mistakes and sins, guarantee nothing but judgement from you.

Yet, time and again you show us that this picture is unworthy of you; after all, you said it – you didn’t come to judge but to save!

And so, we thank you and celebrate you: your compassion is limitless, and your love is unfailing; your welcome is gracious and extravagant and all-inclusive; your embrace is healing and transforming; and your commitment to us is costly and eternal.

Perhaps we will never really understand how you can be so totally for us, but perhaps, as we learn to trust, and to lean into your love, we will find the peace and wholeness that you desire for us.

And so we come, we worship, and we open ourselves to your surprising compassion again. Amen.

 

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession

Holy God, we confess that we have lived as if you don’t exist.
We have created lives that revolve around to-do lists and tasks, errands to be run, activities to be at, stuff to be had.
We have created goals for ourselves that we believe will lead to happiness, if we worked harder, if we achieved that promotion, if we were thinner or stronger or smarter.
Forgive us.
You made us in your image, and we fail to see that. You gave us hearts to love one another, and we have failed to love even ourselves as we are.
Call us back into your vision of the beloved community, on earth as it is in heaven,  in which we see the face of Christ in one another.
Call us back to your love, that we might love one another.
Call us back to you, that we might seek your will and way and wisdom in our life.
For there is nothing in this world that is more important than loving you, and loving our neighbour as ourselves.
This we know, for Christ gave his life for this: that we might know your love endures, in life and death, through eternity.
Guide us back to You.
In the name of Christ, whose reign is coming, we pray.

Amen.

 

Blessing/Assurance (from Lamentations 3:22-23)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
God’s mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning;
great is God’s faithfulness.
Our hope is in God, and God’s hope is in us.
Go, and become the hope of God in this world,
by loving others, and by forgiving others,
because we are loved and forgiven in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen.

 

Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

New Testament Reading: Matthew 25: 31-46

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

Reflection:

Today we celebrate the end of the official church year, with Christ the King Sunday. Next week we start a new year with the First Sunday in Advent. A time for looking back and looking forward.

In the past year we have moved from Crib to Cross and onto the birth of the Church at Pentecost. Then we’ve spent more than half the year looking at the teaching of Jesus, his miracles and his parables and his clashes with the religious authorities of his day. Today we think about Christ the King and his legacy. The Shepherd King, the Servant King, born in a stable, died on a cross and buried in a rough hewn, second hand tomb. He was a thorn in the flesh to the religious and political authorities in the region, whilst attracting a large following amongst the oppressed lower echelons of society, the tax collectors and prostitutes, the widows and the lepers.

The Gospel reading from Matthew is the last piece of public teaching that Jesus gives before his trial and crucifixion. It balances perfectly his first public teaching, the Sermon on the Mount and the beatitudes. Both sum up the main tenor of Matthew’s understanding of Jesus teaching, that in God’s kingdom, power lies with the poor and oppressed, not those with the most influence, knowledge or money. Jesus life and teaching are all about relationships with, and care for, all people – however insignificant they might seem.

Ezekiel & Matthew, write about two very different situations but both have a common theme that we can relate to today. Ezekiel is writing for the Jewish remnant after the exile, some in Babylon, some left behind in Jerusalem, others scattered around the Mediterranean. There are those who are exploiting the position, becoming rich and having a much better lifestyle than before whilst the majority live in poverty and have a much worse lifestyle. The Roman occupation situation that Jesus lived in and that Matthew was addressing had a similar disparity, an ever-widening gap between rich and privileged and poor and victimised. Fat sheep and lean sheep, goats and sheep, they are different descriptions of the same situation. In both cases there is a need for judgement and a Good Shepherd to lead the flock.

Judgement’ is an unpopular concept these days. Social media posts call out those who ‘fat-shame’, and so on. It is a very negative thing, and we are more used to being told not to judge. So the idea of God or Jesus as judge is abhorrent to many. But today’s reading says that we are judged, not by others, not even by God, but by our own actions or lack of them. In the course of our lives, we determine which side of the divide we will be on by our attitude to other people.

The fat sheep and goats are selfish, much wants more even if others have to suffer to bring that about. The lean sheep and Matthew’s sheep are powerless to extricate themselves from the position they are in, even when working communally for the benefit of others. Jesus came to open the eyes of both the sheep and the goats to the positions they held, to show that God’s kingdom is not like the situation of conquering Babylon or Rome or the political regimens today where the rich are in power and determined to maintain the status quo by constitutional, intellectual even religious means!

When each and every person is made in the image of God, then that good part in us that convicts us to action, to encourage, to support, to build up others, is God’s image in us shining through. Each time we deny another person, we not only refuse to allow God’s image to shine through our actions, but we also tragically fail to recognise the image of God in that other person. This is a sinful act, but all too often seen when people seek to demean others.

Jesus’ condemnation of those who did not reach out to people in need is not merely a condemnation of their actions, bad as those were. It is also about the consequences of their actions, particularly the effect that those actions have on others.

There is the sense, in the passage, that as those who are blessed, ministered to the needy, their actions encouraged others to stretch out a helping hand. It was contagious compassion.

While those who withheld kindness laid a common path for the community surrounding them towards hostility, fear and isolation.

That is the reality. Our actions change others—for good or ill—not just those we might help, but those who witness our reaching out or holding back.

