Sunday  22nd November – Christ the King 


The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page

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.

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First Reading

Ephesians 1.15-23

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.  I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.  God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.  And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

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 Gospel

Matthew 25.31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:  ‘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.’

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 Post Communion Prayer

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Reflection 

Today we celebrate Christ the King and it is also traditionally Stir Up Sunday. .. Conjures up an image of a great pudding of monarchs, which would probably be an act of treason.  If you were a courtier and were disloyal, you would be banished from the King’s presence.  When we are disloyal to God – when we sin –  then we distance ourselves from him. However, if you were a courtier and loyal to the King you could expect great rewards – prosperity, safety, unity of purpose, joy and colour.  Just so when we are loyal to Christ we receive great rewards – the promise of eternal life.

In Biblical terms what does it mean to be a King?  The Israelites’ first King was Saul – and the people were afraid of their enemies and wanted a leader.  We expect Kings, or Queens to have power and splendour, to be looked up to, for them to represent their people and if necessary to die for them.

I have never seen a Coronation, but I am sure that some of you remember our Queen’s coronation, and possibly even the coronation of George VI.  Our coronation service is a Communion Service with interruptions.  It dates back to 973 when St Dunstan crowned King Edgar.  The importance of God’s power and grace runs all the way through the ceremony: in the presentation of the Bible with the words “Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.”; in the anointing with the sign of the cross of head, heart and hands:  in the investing with an orb – topped with a cross: and the two sceptres one topped with a cross and the other with a dove to signify the Holy Spirit, and finally the crown, symbol of power and authority and again surmounted with a cross – the symbol of brokenness and yet of victory over sin and death.

The message to us is that earthly power can only properly be carried out with God’s help, with God’s grace.

We are a Kingdom people, we are a praying people  – “ your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” We want to see God’s Kingdom here on earth, we want to live by God’s laws and we know we are strengthened by God’s love.  God’s Kingdom is not just for the future, it is for the here and now… which is why God sent his Son to demonstrate the reality of what this means and why we rightly celebrate Christ the King.

So how does this affect us? The Gospel reading reminds us how to behave if we belong to Christ’s Kingdom.  It is the little things, the actions we perform to those in need, the actions done quietly that are often unseen….  When we see need, however hidden, and act on it, however small the action may be.  That is how we demonstrate God’s love, how his will is done on earth. It is the humility with which we approach those tasks. It is the little positives that matter so much.

As Kingdom people, we live in hope – In the letter to the Ephesians St Paul prays that we may come to know “the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe”.  Make no mistake, lock down or no lock down, we as Christians are powerful, we have influence, we can do good. We can pray, we can show God’s love to those around us, we can connect – with our families, our friends, our community  – in these Covid times this has never been so important. We are the church, the body, which as St Paul says is “the fullness of him who fills all in all”.

Isn’t this great? Despite our problems and sadnesses, aren’t we lucky?  We belong to a vast family of Christians, now and through all the ages.  We can pray. We can praise.  We are a community, there for each other. Let us remember that we are not powerless.

The feast of Christ the King is a time to remind ourselves of the glory of the Kingdom.  Jesus Christ was a real person and his dominion is real.  It is in heaven with God our Father, but it is also here on earth.

It seems to me that today is the New Year’s Eve of the Church.  A time to look back in gratitude to what has happened in the last year – it is very easy to see the difficulties, but I challenge us all to look at the blessings. New Year is also a time to look forward – to make resolutions that we have a chance of keeping. My challenge for myself is to try to be more lighthearted and joyful. Christ promises us life in all its fullness. As we try to make our lives as full as we can under difficult circumstances, so the love with which God has filled us will be able shine out for others.

Stir up Sunday is a day when we ask for the energy and drive to truly become Kingdom people, to celebrate Christ the King. Amen