Music before we worship: Hillsong – Here I Am To Worship (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)
Call to Worship: Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; The Holy One is God, the Holy One made us and we are like sheep in God’s sheepfold. Come before him with thanksgiving, ready to give thanks and to offer gratitude to God. For the Holy One is good and steadfast love and faithfulness will be God’s nature forever. We are God’s people.
Hymn: O Worship the King all glorious above (The link opens up youtube in a separate window)
Adoration: Oh, that the world might acknowledge your name and join with us in worship and praise. Oh, that the world might recognise its need and look to you for forgiveness and grace. Oh, that the world might comprehend your love and turn to you for salvation and peace.
Thanksgiving: Shepherd-king, you lead us to green pastures and safekeeping in your kingdom, welcoming all who follow and acknowledge you as Lord. For such love and faithfulness, generation to generation, and your care for all who are the sheep of your flock, we thank you.
Confession: For all those times we simply turned aside and looked the other way when faced by need, forgive us. For all those times we could have said something and brought a little comfort but stayed silent, forgive us. For all those times a neighbour was lonely and, rather than visit, we shut our door, forgive us. Unlock our hearts; let love pour out and overflow, through your grace and mercy, we pray.
Assurance of Pardon In repentance and in faith, receive the promise of grace and assurance of pardon.
Here are words we may trust; words that merit full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. To all who turn to him he says, “your sins are forgiven”. He also says follow me.
Thanks be to God Amen
We combine our prayers in saying the prayer that our Saviour taught us
Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth 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 the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect for the Day: Eternal Father, whose son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord: keep the church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen Methodist Worship
Matthew 25: 31-46
(Click the links above to go to Oremus NRSV online)
Hymn: The Servant King (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
Reflection on Scripture: The Shepherd King
I grew up in a mainly arable area and can readily tell wheat from barley and whilst not much pastoral farming took place, I, and most likely you too, would like to think I can tell a sheep from a goat.
However in the days when Jesus was speaking in our reading from Matthew things were very different, sheep and goats looked very similar, weren’t the fluffy creatures we know today that have been bred for their wool. In biblical times it took the trained eye of a shepherd to tell sheep from goat.
Such was their similarity the shepherd often distinguished between them by their behaviour. I’m no expert on animal behaviour, especially sheep and goats but a quick search online reveals some insights of their characteristics.
Sheep being browsers tend to move as one in a flock whereas goats being browsers tend to wander off in all directions. Sheep seek the safety and security of the flock and shepherd whereas goats like to do their own thing, taking chances on their own.
Sheep are willing to be led, responding to the call and voice of the shepherd whereas goats apparently are more likely to hear the voice of the shepherd and head off defiantly in the other direction. Whilst sheep seem happy in the confines of the fold it is said that if your fences can’t hold in water they can’t hold a goat as they will find a way out.
Given the different characteristics of sheep and goats it is no surprise that they are used as metaphors of those who embrace Christ and those who don’t. It of course fits neatly with the motif of Christ as shepherd, gathering and tending his flock. In our reading from Matthew that motif is extended as Christ the Shepherd King. In the role of shepherd Jesus discerns those of his sheep but also delivers judgement in the way a king of those days would have done.
If the notion of Christ’s judgement and its heavenly or fiery consequences sit uncomfortably with us then we should take comfort that it is a chance for us to change, a chance for us to respond to what is a call for obedience.
It is a call to live a life in obedience of Christ’s commandments the greatest of which is to love one another.
The passage makes clear that our judgement will not hinge on how long we have been Christians, how frequently we pray or how well we know Scripture but upon how we have treated the most vulnerable and needy within our society. To put it another way, how we have reflected the love of Christ we receive to those around us in need.
In verse 40 Jesus says, “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”. In short what we do to others we do to Christ himself.
Poverty and injustice are the visible manifestations of the world’s brokenness and distance from the Kingdom. Jesus invites us to respond to his call for obedience offering us two paths, either to be a goat and endorse and engage in inequality or to be of his sheep to recognise and respond to those in need. It is a choice that requires and demands an active response, if Jesus’ words are a call to obedience then they must too be a call for action.
We cannot simply declare our love of Christ and take our place among his sheep, we must live out that love towards others through word and deed. The grass of the Lord’s pasture is given to all his flock and it is incumbent upon on us to enable an equal and just sharing of his blessing.
By reaching out in love to those around us we might respond to Christ’s call for obedience and action and who knows, we might discover that some we thought were goats are actually sheep after all.
Hymn: When I Needed A Neighbour (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
Prayers for others:
Gracious God, for those moments when people feel like what they offer is never enough, we pray that they may be filled with hope and strength to recognize and invest in their gifts.
We pray that those who have wealth, power, and political ties may use their positions for the good of all. We pray for people in situations of oppression, where dignity and self-worth are violated, and where greed diminishes the life of another. We pray for those in need, for those struggling to put food on the table, for those struggling to heat their homes and those without a place to call home.
We pray for those known to us and in our community who are sick, depressed, mourning losses, feeling alone, seeking new hope, looking for work or feeling alienated.
In all these things, grant us courage to respond with your gifts of mercy, encouragement, love, kindness, endurance. Amen.
Hymn: At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
Blessing: Friends, go well, with and within the currents of Spirit. Be of good courage, and gentle of heart. Be of wise mind, and open to new instruction. Be of vision, not ignoring the obvious and pressing. Be of simple faith, yet radically open to questions and doubts. Be free; a generous healing and freedom for others.
And the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among us now and forever more.
Video service from St Peter’s Methodist Church Canterbury click here
Lectionary Leanings: Instinctive good a weekly lectionary reflection by our friend the Revd Dr Paul Glass and click here for Paul reading his reflection on video (The link opens up you tube in a separate window)
Daily devotions from the United Reformed Church. A radio-style / podcast service with hymns, readings, prayers and a sermon. Sign up on the page to receive The Sunday Service email which will contain an order of service and words for you to sing along with the hymns.
Worship at home 22nd November from the Methodist church. A really great way to follow along at home worshipping with other Christians at home.
Birch, John. The Act of Prayer: Praying through the Lectionary. Bible Reading Fellowship. Kindle Edition.
Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year A . Wood Lake Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.