Morning Worship 22 Nov 2020

Led by: Mrs Lucy Cooke

Today’s service was done via Zoom and streamed to YouTube


St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton
Sunday 22nd November 2020

Gathering Prayer
Come and worship the Lord Jesus,
King of kings, yet servant of all.
Come with your dreams, your longings, your hopes,
and all those on your hearts today,
to seek blessing and healing.
Amen.

Call to Worship
(We sing, together though apart, our call to worship this morning – echoing the theme of the Psalm for today – Psalm 95.)
(Sung by the choir of York Minster)

Let all the world in every corner sing;
my God and King!
The heavens are not too high,
his praise may thither fly;
the earth is not too low,
his praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing;
my God and King!

Let all the world in every corner sing;
my God and King!
The church with psalms must shout,
no door can keep them out;
but above all, the heart
must play the longest part.
Let all the world in every corner sing;
my God and King!

George Herbert (1593 – 1633)

Prayer of Approach, Praise & Thanksgiving
Abundant Lord God,
Yours is the earth and all in it.
The valleys, mountains, seas and spray;
the land, the pastures, the trees and the animals.
All around us, we see stories of your bounty,
your exuberant goodness, your flourishing provision.
You have made us to live here,
nurtured by this earth, and by the work of our hands.
May we always find joy in this calling to be your people,
living, working, resting, supporting.
We offer you grateful thanks for the gifts of living,
and for these gifts of bounty all around us,
Joining together in the prayer Jesus taught us,

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

Stir it up Sunday – lockdown style!
The Sunday before Advent seems to be a popular week for me to lead worship – this will be the third time in recent years I have done so – here at St Andrew’s in 2017 and with our friends at Denewell Avenue in Gateshead last year. On both occasions I have drawn attention to the fact that this is traditionally stir it up Sunday – the day when Christmas puddings are made and families gather round the mixing bowl to stir in their hopes and their wishes for the times to come – something we have done as churches at our services. This year, it feels as if we need more than ever to create our church pudding – to make a tangible symbol of our collective hopes and wishes through a symbolic act as part of our worship. But how on earth could we even begin to do that under the current circumstances? Well, as they say – where there’s a will there’s a way – so I’d like to hand over now to… well you’ll see!

Video
A video recording of an online Zoom meeting was played at this point during which members of St Andrew’s “met” to create this year’s Christmas pudding. During the meeting the following wishes were stirred into the pudding mixture – understanding, kindness, harmony and patience – all bound together by the church.

Let us pray using the words of the tradional collect for this day:
Stir up, O Lord, The wills of your faithful people, that richly bearing the fruit of good works, they may, by you, be richly rewarded: through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

 

Readings – Read by Chris Hayles
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.

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,[g] 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.”

Address

Our Gospel passage is one that will be familiar to many of us and one that we will feel we have worked out in our heads. We know exactly what Jesus’ message is. However the first time I looked at preaching on this passage I was struck by how little I understood why sheep and goats were used to illustrate the point. I set about finding out a bit more and was struck by the difference and what it said to me about the meaning in our well loved, well loved passage. As I looked at the passage again in preparation for today’s service the same struck me again and so I would like to start my address by sharing my original research with you again. Firstly, the separation of sheep and goats before settling down for the night would have been routine practice in a mixed flock as a shepherd could not have risked leaving them together. Sheep are defenceless. They are totally dependant on their shepherd for food and protection. They recognise and respond to their shepherd’s voice and follow him without question. For sheep, being part of the flock and having a quiet life is what matters. Goats on the other hand have a reputation for being independent, opinionated, self centred and even dangerous. They will eat anything, have a destructive tendency and are only interested in pursuing their own interests. In one article I read yesterday evening “Shepherds protect sheep from their environment, whereas goatherds protect the environment from their goats.” To put it another way, sheep have a sense of communal spirit-living for the flock, whereas what ever a goat does, it does for it’s own self interest.

Armed with this knowledge of sheep and goat farming, and turning back to the passage; it isn’t then just our actions that count but, why and how we do them.

