If you prefer to listen to an audio-only version of the service, you can do so here, but for copyright reasons, the words of the hymns are not reproduced in the Order of Service.
Order of Service
Call to worship
Hello and welcome. My name is Alex Walker, I am the lay leader at the United Reformed Church in South Leeds covering the Belle Isle and Dewsbury Rd areas of Leeds. I am here to lead the Sunday 22nd of November podcast service for Headingley St Columba and it is a pleasure to be back doing this again.
As we come together, wherever and whenever you are hearing this, I pray that the Lord keeps you blessed during what has been a trying and difficult time for many.
Now we open with our call to worship which today comes from Psalm 95 covering all 5 verses.
The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea –
the Lord on high is mighty.
Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.
We now echo the words of that Psalm as we sing our opening hymn, a hymn of triumph and celebration. Crown him with many crowns the Lamb upon the throne.
Crown him with many crowns
Text: Matthew Bridges (1800-94); Godfrey Thring (1823 – 1903)
Tune: Diademata – George Elvey (1816 – 93); last verse arr. Noel Rawsthorne (1929 – 2019)
Prayers of Approach
We come together now in a time of prayer as we come and offer our prayers of adoration and confession to God. Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we come to you today with our hearts open and our ears eager to hear your word. We give you thanks for how we listen to your word together even though we are apart. We pray that as we listen together in our spaces those spaces become the places where your blessing and your grace and your mercy are shown to us day after day, hour after hour. Heavenly Father, we give to you the times when we have seen your face, when we have felt your spirit, when we have heard your word or seen your grace as we have lived this week. For the times we have seen something good and recognised you in it, for the times when we have heard some good news and given you thanks, for the times when we have felt your loving hand guiding us in our ways. Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the people around us who truly are part of your blessing in our lives, for the people we love, for the people who care and pray for us. We offer to you the people we love and care and pray for, we give you thanks for their part in our lives. Today, as we think about your son Jesus Christ, we pray that he may be a key part of what we do, that he may be the basis for our living and our learning, and that he may truly be at the forefront of how we play our part in the world.
Lord God, we know that we often do not meet your expectations, that we sin against you and we sin against each other with our thoughts our words and our deeds. We acknowledge that there are times when we are not as kind or as patient as we should be, that we are often short tempered and quick to react, that we are fallible and often stray from the path you would have us on. In the quiet now, we offer those times to you and confess our sins.
Heavenly Father, when we confess our sins you forgive them and forget them. When we turn our back and repent from those ways you bless us, and when we keep to your word and to your spirit within that word you bless our lives and the people around us. We give you thanks and praise for that forgiveness and for that assurance that we are pardoned for our transgressions. We pray that you give us the courage to forgive as you forgive us. We pray that you give us hope to trust people, to forgive and to allow them to forgive others who have wronged them, and we pray that you may continue to bless us through forgiveness. In your name we pray,
We say together the Lord’s prayer. Our Father . . .
Introduction to the first reading
We come to hear our first reading. This reading comes from Matthew 25 and concludes his teaching to the disciples before the plot to have him punished was made. Reading to us today will be Margaret Brownjohn.
Reading – Matthew 25: 31 – 46
Organ interlude: Voluntary in F – Adagio – John Bennett (1735 – 84)
Introduction to the second reading
We will now hear our second reading; this one is taken from the first chapter in the book of Ephesians and is a letter of encouragement and prayer from the writer to his audience. Reading this today will be Aleck Brownjohn.
Reading – Ephesians 1: 15 – 23
Our gospel reading today features the very last of the teaching Jesus gives us in Matthew. After this we move into the plotting and judgement of Jesus in the temples. But instead of dwelling on what is to come of him, Jesus tells us what will come of us.
