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Worship Resources, Prayers and Bible Study

Last Sunday before Advent / Christ the King / Stir up Sunday

Liturgical Colour - Red


Opening Verse

Jesus as Pantocrator - Ruler of All

 
 
 
 

Christ Pantocrator (Ruler of All)

Jesus is typically depicted as teacher and philosopher. Like other teachers, he holds a book. His gaze is intent, inquiring, both open and inward. His heavenly blue outer garment and earthy red inner garment symbolize his dual nature. His unique halo is marked by a cross and lettering, roughly translatable as "I am who I am."

Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Sentence
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead:
Intercessions from our Sunday worship

Sermon


Christ the KingIntroduction

This Sunday is a special one, and the last Sunday of the Church year. Next week we begin the church year with the four Sundays of Advent. Our collect today reminds us that it is ‘Stir Up Sunday’ a Sunday synonymous with Christmas puddings. The great cry 'stir up' was a reminder to congregations to get the Christmas pudding made in plenty of time to mature before Christmas. An important addition to the mixture is a coin, whoever gets it on their plate on Christmas Day should get worldly riches heaped upon them.
However, the prayer is actually asking God for something much more important. We are praying that God will stir up our wills, so that we might get on with doing the good works that he has planned for us to do. Then, as a consequence, we pray that we might receive our abundant reward.

In an age when so much is about how we feel, it is interesting to get another perspective. In the end, it is our will, rather than our feelings, that is the most important governor of our actions.
Real love is not about feeling it is about choosing, by our wills, to do good to others even though we may not feel good towards them. Our feelings should not dominate our wills. And so we pray that God will "stir up" our wills, so that they will be in charge of us, doing what we know is right. In this prayer we recognise that we need God’s help in order for our wills to function properly.

 Today we remember that Jesus is King, Lord of all. The reading from Matthew today tells of the end of time when all will be judged by Jesus. Jesus uses the image of a shepherd who sorts out the sheep from the goats, so there will be a separation of people who have done good things and people who have failed to do good.

Jesus is coming to the end of his teaching in this Gospel, before he goes towards Jerusalem and he will be crucified. As he concludes this teaching session it is as though Jesus is shown by Matthew to say 'Look what I have said is serious, this is important, listen to what I say because there are consequences.'

The good news is that the challenge which Jesus gives can be fulfilled by anybody. We do not need lots of money to give away, we do not need to find a cure for Cancer. Jesus simply tells his followers to be kind to one another. Look after the poor, visit the sick give food to the hungry. We can all do this, and so we become a part of God's family.

 

Opening Verses of Scripture 

Proverbs 19:17

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full


Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in 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, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.   Common Worship

God the father, help us to hear the call of Christ the king and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory.  Common Worship Shorter Collect.

Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that they bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be richly rewarded: through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen  (Common Worship may be used)


First Bible Reading  Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24

" '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 have 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. " '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.

Second Reading Ephesians 1: 15-23

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.


Gospel Reading  Matthew 25:31-48

 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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 sick 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 sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers 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 sick 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 sick or in prison, and did not help you?'  "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, 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."  

Post Communion Sentence

Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, that they bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be richly rewarded: through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen   (Common Worship)

Eternal Father, keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at the feet of Jesus Christ your son. Amen
 

Commentary

In the passage this morning we hear the last teaching which Matthew records from Jesus, so we should expect it to be important. It is about the judgement of all people. We should perhaps begin by recognising the plight of the poor old goat. The sheep get all the praise and it seems as though Jesus is always getting at goats. Of course, goats are not worse animals than sheep. Shepherds separated sheep from the goats because sheep tolerate cold better than goats, so shepherds put goats in a protected spot while the sheep continued to forage. The readers of the book of Matthew would be familiar with the image, they would have seen Shepherds separate sheep and goats. Using this language was also helpful at the time because the word sheep was often used as a metaphor for the people of God. Likewise the Messiah was often spoken of a shepherd.
This metaphorical and figurative language has throughout Christian history been taken very literally. The image is portrayed of Jesus sitting on a cloud at some point at the end of human history. The whole of humanity is lined up with Jesus sorting out two groups, one side going through the pearly gates to eternal bliss, the other miserable offenders are sent off to eternal damnation, in the same way that Jews were despatched to the torture and human ovens of the concentration camps.

