Morning Service for Christ the King (the Sunday next before Advent)

HYMN - Rejoice the Lord is King

1 REJOICE, the Lord is King,
Your Lord and King adore;
Mortals, give thanks and sing,
And triumph evermore:
Refrain:

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice.

2 Jesus, the Saviour, reigns,
The God of truth and love;
When he had purged our stains,
He took his seat above: [Refrain]

3 His kingdom cannot fail;
He rules o'er earth and heaven;
The keys of death and hell
Are to our Jesus given: [Refrain]

4 He sits at God's right hand
Till all his foes submit,
And bow to his command,
And fall beneath his feet: [Refrain]

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
God the Father forgives us in Christ and heals us by the Holy Spirit.
Let us therefore put away all anger and bitterness, all slander and malice,
and confess our sins to God our redeemer.   cf. Ephesians 4.30,32

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
we have sinned against you
and against our neighbour,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
We are truly sorry
and repent of all our sins.
For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may serve you in newness of life
to the glory of your name. Amen.

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT

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 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,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

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; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


FIRST READING - Ezekiel 34.11-16,20-24

For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

HYMN - The king of love my shepherd is

1 THE King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine for ever.

2 Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul he leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow
With food celestial feedeth.

3 Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love he sought me,
And on his shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

4 In death's dark vale I fear no ill
With thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

5 Thou spread'st a table in my sight;
Thy unction, grace bestoweth:
And O what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth!

6 And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house for ever.

GOSPEL - Matthew 25.31-46

“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. 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, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 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; 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, 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.’ 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? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 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.’ 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; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 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.’ 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?’ 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.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

SERMON

Stir up Sunday is a good name for this Sunday - the readings were chosen to stir us up  - to be stirred and even a little shaken too - shaken out of our complacency and self-satisfaction. They are not words easy to hear - they talk of judgment, of failing the test, and pretty awful consequences. Some parts of the Bible give us comfort and talk of forgiveness and acceptance, redemption and salvation for all. These are not those parts – they demand our attention, they should make us sit up and think.

Ezekiel speaks of a day when God will seek out the weak and lost and bring them home to his own rich pasture, but he speaks also of the well-fed and strong sheep that will be evicted, scattered far and wide. True, the sheep of Israel will know healing and restoration, but who are the true Israel – and does it include us?

Matthew was just as certain that this age would come soon, and his Lord Jesus would Judge the people of the world. But Jesus is a judge without precedent - he is present in the poor and outcast in human society, he was himself the victim of human judgment, mocked and crucified as some joke king of the Jews. But this Judge is he who 'will save his people from their sins.' A Judge like no other...

The judgments declared by the Son of man and the categories describing the needy who are served or not served carry immense and even threatening power. Sickness in the Bible, if not in our day, often includes the notion of sin and contagion, and nakedness implied shame and powerlessness, convicts and strangers are never ‘in’ – but, by definition, are always outsiders. These are all people on the edge – these are the not included, the embarrassing and inconvenient, the people we don’t seem to know. And it matters not whether these people are of the faith, are Christian or Jew or whatever, their circumstances put them at the fringe of society. To be deeply involved with such people means to be implicated in their predicament, to be incriminatingly linked to their situation, and no doubt to be guilty by association. 

Those whom Jesus invites to join him in the kingdom do not see what excludes these categories from society, only what includes them in shared humanity. What is implied is more even than altruistic giving, to feed and to welcome, to clothe, to care for and to visit, this is a deep involvement with the unacceptable, even the 'undeserving' poor. Their sense of surprise when recognised by the Judge suggests a total lack of self-consciousness on their part – they hadn’t seen him in the people they helped – they had simply helped them with no notion that it was an especially good thing – they could just do no other. 

It is this lack of self consciousness that is so disturbing - you can't mean to do these things in order to please the Judge - what they did they did because it was an expression of who they were – it wasn’t something planned, they just couldn’t help themselves. It was simply their response to gift of life.

So I can’t tell you to go out and do the same – because if that was why you did it it would be a waste of time. All I can say is what I see in the Gospel – work to see in each human being something of infinite value – that something so precious should be hungry or naked or hurt or lonely or imprisoned is of infinite sadness. When we really feel this, when this really enters our soul then we shall find ourselves truly citizens of heaven – and very uncomfortable on earth.

HYMN - Let all mortal flesh keep silence

1 Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

2 King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood:
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

3 Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

4 At his feet the six-winged seraph;
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the Presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry,
Alleluya, Alleluya,
Alleluya, Lord most high!

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - Kristin Tridimas

Dear God, may we, your sheep, take the path of righteousness.  May we always feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, tend the ill and help the imprisoned.  Help us to follow this path, oh Lord, and to always put others before ourselves.  We thank you for all those who have helped even in the smallest way during the Coronavirus pandemic; neighbours helping neighbours or those who have raised money or helped out on a larger scale.  Thank you for all our good citizens and send them the strength to continue your work.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

May we, your shepherds, look after those of whom we have charge; educate and guide our children; tend our sick and care for our elderly and vulnerable.  Thank you for our teachers and nursery staff, for our doctors and nurses and other medical workers, for our care workers and anyone who looks after others and helps to set them on the right path.  

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for peace, goodwill and understanding amongst and between all nations and peoples.  May our leaders make wise and considered decisions for the good of all humanity.  May we as individuals always choose the path of peace and reconciliation.  We think of all nations divided by war, unrest or religious or political views.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we remember today all those who are sick or injured.  We think especially of those affected by Coronavirus, those who are ill, in hospital, suffering long-term effects, or simply having to isolate.  Send them your comfort and healing.  We think also of those who have died and those left behind to mourn them.  We remember anyone suffering from mental illness or loneliness, especially now during the second lockdown.  We remember all those on our benefice prayer list and anyone known to us personally who is suffering in body, mind or spirit.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Thank you, God, for the benefice of Compton, Hursley and Otterbourne, for our bishops, for William and for anyone who leads our services.  We pray also for our churchwardens and all those who have done their best to keep our flocks together despite church closures and other restrictions.  We pray that we will be able to open our churches again in December and that we can celebrate Christmas in the best way possible.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Thank you for the autumn colours, for the nature that surrounds us, for the fresh air we are privileged to breathe.  We are so lucky to live here which makes it so much easier to live through a lockdown.  As we go forward into a new week, help us to appreciate all that surrounds us, to be thankful and to notice the tiny details of your world.

Merciful Father, 
accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, 

your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive 

those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

BLESSING
May God the Father, Judge all merciful,
make us worthy of a place in his kingdom. 
May God the Son, coming among us in power,
reveal among us the promise of his glory.
May God the Holy Spirit make us steadfast in faith,
joyful in hope and constant in love. 
And the blessing of God Almighty, 
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN - 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 Virgin's Son,
The God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won
Which now his brow adorn:
Fruit of the mystic Rose,
As of that Rose the Stem;
The Root whence mercy ever flows,
The Babe of Bethlehem.

3 Crown him the Lord of love!
Behold his hands and side,
Rich wounds yet visible above
In beauty glorified:
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye
At mysteries so bright.

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 years,
The Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres,
Ineffably sublime.
Glassed in a sea of light,
Where everlasting waves
Reflect his throne--the Infinite!
Who lives--and loves--and saves.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen

To end: