Act of Worship prepared by Revd Charity Nzegwu for Sunday 22nd November 2020 - 10.30am on Zoom

 

Gathering music choice of the organist

 

Call to Worship

Today we are reminded once again about who we have chosen to follow.  We have an opportunity to give thanks for the author of salvation and the one who has given us the gift of the Church and the fellowship of the body that we celebrate each time we gather in person or online. This Sunday marks the end of the Christian year which began in Advent last December.

Therefore, this is a culmination of all that has gone before us, a reminder of the Christ we follow and our gratitude for all that we have done together, even during a difficult year. Let there be a party atmosphere as we give thanks for God’s goodness and for our place in the body of Christ. This is Christ in his glory. 

We have come to worship; we have come in the name of Christ the King.

The joy of the Lord Jesus be with you all!    

And also with you! 

Let us rejoice in the glory of Christ, our only true King, in whom there is no shadow or darkness, but a light wherein the humble and poor may walk secure for ever and ever!

Hymn 113                             O worship the King, all – glorious above

1. O worship the King, all glorious above;
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendour, and girded with praise.

2. O tell of his might, O sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space;
his chariots of wrath the deep thunder-clouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

3. The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, your power has founded of old;
established it fast by a changeless decree,
and round it has cast, like a mantle, the sea

4. Your bountiful care what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distils in the dew and the rain.

5. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in you do we trust, nor find you to fail;
your mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

6. O measureless Might, ineffable Love,

while angels delight to hymn you above,

your ransomed creation, though feeble our praise,

in true adoration our voices we raise

Robert Grant Public Domain
CCLI Licence No. 9141

 

Prayer of Approach

 

Loving God, by your Spirit encouraging us, and the love of Christ enabling us, may we worship you with the enthusiasm born of true love. We join our voices with the millions who today praise the name of Jesus from every nation on earth, and with the great host of heavenly souls whose praise and love fills the universe and flows far beyond all time and space. Glory be to you forever, through Christ our King. Amen!

 

Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Forgiveness 

 

Sisters and brothers Let us bring our errors and our sins before the founder of the Church, Christ the King.    Let us pray………..

We come before God through Christ our King, bearing the baggage of our long journey through life. We bring our hopes, fears, victories, defeats, love, indifference, generosity and selfishness.  We offer these to you and pray that by your wisdom you will help us sort out the clean from the soiled, the healthy from the infected, the true from the false, and the treasures from the rubbish. Please forgive and save us, lover of the foolish and the weary. Help us to let go of things we have prized, yet which have misled or corrupted us. Help us to find new delight in things we have treated as common, yet which are truly beautiful in your sight. Let us restock our meagre resources with the gifts of your Spirit and set our eyes on the humble King, who walks with wounded feet along the road we must take. In his name, we pray. Amen

 

Assurance of Forgiveness

Sisters and brothers, our King is unlike any other; he comes not to be served but to serve and gives his life as a ransom for many. We are among those who have been ransomed. Take up your freedom and live it joyfully and lovingly, for your King wants to share his gift with you. Amen

 

Collect

 

God of eternity, we stand with the courage of those who insisted, even in perilous times, that not even the most powerful rulers of this earth hold our eternal destiny in their hands. We are secure in Christ, whose reign is just, whose power is endless, and whose love is immeasurable. God of eternity, we join the chorus of saints who continue to declare that Christ is our King.  Amen

 

Scripture Reading: 

 

Epistle  Ephesians 1: 15 -23

 

Paul’s Prayer

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[e] towards all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Matthew 25: 31- 46

 

The Judgement of the Nations

 

31 ‘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. 32 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, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 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; 35 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, 36 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.” 37 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? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40 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.” 41 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; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 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.” 44 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?” 45 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.” 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

 

Hymn  713            Show me how to stand for Justice

1. Show me how to stand for justice:
how to work for what is right,
how to challenge false assumptions,
how to walk within the light.
May I learn to share more freely
in a world so full of greed,
showing your immense compassion
by the life I choose to lead.

2. Teach my heart to treasure mercy,
whether given or received -
for my need has not diminished
since the day I first believed:
let me seek no satisfaction
boasting of what I have done,
but rejoice that I am pardoned
and accepted in your Son.

3. Gladly I embrace a lifestyle
modelled on your living word,
in humility submitting
to the truth which I have heard.
Make me conscious of your presence
every day in all I do:
by your Spirit's gracious prompting
may I learn to walk with you.

Martin E. Leckebusch © Kevin Mayhew Ltd
CCLI Licence No. 9141

Sermon

As I read the gospel passage and reflected on some of the exegetical work I have done before, I found new insights from the gospel read earlier. Perhaps, the text is less of a judgement text than it is a parable, as it is a teaching of visible grace. I use the word “visible,” intentionally as a way of connecting this interpretation to our understanding of sacraments as “visible sign of inward grace.”

Reading the text, I discovered that perhaps, Matthew isn’t actually warning his community that they will be judged by how they treat the poor. Rather, St Matthew is promising his oppressed hearers that, the “nations” (ethnos in Greek, usually refers to Gentiles or “foreigners” in Matthew and the Septuagint,) will be judged in accordance with their treatment of them, that is, Matthew’s community.  I don’t know about you, I was troubled a bit as this interpretation can be problematic, given the church’s influence and power through most of history, although it might have been very meaningful and comforting word to Matthew’s vulnerable and harassed listeners. In fact, it would be an assurance of presence, reversal, and, indeed, freedom of the Matthean community.