 
Leaving such nonsense aside, what is the point that Jesus is making? Matthew appears to be concluding the teaching of Jesus in His gospel, by recording these words which show that Jesus was serious about expecting lives to be changed by the teaching. It wasn’t just for fun, God notices what goes on. God thinks that the lives we lead here on earth are of consequence, and so our behaviour has serious consequences. The way in which we treat others has importance to God, he takes note and there is judgement.
 

Jesus is using a picture which was familiar to his hearers to illustrate the fact that good and bad behaviour is different and is judged. Jews grew up familiar with the image of the Messiah as somebody who would come and judge humanity and separate them as a shepherd separated the sheep from the goats. Of course they expected that the sheep would be the Jews of Israel, and the goats would be everybody else. Jesus tells his hearers that they are in for a surprise. There is going to be judgement, but the criteria for good and bad has changed! From now on the basis for being in God’s good books was to be based on the teachings of Jesus and obedience to them. If people wanted to be a part of the Kingdom of God then there was a sure fire way of ensuring success, treat your neighbour they way that you would wish to be treated.
 

Jesus mentions six deeds of mercy. They are not meant to be comprehensive, rather they show that Jesus is concerned by specific material acts of kindness towards the needy. This might sound like the teaching of a British monk, Pelagius, who ended up being branded a heretic. However it is the authentic teaching of Jesus who does not demand supernatural or spiritual exercises, just simple unobtrusive charity. Spiritual talent can easily be counterfeit, charity might appear more mundane, but it is much more easily recognised and accordingly is a better test of faith. We are faced by many opportunities to help the needy. These acts of kindness can be provided by anybody, we need not have wealth to offer ourselves. To visit, to care, such things all are within reach of everybody.
 

In the story Jesus tells that those who are rewarded are surprised, because they had no idea that their acts of kindness were noticed by God. They were motivated only by mercy, not by greed for reward. It has been suggested that Jesus only wanted us to be kind to other Christians, but Jesus was never selective in his care for others and he even encouraged Christians to care for their enemies. Some theologians become quite animated at the thought that people appear to be earning salvation through simple acts of kindness and charity, but to do so is to miss the point of the teaching of Jesus.

 
Jesus is not speaking about a literal point of judgement in the future history of the world. Rather Jesus is stressing the need for us to take seriously his teaching on the importance of right behaviour now. In so much as people show kindness and mercy, they demonstrate the presence of God within them and live by the standards of the kingdom. Through their behaviour they make themselves citizens of that kingdom of Jesus today, they are one of Christ’s sheep.
 

The faithful will see everyone as a brother or sister in Christ and will respond to the need to care for all God's children. By their deeds they will walk in the way of Jesus, will be in relationship with him, a part of his family. The un-faithful will only look after themselves and will find Christ to be far from them. It is self determining. If we embrace the teaching of Jesus as our King then we become part of his kingdom now, not at some judgement at the end of time. So we find the kingdom to give meaning in our lives and we know not only the joy of considering the needs of others, but the delight of serving the King.
 

So for us, we know that we are called to the service of others, we are also called to work to change oppressive systems and human structures that fail to serve the needy and work against relieving troubled lives and broken sprits. God's calls us to take the resources he has given us and use them for the good of all, and to be considerate of the plight of the weak and powerless.
On Christ the King Sunday we must decide to show that Jesus Christ is our King and we must do so by having the courage and commitment to become more and more a part of the reign of God.

‘virtue is not far from us, nor is it without ourselves, but it is within us,
and is easy if only we are willing’ (Anthony the Great).

Charles Royden

 

Meditation

To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
All pray in their distress
And return these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.


For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love--the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
And all must love the human form,
In Heathen, Turk or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love and Pity dwell
There is God dwelling too.

William Blake

Hymns

  1. Thou didst leave (Tune Margaret)

  2. Majesty

  3. I come with joy to meet my Lord (Kilmarnock)

  4. The church of Christ in very age (Heronsgate)

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.

 

We pray for the Church throughout the world, that she may be a voice for those who lack even the basic necessities of life, tirelessly serving them and calling for change. We pray for the world’s leaders, that they may not hide behind their power or abuse it, but work for the good of all humanity, particularly the poor throughout the world. We pray for our local community, that we may show our love through our respect for each other and for our environment, gladly sharing what we have with those in need.

