Sunday 22nd November 2020

Please note that recordings of this service have been added to each section and may be listened to at any time.

Welcome & Intimations

Call to Worship (from Psalm 95)
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 458 At the name of Jesus

Prayer

Let us worship the Lord with gladness
as we come into his presence.
Let us remember that the Lord is God.
It is God who made us, and we belong to Him;
we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving,
giving thanks to God,
blessing the name of God.
Let us give thanks to God for His goodness,
for His steadfast love which endures for ever,
for His faithfulness to all generations.

You, God, are our one and only King.
We seek Your forgiveness for when we turn from you,
and seek to serve other “kings” and false gods of our own making:
the false gods of wealth, influence, and position.
We seek Your forgiveness, we who are broken
by our own choices and actions.
Guide us that we may be the sheep of Your pasture.
Lead us to trust in You as our King and Shepherd.
Show us how to walk once more
in the name of Jesus, Your Son,
and in the power of Your Holy Spirit.
Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Scriptures

Ezekiel 34:11-24
‘“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

‘“As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

‘“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: see, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

Matthew 25:31-46
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”

‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

‘Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was ill and in prison and you did not look after me.”

‘They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or ill or in prison, and did not help you?”

‘He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’

HYMN 360 Jesus Christ is waiting

Reflection

This Sunday is sometimes known as ‘Christ the King’; it marks the end of the church’s year and prepares us for the countdown to Christmas that commences next Sunday. It is also a celebration that is relatively new having originated shortly after the end of the First World War. It arose out of the sense that humanity had abandoned the teachings of Christ and had again followed the desires of man. Against a growing move toward totalitarian rule in Europe the feast was meant to point us back towards our true and rightful King, Christ Jesus.

This week’s readings tie in with those of recent weeks as they give rise to questions of eternity, judgement, and loyalty. They are designed to provoke us to ask, ‘who’s side are we one’ or ‘who is it that we follow’. They provide us with glimpses of both wonder and judgement; the former for those on the side of Christ with the latter for those who prefer to choose the ways of humanity. Since these writings, both by prophet and evangelist, were written for the faith community we must also face another question: why are we being warned?

Ezekiel was called to be a messenger from God to His disobedient people. The people were in exile, sent there because they had made foolish alliances and worshipped false gods. Time and again the people had been warned of the consequences; time and again they had ignored the prophets or messengers of God. The consequence was punishment, in this case exile. Yet even in exile God did not fully abandon his people. Just as we may chastise one of our children for their wrongdoing so, too, does God chastise his children for theirs. Just as we do not stop loving our children neither does God stop loving His, even in exile. Ezekiel is sent to both warn the people concerning their continued foolishness, and to guide them back toward God.

As we look at the Gospel we see the warnings laid out more clearly, more starkly. Here we have a simple division of the people into the faithful and the unfaithful, the saved and the judged. We must, though, note an important point; belief is not enough! Remember, it is believers that are being judged. Our faith in Christ, in God, must lead to changed perspectives and changed actions. In the reading Jesus warns that it is those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, or visited the prisoner who were saved. Note, too, that this is not some form of what the Reformers entitled ‘works salvation’. The good works of which Jesus refers are not the cause of being right with God but an outworking of it. In other words, the love of God for us transforms us in ways that see us love God and then show this through the love of our neighbour.

This Sunday is about judgement, yet it is also about transformation and renewal. It is about turning away from false gods and idols of our own making. It is not about seeing yourself as the sheep in the parable and breathing a sigh of relief. It is about following the example of the sheep and reaching out to our neighbour, whoever he or she may be. It is about bringing compassion and grace to bear in world that truly hurts. It is also about doing this not to make oneself feel safe and secure but to be faithful and obedient to our Lord.

In our world faith is often seen as something personal; it’s rarely seen as something to be shared. This can see our faith become nothing more than a series of propositions with little to no impact on the remainder of creation. That is not how it is meant to be. The love of God for us is meant to transform us from inward looking and selfish to outward looking and generous. The love of God is meant to transform us ‘creatures of wrath’ to become channels of grace and mercy. The love of God is meant to transform us from ‘goats’ to ‘sheep’.

Prayers for the world

Lord, you sent Your Son to set us free,
to bring good news to the poor,
to bring sight to the blind,
to bring freedom to captives
to usher in Your Kingdom.
Lord, may Your Kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord, send us to bring help to the poor
and freedom to the oppressed.
Send us to proclaim Your truth
working for justice in the world.
Send us to tell the world of Your love,
spreading the Good News of Your Kingdom.
Lord, may Your Kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord, may we tend us to those who mourn,
to bring light and hope to those who grieve.
Send us that we may a healing presence
to all who struggle in body, heart, or mind.
Send us to proclaim that the time is here
for You to save Your people.
Lord, may Your Kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord of the Church,
hear our prayer.
Make us one in heart and mind
to serve You in Christ our Lord.
Make us to work from Your kingdom
where grace and mercy flow.
Lord, may Your Kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Amen

HYMN 804 You shall go out with joy

The Blessing

Go into the world from this time of worship
knowing Christ Jesus as your Lord and King.
Go from this time to work for the coming
of His Kingdom on earth as in heaven.

And as you go,
may the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
go with you
now and evermore.
Amen.

Acknowldegements
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
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