In the passage, both the sheep and the goats are surprised by which camp they find themselves in. The sheep because being caring and compassionate has clearly been second nature to them. They have followed the direction of their shepherd without expecting any reward of their own and so are surprised to be singled out. The goats on the other hand are clearly outraged—they would have done all of the things expected of them if they had only known….. That’s the point though, we are judged by our own actions, by our response to the love of God through Jesus and this response is self emptying not self serving. It isn’t simply about throwing money or resources at problems either nor is it about doing “good works” with the expectation of gaining personal reward. It is about getting alongside people with compassion. Understanding their needs and taking action to fulfil them.

The mark of any society is the way in which it cares for those most vulnerable within it. Those who sit at the edges, who find themselves marginalised. A collective society – one which has at it’s core a sense of togetherness – pulls together for the communal good. The alternative is a society made up of individuals striving not for the good of everyone but for the good of themselves. The acquisition of personal wealth becomes more important than looking after others and the supposed strength of society becomes measured predominantly in economic terms rather than human ones.

Like many people this week, I have found myself glued to the new series of The Crown. This series brings us into the realms of my own memories and it has proved interesting to see what my views of events during the 1980s as young girl and how I view them now as an adult looking back with the eyes of a historian. The stand out story portrayed so far, is that of Michael Fagin – the man who was found in the Queen’s bedroom one morning in 1982. Now I remember this as nothing more than a surprising somewhat quirky news story of my youth – well I was only 11 at the time! Looking at the story as it is portrayed in the drama though, it stands as a marked judgement on society at the time. Unemployment is at an all time high and the government at the time are pursuing policies designed to improve the nation’s economy at all costs. Fagin is seen as at rock bottom – he is unable to secure employment, his wife has left him and he is unable to see his children. His situation reduces him to desparation as he get’s mocked by his local MP who joking tells him to speak to the Queen if he is unhappy about how the country is being run. So that is what he does. The conversation between Fagin and Queen Elizabeth is a poignant moment where she seems to realise the extent of his predicament, displays sympathy and hopes that the police are not too hard on him when they finally come to take him away. The following audience with the Prime Minister shows the Queen questioning policies that appear to impact detrimentally on people like Fagin. Mrs Thatcher explains that there is no collectiveness in a successful society – that it is individuals bettering themselves and securing their own success which is important. As I watched, I thought about how at odds this description seemed to be with what Jesus has to say to us in our passage – and I started to consider whether almost 40 years later, we were showing signs of having changed much. Sadly, I’m not convinced that we have – although across the world there have been glimmers of hope.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted in so many ways, who the vulnerable are in our society today – and our response as a country – from those of us on the street to those in power – will ultimately be what we are judged on. Into our Christmas pudding earlier, we stirred kindness, understanding, patience and harmony. My hope is that when we look back at these times, these are some of the words we associate with how as a society we have responded to our current situation and how our societies’ treatment of the most vulnerable within it can be defined. It is up to us all to do what we can to bring that about from helping one another when we need it, to contributing to the wider community through supporting intitiatives such as food banks, to simply doing our bit to reduce the spread of infection. Above all though, we need to decide if we are sheep or goats. Are we striving for personal gain and achievement regardless of who we leave behind or step on – or do we have a sense of community responsibility?  I guess at times, we might all display characteristics of both sheep and goats. Those are the times when we seek to follow the example and teaching set out for us by and in Jesus and when we most need his help…

Poem and Prayer of Confession
Lord, give us hands to set prisoners free
with hearts that love, and eyes that see
the needs of those who sit alone
and those who wait and those who groan.
Give us feet to go where illness reigns
and words to speak to those in pain;
may we bring hope to everyone
and heal and help through your dear Son.
This is our prayer, Lord, hear us now
and guide our path, and show us how
to be your church through thick and thin
with open doors to welcome in
the sheep and goats, the lost and sad,
the rich and poor, the good and bad.
For we’re all both, and need from you
huge love and grace to see us through.
Amen.

Dear Lord,
We are both sheep and goat,
loving and selfish, caring and complacent.
Take the best of us,
and shape it into that which can serve you and our community
with more passion,
more commitment and more humility,
knowing our frailties,
but rejoicing in your strength.
Amen.