In an act of will, O God, I place myself in your presence. In an act of faith I open myself to your light. In an act of silence, O Lord, I rest in your glory. In an act of love, O Lord, I put myself in your hands. Dorothy Kerin, 1889-1963


Additional Material

Today is the last Sunday of the church year, next week the year begins with the first Sunday in Advent, four Sundays before Christmas. Our collect today reminds us that it is ‘Stir Up Sunday’ a Sunday synonymous with Christmas puddings. The great cry 'stir up' was a reminder to congregations to get the Christmas pudding made in plenty of time to mature before Christmas. An important addition to the mixture is a coin, whoever gets it on their plate on Christmas Day should get worldly riches heaped upon them.

However, the Stir Up prayer is actually asking God for something much more important. We are praying that God will stir up our wills, so that we might get on with doing the good works that he has planned for us to do. Then, as a consequence, we pray that we might receive our abundant reward.
In an age when so much is about how we feel, it is interesting to get another perspective. In the end, it is our will, rather than our feelings, that is the most important governor of our actions. Real love is not about feeling it is about choosing, by our wills, to do good to others even though we may not feel good towards them. Our feelings should not dominate our wills. And so we pray that God will "stir up" our wills, so that they will be in charge of us, doing what we know is right. In this prayer we recognise that we need God’s help in order for our wills to function properly.


"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."

Meditation

Today we commemorate the feast of Christ the King. The celebration of the day only entered the church’s calendar in the Twentieth century but it has become a valuable part of our preparations for Advent. On this day we recall Jesus in His eternal aspect, as King and Ruler, rather than as He was in his earthly life. 

The understanding of Jews was that the primary function of kingship was to sit in judgement and to administer justice. 

The image of Christ the King in the Gospel today is awe-inspiring and intimidating. Jesus will be enthroned in majesty and all the peoples of the earth will be required to stand before Him awaiting judgement. The Lord will divide everyone into two camps, those who are saved and those who are not. It is a stark and frightening thought. There will be no time for excuses or explanations. Each person at the end of his or her life will be judged on the deeds they have done. 

We are accustomed to think of Jesus in his earthly life, as a loving, mild and thoughtful person, always tolerant and forgiving. This warning of the final judgement presents an image of Jesus as a stern but fair judge. The reading from Ezekiel sets the Gospel in the context of a beautiful description of God as a good shepherd, loving and vigilant, eternally watching over us, his sheep. The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley

Meditation

We are now reaching the end of the Church’s year. With the beginning of Advent, we begin again the cycle of the birth of Jesus, his ministry, his death, Passion and resurrection. 

The ending of a year is a good time to assess where we have been, what has been achieved, and perhaps most importantly, where we are going with our journey of faith. 

If, when we look at our spiritual lives, we feel that we have made no real progress, perhaps it is time to embark on more regular Bible study. Perhaps joining a house group would give you the support you need for growth? Perhaps you would like to put your faith into some kind of action, helping missionary work or community projects. 

New beginnings are always exciting, offering us the challenge of new spiritual adventures and development.

Prayers

Lord of the past and the future: we thank you for the last Church Year. We thank you for the fellowship and joy of our worship together as a community. We pray for the coming year, that we may benefit from the teaching and wisdom of the church and grow in faith and knowledge of You, Amen.

I am made in the image and likeness of God. I am created and sustained by the breath of God. I am held in the palm of God’s hand. I am loved by God with an everlasting love. I am made by the God of vision—whose plans for me are of fullness not harm, who gives me a future and hope. I am created by God to live a life worthy of my vocation. I am held by God—in whom I live and move and have my being. I am loved by the God who sent his only Son so that I might not die but have eternal life. I am made a new creation in Christ. I am created to be a living sacrifice of praise. I am held together by my brothers and sisters—one Body in Christ. I am made as God’s work of art. Amen

Hymns

  1. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creation (lobe den herren)
  2. Give me oil in my lamp (sing hosanna)
  3. All of my hope on God is founded (michael)
  4. Just as I am without plea (saffron walden)
  5. Rejoice the Lord is King! (Gopsal)