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URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 22nd November
Christ the King
The Rev’d Michael Hodgson
Good morning, I’m Michael Hodgson and I’m the Minister of two churches in Surrey- St Andrew’s in Walton-on-Thames, and Weybridge URC. St Andrew’s story begins in 1928 when a group of people, mainly Scots or people with Scottish roots, began to meet for services in the local theatre. Weybridge’s story begins back in 1860 when a wealthy local resident began holding services in his own home to offer a service principally aimed for the domestic servants who lived and worked in the many big houses in the area then. Things have changed a lot now. We are just within the M25 circle and very much in the London commuter belt. Both Walton and Weybridge are outwardly extremely affluent areas but within both towns there are areas of poverty and of social deprivation. It’s therefore both a joy and a challenge to live and to minister here which is much more socially mixed than it may initially appear.
Call To Worship
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
Hymn Alleluia Sing to Jesus W. Chatterton Dix, Tune: Hyfrodol
1 Alleluia! Sing to Jesus; His the scepter, His the throne. Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone. Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood; “Jesus out of ev’ry nation hath redeemed us by His blood.
2 Alleluia! Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now. Alleluia! He is near us; faith believes, nor questions how. Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er, shall our hearts forget His promise, “I am with you evermore”?
3 Alleluia! Bread of Angels, Here on earth our food, our stay! Alleluia! here the sinful Flee to thee from day to day: Intercessor, friend of sinners, Earth’s redeemer, plead for me, Where the songs of all the sinless Sweep across the crystal sea.
4 Alleluia! King eternal, Ye the Lord of lords we own; Alleluia! Born of Mary, Earth thy footstool, heav’n thy throne: Thou within the veil hast entered, Robed in flesh, our great high priest; Thou on earth both priest and victim In thy Eucharistic feast.
Opening Prayer, Confession and Assurance and Pardon
God of Wonder and God of love, with the whole church on earth, and with the whole company of heaven, we praise your name. You have brought us to this hour and to you belong the glory and the praise. You made us in your image and, through Jesus, you save us. You love us with a never-ending love and so we pray that you will cleanse us by your grace and guide us by your Holy Spirit. May we honour your name and may we offer you to acceptable worship; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Remember not, Lord, our offences, Nor the offences of our forebears; Neither take vengeance of our sins, But spare us, good Lord. Spare your people, whom you have redeemed With your most precious blood, And be not angry with us for ever. Spare us, good Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. Your sins are forgiven- thanks be to God.
And as one family we say together the Lord’s Prayer…
Reading: St 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.”
Hymn: There Is A Land of Pure Delight Isaac Watts
1 There is a land of pure delight Where saints, immortal reign Infinite day excludes the night And pleasures banish pain.
2 There everlasting spring abides And never withering flowers: Death, like a narrow sea, divides This heav’nly land from ours.
Could we but climb where Moses stood And view the landscape o’er Not Jordan’s streams nor death’s cold flood Should fright us from this shore
3 O could we make our doubts remove Those gloomy thoughts that rise And see the Canaan that we love With unbeclouded eyes!
Could we but climb where Moses stood And view the landscape o’er Not Jordan’s streams nor death’s cold flood Should fright us from this shore (x2)
The liturgical comes to an end this Sunday and today is known by a number of names. It’s “The Sunday next before Advent”; it’s “Stir Up Sunday”; it’s “Christ the King” Sunday to name but a few. Today encourages us to look forward to the reign of Christ the King and, as a musician, my brain is already mentally singing, “Christ triumphant, ever reigning, Saviour, Master, King.” My guess is that after the year we’ve been through many of us will find looking forward a rather more pleasurable prospect than looking back. 2020 is not a year that we’ll ever forget although I sense that during it a number of people have found great strength and comfort in their faith. As I prepare this sermon I am reading that there has been a considerable increase in the number of people who say that they are praying regularly now.