My son, who turns eight this week, uses a term to describe the things and people he thinks are the best. He calls them GOATs. This is an abbreviation of Greatest Of All Time. This last week the sporting press have been asking if formula one driver Lewis Hamilton is the GOAT of his chosen sport and in the guitar playing world we have mourned Eddie Van Halen, a man many think is the GOAT when it comes to guitar playing. The GOAT in any chosen field is often a heavily contested debate on social media these days.
Yet in our reading we are told that when it comes to the final judgement God doesn’t want goats, he wants sheep. The reason for this is that at the time of Jesus sheep were harder to rear, in shorter supply and therefore more expensive, whereas goats were plentiful and often kept by the poor, hence the reference to sheep and goats. These days it is often used as an insult to call someone a sheep, meaning they are part of a flock, without their own mind or ideals. Followers rather than leaders or trendsetters.
In essence, you could change the two groups to anything, sheep and goats, cars and trucks, salt and pepper. This part is almost irrelevant, it’s why we are set apart that’s important.
In his final teaching, argued for years by scholars and people doing too much talking and not enough listening as to whether it’s a parable or not, Jesus tells us for the first time about the day of judgement. It is fairly self-explanatory as to how we get on the side of the sheep or the goats: serve the poor, help the needy, fight for justice and live by God’s rule, for when we serve in this way we do God’s work on Earth.
However, this reading leads to a conclusion which could be quite demoralizing for us all. We face the real prospect of not seeing God and his blessings in the little things we do and therefore might stop doing them. Let me explain.
When my lad was very small, we would praise him for using his manners. My wife and I spent time making sure we would say “good manners” and “what do you say?” when his p’s and q’s were required. As he has grown up, we haven’t done it as much and at times his courtesy is sometimes lacking. How easy it is to not hold doors open for people because they are slowing us down, to not ring or visit someone because they will keep you for too long or to not pray for a situation because you believe the situation they find themselves in could’ve been avoided if they were cleverer or kinder or had better grasp of things?
It is easy to be comfortable to sit happily at church, or at home as it is at the moment, safe in the knowledge that we are saved, but here Jesus is giving us a simple task. To help all those who need it, not because it makes us better, socially or in a worldly manner, but because when we do even the smallest of things for others, we do it for God.
When we pull over to let an ambulance past, we do it for Jesus. When we move out of the way so we can remain socially distanced, when we telephone our friends, family, colleagues and church members to make sure they’re okay, we do it for Jesus. When we help others in any small way, we do it for Jesus. We are his hands and his feet. On Christ the King Sunday is there a better way to show our love and worship for God and his son Jesus Christ than being and doing in his world, bringing a bit more of heaven into our little corners of the globe? I struggle to think of one.
It would be great to seen as a GOAT, one the greatest of all time, as one of the greatest by my peers and those who debate such things, but in reality what we should all be striving for is a lifetime on God’s left, as one of his flock amongst the sheep. I pray that together we may serve God in this way, however and whenever we can.
Our second hymn today is a modern hymn written by Graham Kendrick and speaks of the nature of our relationship with God through his sacrifice and through how we gain through following his spirit. The hymn is Beauty for brokenness. We will play it and sing it together now.
Beauty for brokenness
Words and music: Graham Kendrick (b. 1950)
Prayers of intercession
We now come to our prayers of intercession. Let us pray together.
Lord God, we give you thanks that we may openly and freely celebrate your son Jesus Christ and his part in our lives. We praise you that we may do so without fear of retribution, without fearing being punished for our faith in you. As we prepare to hear the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem again, we pray that as we hear the familiar stories we may be renewed in you that though we may not meet in traditional manners and in traditional ways, you are with us as we praise the son of God and give thanks for his life on earth.
We pray that we may be a beacon of praise and of witness to not just you on earth but you as the Holy Spirit in and within us, helping us to become more than ourselves, and we give you thanks that we are assured of a place amongst our fellow flock on your left hand side.
