Worship service for Sunday 26 November
Ipswich Central Uniting Church
Year A Christ the King
Light the Christ Candle
Call to Worship
O be joyful in the Lord all the earth;
serve the lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song.
Know that the Lord is God;
it is he that has made us and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is gracious; his steadfast love is everlasting
and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.
Hymn Together in Song 216 Rejoice, the Lord is King
Passing the Peace
Prayer of adoration and confession
Creator, Ruler and Judge of all creation
We thank you for the wonder of all your works
For your goodness reflected in all that you have made
we thank you that in Jesus you have come to us to share our lives
to bridge the gap between us, and bring us into closer relationship with you.
We thank you for your Spirit present with us,
Giving us your strength and peace and hope, day by day
and guiding us in the life you would have us live.
Creator, Ruler and Judge of all creation
we confess our failure to live in line with your will for us
we have not loved you completely
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves
we are sorry for our failings.
Help us to turn back to you
help us to start again
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Declaration of forgiveness
…our sins are forgiven
Thanks be to God!
Hymn Together in Song 230 It passes knowledge
Hymn Together in Song 629 When I needed a neighbour
Today in the church calendar is the festival of Christ the King. It’s the last day of the church year, so in a sense, it’s what our whole year builds up to.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had readings warning us to be ready. Today, we hear the story which gives us a picture of Jesus’ return as both king and judge. Unlike the parables we’ve heard for the past few weeks - this is not a story of everyday events given extra meaning. Instead this story begins in an other-worldly setting; and in it people suddenly discover the real importance of everyday things they have done.
And what is the importance of what they’ve done? The previous parables focussed on waiting and being ready for Jesus to return. Suddenly, we are surprised to discover that Jesus hasn’t been that fa away. In fact, he’s come to us over and over again, in and through other people. Jesus was already there, in the poor, the sick, the disabled, the imprisoned.
No-one realised he was there. Not the guilty (or they might have behaved differently), nor even the righteous.
The righteous haven’t thought they were trying to pass a test. They were simply living by the rule of life Jesus has given. Jesus’ rule of life is much simpler than a lot of teachers’ rules of life, at least to say, but it’s not all that simple to live. His rule of life is to love; love God with everything we are and everything we have; and love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
To love in this sense isn’t about an emotion or a romantic ideal. Love is an action. Those who have truly loved have acted in love, not just (or necessarily) felt it. And acting, really acting, in love means not expecting anything in return. So of course there are those who have done so are surprised at their reward.
The most vulnerable people in the world are those who cannot help themselves, for whatever reason. Jesus says, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”
The Bible leaves us in do doubt that we will all have to face Jesus one day, not only as our shepherd and saviour, but as our judge. It also tells us the criteria by which we will be judged. (We can’t say we didn’t know.)
Jesus will accept or reject us by whether we accept or reject him - we are told throughout the New Testament. But it is spelled out in today’s passage that Jesus comes to us as the person in need. How we react to him as we find him when he comes to us in need, affects how he reacts to us when he sits in judgment.
The single mother who can’t feed her family - is Jesus.
The middle aged woman at risk of homelessness - is Jesus.
The young person who can’t get a job - is Jesus.
The gay person who’s been abused because of who he is - is Jesus.
The displaced person, fleeing war, or violence, including those on Manus Island - is Jesus.
The homeless person - is Jesus.
The estranged member of the family - is Jesus.
The Muslim woman abused for wearing a hijab - is Jesus.
The alcoholic and the drug addict - are Jesus.
The person who has hurt us in the past, and now needs our help - is also Jesus.
The person who seems most unlike Jesus as we can imagine - is Jesus when he or she comes to us in need.
Each of these people is Jesus, to us. Each offers us the opportunity to love and to serve him.
They may not look like Jesus. They may not act like Jesus. They may not speak like Jesus. But whatever we do to “the least of these” we do to him.
Some of them might be easy to feel love or compassion for. Some of them will be very difficult to feel love or compassion for. But we’re not judged by how we feel about these individuals, but how we behave towards them.
Love isn’t always easy. But if you or I knew the hungry person beside us really was Jesus, we’d share our food even if we weren’t sure we had enough.
One day each of us will face Jesus. And what he will see when he looks at us is how we have loved, or failed to love.
Offering and Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness
What’s God doing among us? / Notices
Prayers of the People
Creator, Ruler and Judge of all creation,
we thank you for the gift of our neighbour
for the people through whom we encounter Jesus day by day.
We pray for the needs of our neighbours,
for those who are weak and need strength,
for those who are frightened and need courage,
for those who are facing difficult decisions and need wisdom
for those who are dealing with major crises and need hope
for those who are in pain and need comfort.
We pray for the needs of our neighbours throughout the world
We pray for the huge numbers of people displaced through war and disaster, particularly for those on Manus Island at the moment.
We pray for those who need practical help,
and those who need to know that someone cares and they are not alone.
We pray for the needs of our neighbours
and we pray that you will use us to help meet the needs we encounter day by day.
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Together in Song 665 Jesus Christ is waiting