How do others see you? A fat sheep or a lean one? A sheep or a goat? Take a moment to consider how others see you and how you see yourself.

Hymn: Let us build a house

  1. Let us build a house where love can dwell,
    And all can safely live,
    A place where saints and children tell
    How hearts learn to forgive;
    Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
    Rock of faith and vault of grace;
    Here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

Chorus: All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

 

  1. Let us build a house where prophets speak,
    And words are strong and true,
    Where all God’s children dare to seek
    To dream God’s reign anew.
    Here the cross shall stand as witness
    And a symbol of God’s grace;
    Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

Chorus: All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

 

  1. Let us build a house where love is found
    In water, wine and wheat:
    A banquet hall on holy ground,
    Where peace and justice meet.
    Here the love of God, through Jesus,
    Is revealed in time and space,
    As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

Chorus: All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

 

  1. Let us build a house where hands will reach
    Beyond the wood and stone
    To heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
    And live the Word they’ve known.
    Here the outcast and the stranger
    Bear the image of God’s face;
    Let us bring an end to fear and danger:


Chorus: All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

 

  1. Let us build a house where all are named,
    Their songs and visions heard
    And loved and treasured, taught and claimed
    As words within the Word.
    Built of tears and cries and laughter,
    Prayers of faith and songs of grace,
    Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

 
Chorus: All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

Marty Haugen (b.1950)
© 1994, GIA Publications Inc.,

 

Prayers of Intercession
 –
Sacredise

If we’re honest, compassion does not come easy to us, God;

We see others who struggle; those without homes, or food; those dying from curable diseases, simply because they can’t get access to the medicine they need;
those who have lost loved ones through death or circumstance, and long for human companionship;
those who are persecuted and judged because of their difference;
those who are facing the awful consequences of bad choices they have made; and those who must live with the consequences of choices that others make that impact their lives;
It all just feels like it’s too much, and there’s nothing we can do.

But, we know that’s not true – we know that compassion is enough; that when we allow ourselves to feel, compassion will lead us to do what we can, and that this will make a difference.

And so, we pray first for ourselves: that you would soften our hearts, and still our fears,
and lead us into those acts of compassion that we are capable of doing.

And then we pray for all of these others whose lives can be changed through small, simple acts of care; that you would disturb us, and others like us, until we finally step up and play our part in the saving of your world; and that enough of us would answer your call, that the needs of the hurting ones may be met.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

 

It’s a tough thing for us to learn, Jesus, how you hide in the most unlikely places;
how you beckon us into life and compassion by disguising yourself in broken humanity.
But, when our eyes are opened, we discover that we are never far from your heart, from your kingdom.

And so we ask you to show yourself to us again, and lead us into prayerful action;

Help us to share your grief when lives are needlessly lost simply because they have no money for food or shelter, because they have no access to medicine and care,
because they have no choice but to live where war and violence constantly threaten;

Help us to feel your offense when the least are exploited by the lust of those who are physically stronger, by the greed of those who are financially richer, by the disregard of those who are politically more powerful.

Help us to know your pain when what you have created is destroyed by the carelessness of expediency, by the short-sightedness of progress at all costs, by the sense of entitlement of proud humanity.

Teach us to welcome you, Jesus, by welcoming those in whom your image is hidden,
and by working, in our small worlds, to make visible your kingdom where all are welcomed.
Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever and ever.

Amen

 Hymn: Jesus Christ is waiting

  1. Jesus Christ is waiting,
    Waiting in the streets;
    No one is his neighbour,
    All alone he eats.
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    I am lonely too.
    Make me, friend or stranger,
    Fit to wait on you
  2. Jesus Christ is raging,
    Raging in the streets,
    Where injustice spirals
    And real hope retreats.
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    I am angry too.
    In the Kingdom’s causes
    Let me rage with you.
  3. Jesus Christ is healing,
    Healing in the streets;
    Curing those who suffer,
    Touching those he greets.
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    I have pity too.
    Let my care be active,
    Healing just like you.
  4. Jesus Christ is dancing,
    Dancing in the streets,
    Where each sign of hatred
    He, with love, defeats.
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    I should triumph too.
    On suspicion’s graveyard
    Let me dance with you.
  5. Jesus Christ is calling,
    Calling in the streets,
    ”Who will join my journey?
    I will guide their feet.”
    Listen, Lord Jesus,
    Let my fears be few.
    Walk one step before me;
    I will follow you.

John Bell (b. 1949) & Graham Moule (b. 1958)
© WGRG, Iona Community, 1988

The Last Word
-The Talmud

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

Blessing

We worship God in sanctuaries, in beautiful, holy spaces. But Christ has told us that if we want to find him in this world, we will seek out the lost, the least of his brothers and sisters—those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, in prison, naked and estranged. May we go forth this day with eyes open to seeing Christ in our world, and may we know God’s love by loving one another. May we love, not just in word and speech, but in truth and action.

“Christ Has No Body,” – Teresa of Avila

Christ has no body now on earth but ours; no hands but ours; no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Ours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Ours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.

Amen

Acknowledgements:

 

Prayers are magpie pickings sourced from:

various years of ROOTS www.rootsontheweb.com 2002-2020.

www.textweek.com ©1997-2020, Jenee Woodard

 

Reflection by Roger Newton

Hymns reproduced under CCLI Licence 293964