Our Gospel reading this morning is a well-known passage, unique to Matthew. It speaks of the judgement of the Son of Man and it follows three parables which are all about preparing for the coming of the Son of Man. The first of those is the “Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants”. The second is the “Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids” or the “Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins”, as some of us may more readily know it. And then, the third is the “Parable of the Talents.” Those three parables are all about being prepared for the coming of the Son of Man. In each of them everyone knows that the master will come, even if he doesn’t arrive as soon as was initially expected. What is required in each of those parables, however, is watchfulness. That is why the wicked servant, the foolish bridesmaids and the lazy steward fail: and the faithful servant, the wise Bridesmaids and the enterprising stewards all succeed. Everyone knew what to do but when push came to shove, some did it and some did not.
The three parables then climax with the story of the judgement of the Son of Man which is our Gospel reading today.
I always find it both a comforting and a disturbing passage. I know that I can think of occasions when I’ve been both a sheep and a goat and being realistic, I suspect that I’ve fallen short of the mark far more frequently than I’ve reached it. In my preaching since the middle of March, however, I’ve quite often looked at each Sunday’s Bible readings and explored them through the lens of lockdown and the COVID pandemic. I’d like to try to do that this morning though you will all be aware that these sermons are prepared well in advance.
When I said the Blessing in church at the end of worship on 15th March I think I knew that it could well be a long time before I did that again. The next few weeks were certainly a steep learning curve for a lot of us. The church moved online and once my brain moved out of panic mode and rebooted in safe mode I realised that a significant change was taking place all around me. I live in an area not necessarily known for being a close-knit community these days but suddenly people were coming together, looking out for each other, helping others and being aware of other people’s needs and situations, not just their own. As “Clap for the Carers” progressed I met neighbours I’d never even seen before, let alone spoken to. A WhatsApp group was established. People started smiling at the each other, saying, “Hello”. Having moved here from mid Wales, where buying a pint of milk can easily take an hour, it was wonderful. Suddenly there was human contact. When the NHS asked for volunteers to help people get prescriptions etc they were overwhelmed by the response – and to me this all ties in directly with the first part of our Gospel reading this morning. To pick up Matthew’s language, people were fed, given food, clothed and visited by phone or by Zoom or by keeping a 2 metre distance outside. One of my own more unusual pastoral moments was a visit to a church member in the last weeks of a terminal illness. He was in bed and I, since I couldn’t go in, I was standing in a flowerbed by an open window. Weird – but a visit I’m so glad I did. I think that I always knew it would be the last time I’d actually see him.
A number of churches have also been heavily involved in community response and support, members and ministers alike being key workers in trying to mitigate some of the effects of the lockdown. Our online churches have been out there meeting spiritual needs and it’s interesting that many suddenly found themselves with bigger congregations than they had pre-Covid days- and covering much greater areas too. So, when I read about the judgement of the Son of Man and about the sheep and goats this year, I dare to respond to it with a little more positivity. That’s not to be complacent. I don’t dismiss the times when we have failed. I don’t dismiss the times when we didn’t welcome, we didn’t give food or a drink, didn’t clothe, or didn’t visit- but if those three parables which precede our Gospel reading are all about knowing what to do and doing it then I dare to hope that we’ve done rather better this year. Surely this year we should give thanks to God for all the appropriate responses as well as confess the times we failed. We should give thanks that God has been with us through it all- our refuge and out strength, as the Psalmist writes. Matthew’s Gospel makes it clear that when we are judged our faith should have been expressed through obedient and loving behaviour to all, not just to those we like. After the year we’ve been through – and after the way we’ve responded, a little more carrot and a little less stick is surely appropriate today.
So, having looked back a bit, I’d like finally to look forward and two hymns by Isaac Watts always seem to say so much at this point. “There is a land of pure delight”, he writes and says the we need not fear that because, if we could just see it then nothing would “fright us from the shore”. In the other hymn Watts imagines that he’s been given a special pair of wings to allow him to do precisely that. He asks “the saints above” how they got there and tells us that, “they, with united breath, ascribe their conquest to the Lamb, their triumph to his death.” I’ve long found those words both encouraging and reassuring. They may have been written a little over 300 years ago but I believe them still to be at the heart of our faith and a joy upon which to meditate.
So, as the liturgical year comes to an end I find myself looking forward with hope and with optimism. 2020 has been a difficult year. I have lost members of my congregations to the COVID- but I do hope that we’ve risen to its challenges with faithfulness, resourcefulness and courage.