Heavenly Father, we come with our burdens which we wish to lay at your feet, at the base of the cross, at the altar of which we worship. In this time of lockdown, we pray for those in our own bubbles and households, those we see every day and speak to so often, those that we love and those who we are concerned for. We remember those who don’t have bubbles who don’t have family to surround themselves with, living in solitude and loneliness at the moment, those who cannot be around people who they wish to comfort or to celebrate with, the people so dear to them that they miss and just wish to embrace at this time of year. We pray for the people on our streets and in our communities, the people we see around who we might not know but we recognise, people who like us have their own stories but those stories are unique with you. People who are also anxious and frightened and unsure at the moment. We pray that your spirit may come among them and reassure them and give them peace. We pray that in times of solitude you may comfort them and be with them and that part of your loving Kingdom may be shown to them.
We pray for our communities for our city and for all the people who we would have seen who have been affected by the times we live in. The people who have lost their jobs, people whose jobs have become much busier and are now struggling to cope, and the people who are precariously balancing home life work and some me time. Again, we pray for those who don’t have a support network whether that be because their families are far away or because they are with people they’d rather not be with. We pray for our carers and the people who keep us safe. We remember particularly our police and Fire Brigades following the troubles throughout our city and the nation after bonfire night and the anti-social behaviour that followed in pockets of our city.
We pray for our country, a country still divided through ideological disputes, through differences of opinion and through personal and political turmoil. We remember our government in our prayers, both local and national. We pray that they may govern and lead with justice and with wisdom, that they may have the greater good in their hearts, that they may have what is best for the neediest in their will. We pray that the influences may have more than financial gain in their minds and those with influence use it wisely. We pray for those who feel like they don’t belong, that they are somehow inferior or just out of the loop. We pray that they may have a sense of belonging, of being part of their communities. We pray for churches up and down the country as they try to work out how best to deal with Advent, how best to deal with Christmas in this weird and difficult time. We pray that even though we may not be able to meet in the same way you showed the world that you are the same God, a God of power but also a God of compassion, a God of might but also a God of gentleness, a God of great knowledge but also a God of intimacy. We pray that our Christmas celebrations may be focused on you and getting your word into the hearts and minds of others.
Heavenly Father, we pray for our world, a world which teeters on the brink of collapse through both our reactions to each other and the way we treat the world you’ve blessed us with. We pray for people across the world who face fear on a daily basis, for whom war is not something witnessed through their televisions but through their windows, for whom displacement isn’t read about in the newspapers but lived with day to day, for whom freedom is not granted but suppression is instead in place. We pray for parts of the world which are seeing a lot of anger and violence, thinking especially of Eritrea this week following the troubles on the Ethiopian border, for the disquiet in China as the government struggle to contain the frustration of people they see as rebels. We remember in our prayers the people of America as they continue to deal with the fallout of the recent elections, praying for compassion and understanding from people on both sides.
We give you thanks for the recent developments in the vaccine we have heard about this week. We pray that the hope people have it in is not misplaced and that something of a regular life may continue soon.
We pray for victims of climate change for whom the winter will be long and the harvest so little. We pray that we may do our bit to help and support these people, that we may be beacons of your hope through our actions, that they may be more than just more bad news on the television but that they may be part of our mission for you in the world.
In the quiet now we bring to you the faces and the places, the situations and the people on our minds and we offer them to you now.
Lord God, take these prayers and grant them heard, listened to and responded to, that we may see your face in the blessings that follow when our prayers are answered. Heavenly Father, bless us this day as we aim to follow you and be more like you. In your name we pray,
And so, we come to our final hymn, Make way, make way for Christ the King in splendour arrives. We sing this hymn together now.
Make way, make way for Christ the King
Text: Graham Kendrick (b. 1950)
Music: Graham Kendrick, arr. Paul Bateman (b. 1954)
So go and declare Christ is King of all, that he reigns on high, and that we love and worship him in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Organ voluntary: Postlude – Healy Willan (1880 – 1968)