Everyone is astonished, sheep and goats, righteous and unrighteous. I am not sure anyone knows or expects that, when they are dealing with the most vulnerable and disregarded, the “least of these”, actually relating with Jesus. On Wednesday, The Royston Church Council decided to plan to reopen the Church building for use by those who are vulnerable within our community.  On reflection, I was reminded that, as with the surprising appearance of God in both manger and cross, God continues to show up where we least expect God to be. The command to care for the most vulnerable is clear throughout Scripture, and the promise that God is revealed to us when we do is the surprise!

God’s manifestation and presence is not some mountain-top experience or the result of an arduous spiritual journey, instead it is connected to actual, physical bodies and circumstances. Sisters and brothers, if we want to see Jesus, we are called to look to the needs of our neighbour and, especially our most vulnerable neighbours. I was encouraged by the depth of compassion and commitment that came through the conversation during the Council meeting. This led me to seriously consider the promise of salvation which is attached to Jesus’ command, involving a physical element and surprising us with God’s unexpected presence. That my friends is pretty much the hallmarks of the way we particularly describe the sacraments.

Sisters and brothers, in this time of isolation, division, unrest and wondering how we are going to get by, or whether there’s anything we can do, may we remind ourselves and each other of the promise that Jesus is really and truly available to us in the real and concrete needs of those around us. Be assured friends, that God takes all of this very seriously. She blesses our efforts and meets our deepest needs when we reach out to her in our times of struggle. I am absolutely convinced that the practices of outreach, advocacy, listening, mercy, and empowerment, have a sacramental character to them, so that at a time when sharing traditional sacraments, this non-traditional sacrament is still accessible to us. And as with the other sacraments, when we avail ourselves of it by seeing Christ in others and striving to meet their needs, we once again see the grace of God made visible and accessible in our midst.   Sisters and brothers, our work and our visibility has never been more needed…..yet, at such a time as this.   Amen

Prayers of Intercession:  

God our Provider, we bring our prayers to you for the hungry and the thirsty, for aid agencies, both Christian and secular, who seek to relieve the suffering and implement preventive programmes in the years that are to come. We pray for the work of All we Can.

Lord in your mercy                                Hear our Prayer

God our Guide, we bring our prayers to you for those who are strangers and outsiders, new people in town, new students in school, new employees at our workplace, new to our church. May they find the nurturing power of respect and acceptance.

Lord in your mercy                                Hear our Prayer

God of Compassion, we bring our prayers to you for the homeless, children on the streets and detention centres, children of parents struggling with alcohol and/or gambling dispirited refugee communities, the persecuted Church. Lead us to the most supportive way for them.

Lord in your mercy                                Hear our Prayer

God our Healer, we bring our prayers to you for all who are sick and suffering, and for the care being given at home, in hospital or hospice, or in the makeshift medical facilities in situations of warfare, or in extremely poor countries. Help us to share surgical skills and medications across all countries and communities. 

Lord in your mercy                                Hear our Prayer

God our Liberator, we bring to you our prayers for those in prison. We think of the murderers and the embezzlers, the rapists and the drug pushers, the thieves and the con-men; But also, those mistakenly convicted and those thousands who are prisoners of conscience. We pray too for the prison officers, social workers, chaplains, and for the work of Amnesty International.

Lord in your mercy                                Hear our Prayer

God or enabler, without you we can do nothing. With you we can achieve much more than we can ever see or measure. So, give us the love to thoughtfully and compassionately play our small part in relieving the sufferings of the world. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.

Lord in your mercy                                Hear our Prayer                

 Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Blessing and Dismissal

 

Christ the feet washer and the friend of sinners is our only King; therefore, no menial service for others is beneath our dignity. No individual is unworthy of our concern and respect. Therefore, in the power of the Holy Spirit, I charge you in the name of Christ, to keep your eyes and hearts open, and you will recognise those in whom Christ comes to you for mercy.

 

The love of Jesus, the Christ, ever enfolds you, the love of God ever encircles you, the fellowship of the Spirit ever enriches you, now and evermore!   Amen

 

Hymn             347    Crown him with many crowns,

1. Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns
all music but its own.
Awake my soul and sing
of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless King
through all eternity.

2. Crown him the Son of God,
before the worlds began;
and ye who tread where he has trod,
crown him the Son of Man;
who every grief hath known
that wrings the human breast,
and takes and bears them for his own,
that all in him may rest.

3. Crown him the Lord of life
who triumphed o'er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save.
His glories now we sing,
who died, and rose on high
who died, eternal life to bring,
and lives, that death may die.

4. Crown him the Lord of peace,
whose power a sceptre sways
from pole to pole, that wars may cease
absorbed in prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end,
and round his pierced feet
fair flowers of paradise extend
their fragrance ever sweet

5. Crown him the Lord of love;
behold his hands and side
rich wounds, yet visible above,
in beauty glorified.
All hail, Redeemer, hail
for thou hast died for me;
thy praise and glory shall not fail
throughout eternity

Godfrey Thring | Matthew Bridges © Words: Public Domain
CCLI Licence No. 9141

 

 

 

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