Our Gospel reading is always a challenge. There is always room for improvement but this year I read it knowing that in so many ways a lot of people have done their very, very best to deliver that standard. And where we’ve failed to meet that standard, I also believe in a God who is merciful.
Hymn:Christ, Of God Unseen, The Image The Rev’d Leith Fisher, (b1941) based on Colossians 1: 15-20
1 Christ, of God unseen the image, born before creation’s birth; through whom all things were created, all that live in heaven and earth – realms and rulers, thrones, dominions, powers great and forces small through and for Him made and fashioned – He is in and over all.
2 Christ the firstborn of creation, Christ in whom all things cohere, all things’ Maker, seen and unseen, low and lofty, far and near, Christ the head of His dear body, of His Church the living core, risen from the dead before us – Him we gladly now adore.
3 Christ in whom the very fullness of the living God is found, Christ who reconciles creation turning earth to holy ground, Christ the home of God’s good pleasure through whose blood is made our peace, in whose Cross, beyond all measure, is our freedom and release.
Affirmation of Faith
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.
This is the faith of the Church! We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Prayers of Intercession
Loving, living God, today we as we think of the reign of Christ the King we give thanks and pray for all those who, in the terms of our Bible reading, have acted as sheep. We pray for those who have given the hungry food, those who have given the thirsty a drink. We pray for those who welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit those in prison. We give thanks for the many acts of kindness and caring shown in these difficult and frightening times.
In our prayers we continue to pray for those involved in the caring professions. We pray for those trying to improve the lot of their fellow human beings, particularly remembering those doing so in the face of uncaring or unjust leaders. And we pray for the scientists working for a vaccine for Covid (and the other dreaded diseases) at the moment.
And we pray for those who are hungry and thirsty today. We pray for the sick. We pray for the dying and we pray for those who are mourning. We pray for the stranger, the frightened, the homeless and we pray for those whom we know and who are finding life a struggle at this time.
And we pray for ourselves. Open our eyes and open our hearts that we may respond as those Biblical sheep did. May we live our lives in a state of preparedness for your coming, setting our eyes on that “land of pure delight where saints immortal reign” which we may glimpse through faith. May we do everything in our power to share that glimpse with others through our lives and through our actions.
In a moment or two of quiet we bring our own, personal payers before God…
And the collect for this Sunday,- stir-up Sunday.
“Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
O God, from whom we receive both our gifts and our power to give; grant that our offerings, which we bring to you, may be used for in your service and for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Praise god from whom all blessings flow Praise him all creatures here below Praise hm above ye heavenly host Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Hymn Christ triumphant, ever reigning
1 Christ triumphant, ever reigning, Saviour, Master, King! Lord of heaven, our lives sustaining, hear us as we sing: Yours the glory and the crown, the high renown, the eternal name.
2 Word incarnate, truth revealing, Son of Man on earth! power and majesty concealing by your humble birth: Yours the glory…
3 Suffering servant, scorned, ill – treated, victim crucified! death is through the cross defeated, sinners justified: Yours the glory…
4 Priestly king, enthroned for ever high in heaven above! sin and death and hell shall never stifle hymns of love: Yours the glory…
5 So, our hearts and voices raising through the ages long, ceaselessly upon you gazing, this shall be our song: Yours the glory…
Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you all now and always.
Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith. Andy Braunston, Addie Redmond, Aaron Wood and Ray Fraser for other spoken parts of the service. Alleluia Sing to Jesus- (W. Chatterton Dix, Tune: Hyfrodol), sung by the Choir of Kings College Cambridge There Is A Land Of Pure Delight- (Isaac Watts), Red Mountain Music Christ, of God Unseen, The Image- (The Rev’d Leith Fisher, (b1941) based on Colossians 1: 15-20), Edinburgh University Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Kitchen (Organ) Christ Triumphant, Ever Reigning– (Michael Saward), Jubilate Hymns
Organ Pieces Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach, (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Nun Danket Alle Gott – Marche Triomphale (“Now thank we all our God”) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert, (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776, Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved. PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762
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