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Service for the Feast of Christ the King

[Keep a moment of silence, calling to mind that, though we are unable to gather together, we share fellowship as a Church family as we offer this short act worship in our own homes]

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Collect

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. Amen.

Reading: Matthew 25.31-46

A Reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne, and the people of all the nations will be gathered before him.  Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the righteous people on his right and the others on his left.  Then the king will say to the people on his right, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father.  Come and possess the kingdom prepared for you ever since the creation of the world.  I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”  The righteous will then answer, “When Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you a drink?  When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you into our homes, or naked and clothed you?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?”          The King will reply, “I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me!”  Then he will say to those on his left, “Away from me, you are under God’s curse!  Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels!  I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink; I was a stranger but you would not welcome me in your homes, naked but you would not clothe me; I was sick and in prison but you would not take care of me.”  Then they will answer him, “When Lord did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, but would not help you?”  The King will reply, “I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.”  These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.’

Reflection

Today Christians celebrate the Feast of Christ the King and how for well over two billion people throughout the world Jesus is and forever shall be the central person in human history. Christ the King and Lord of Lords! 

In purely worldly terms Jesus had none of the credentials we normally associate with great statesmen and women.  He didn’t go to the best school.  He wasn’t widely travelled. He wrote no books, commanded no armies, and was cruelly put to death for the crime of blasphemy.  And yet, two thousand years on, he reigns in the hearts of Christians across the world. He transfigures lives and communities for the good and continues to be a major influence on life and decision making.

But for him, the symbol of his power, the crown, was a crown of thorns.  We see in him, not a world ruler who lauds it over us or as someone to fear, like the despots of history, but a king who becomes the servant of all, a suffering servant.  His glory is found not in riches, political spin and power, but in love and reconciliation.  In the days of his earthly ministry he healed the sick, lifted up the poor and taught us what it is to be made in God’s image.  We see his kingly authority in his love for the world, divine love in all its glory on a cross, a love made victorious by the mystery of Easter’s empty tomb. 

In today’s parable of the Sheep and the Goats Jesus speaks about his coming as the Son of Man and about judgement.  It’s a difficult and challenging story.

In the Holy Land of our Lord’s day sheep and goats were kept together in mixed flocks.  At night they were often separated because the goats needed to be kept warm.  As the sheep were more valuable to the shepherd they were given the place of honour, at the right hand.

The parable forewarns us about the judgement we will encounter at the end of time, when nations will be summoned before the king and peoples separated as sheep or goats. Jesus tells us that we will be judged, not so much by our faith, by the number of times we’ve gone to Church, read our Bible or said our prayers; but in how far we have gone out of our way to help those who, for one reason or another, cannot help themselves.  The reward of life in all its fullness is given to those who have fed the poor, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger, given water to the thirsty, cared for the sick and the imprisoned.  “For I tell you,” says Jesus, “whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me!”

Our Lord’s kingship challenges us to remember that true greatness in our world leaders will only ultimately be found in service, not in fear, in military might or in political cunning.  A true statesman or woman must put others and the common good before their own personal ambition.  And what is true for our leaders should also be true for us.  To follow Christ is to leave self behind, to take up the way of the cross and to serve him in our love for our neighbours.  Remembering that our neighbour in need is not just a person or a family down the road but the hungry in Africa and elsewhere, or those innocently caught up in conflict or natural disaster.

Many rulers, kings and presidents have come and gone in human history, along with ideologies and empires, but Christians celebrate today an eternal kingdom which really is good news to our often warring and divided world. At its heart is a vision of sacrificial love, reconciling peace and transfiguring life. It was and is Christ the King’s way of life and he invites us now to follow him.

Prayers

Christ our King, we pray that your peace will reign in our hearts and in the world, as we pray especially for peace in the Middle East, in Syria, the Yemen, in Ethiopia and wherever there is conflict.  We ask your blessing on aid agencies, for Christian Aid, Housing Justice Cymru, on the St Thomas Foodbank and on all those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick and imprisoned.

                        Lord, hear us...

Christ our King, we bring to you the Church of which you are Lord. We ask your forgiveness for times when we have failed to care for those who have needed our protection and help. Make your Church a place where the hungry may find the food of eternal life, the thirsty may find living water, and those in bondage may find freedom.

                        Lord, hear us...

Christ our King, we pray for leaders of the nations; for the people of the United States of America at this time of transition and uncertainty; and for those who are tasked with responding to the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

                        Lord, hear us...

Christ our King, we pray for this community and for all who live and work here. May this parish be a place of generosity, where the contributions of all are valued and the weakest are protected. We remember those who are supporting those who continue to isolate in their homes at this time.

                        Lord, hear us...

Christ our King, be with those who need healing and hope, and send them people who will care for them with love and compassion. 

                        Lord, hear us...

Christ our King, prepare us for the time when we will stand before you in your glory, and see our lives in the light of your love. Welcome those who have died into your kingdom of justice and peace.

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.

Prayer for those who are unable to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.

[after the Prayer of St Richard of Chichester]

[Keep a moment of silence for spiritual communion with our Lord and with our brothers and sisters]

 

From heav’n you came, helpless babe, entered our world, your glory veiled;

not to be served but to serve, and give your life that we might live.

This is our God, the Servant King, he calls us now to follow him,

to bring our lives as a daily offering of worship to the Servant King.

Graham Kendrick [b.1950]

May Christ our exalted King pour on us his abundant gifts that we may serve him and reign with him in glory, and the blessing of God almighty,  the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always.  Amen.

 

Bible Readings: New Revised Standard Version [1989]  - Word of the Lord: Church in Wales - Common Worship Intercession [adapted] - CCL Parish Copyright Licence:  753662


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