Hymn – Show me how to stand for Justice
(Performed by Matt Beckingham)
Show me how to stand for justice;
how to work for what is right,
how to challenge false assumptions,
how to walk within the light.
May I learn to share more freely
in a world so full of greed,
showing your immense compassion
by the life I choose to lead.

Teach my heart to treasure mercy,
whether given or recieved –
for my need has not diminished
since the day I first believed;
let me seek no satisfaction
boasting of what I have done,
but rejoice that I am pardoned
and accepted by your Son.

Gladly I embrace a lifestyle
Modelled on your living word,
in humility submitting
to the truth which I have heard.
Make me conscious of your presence
every day in all I do;
by your Spirit’s gracious prompting
may I learn to walk with you.

Martin Leckebusch (b.1962)

Prayers of Concern – Chris Hayles
Almighty God, we give you thanks that you have sent the first signs of hope to your people in the arrival of new and effective vaccines. We give thanks for the work and dedication of the researchers and scientists who have created the vaccines. Inspire and strengthen them in their work for the good of all.

We pray for all the peoples of the world, united in adversity and suffering. We realise at last that we have so much in common, greater by far than any differences which have separated us in the past. Help and comfort all your people in this time of grief and suffering.

We think of all of the leaders of communities at local, national and international levels, as they fight to maintain order and find solutions to a seemingly impossible crisis. Guide and strengthen them, for we know that to you, nothing is impossible.

We think of all who suffer illness from any cause at this time and ask that you reassure and restore them with your boundless mercy. We pray for the lonely, isolated at home or separated from family and friends in care homes, hospitals, or in lockdown situations. Comfort them in their distress.

We pray for all who work in the health and caring professions as they endure the hardships of long hours, difficult conditions and the emotional distress of not being able to save everyone in their care. Lord, be with them and strengthen them at this time.

We think of your church around the world, in our area and in this place. We cannot meet together to worship, but we are united in our faith and trust in you at all times. Lord, keep us strong in our faith at all times.

Lord and father of all, we are walking down a long, dark and frightening road and at times, the outlook seems bleak. Walk with us along the way; guide us and help us to see this situation through and let us emerge into a new day, where we can overcome our differences and prejudices. Lord, we long for the day when we can meet again, a day when we can respect and love one another; a day when we can set our relationships with all people aright and learn to live in harmony with everyone and with your created world, as you intend we should.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen

 Hymn – Come all you vagabonds
Come, all you vagabonds,
Come all you ‘don’t belongs’
Winners and losers,
Come, people like me.
Come all you travellers
Tired from the journey,
Come wait a while, stay a while,
Welcomed you’ll be.

Come all you questioners
Looking for answers,
And searching for reasons
And sense in it all;
Come all you fallen,
And come all you broken,
Find strength for your body
And food for your soul.

Chorus
Come to the feast,
There is room at the table.
Come let us meet in this place.
With the King of all kindness
Who welcomes us in,
With the wonder of love,
And the power of grace.
The wonder of the love,
And the power of grace.

Come those who worry
‘Bout houses and money,
And all those who don’t have
A care in the world;
From every station
And orientation,
The helpless, the hopeless,
The young and the old.
Chorus

Come all believers
And dreamers and schemers,
And come all you restless
Just searching for home;
Movers and shakers
And givers and takers,
The happy, the sad
And the lost and alone.

Come self-sufficient
With wearied ambition,
And come those who feel
At the end of the road.
Fiery debaters
And religion haters,
Accusers, abusers,
The hurt and ignored.
Chorus x2

Stuart Townend (b.1963)

Closing Prayer and Blessing
Come to the feast,
There is room at the table.
Come let us meet in this place.
With the King of all kindness
Who welcomes us in,
With the wonder of love,
And the power of grace.

As we end our time of worship this morning, may we hold this radical message of welcome, acceptance and communal society in our hearts and minds throughout all our encounters in the coming week.

I invite you now, wherever you may be, to share with me in the words of the grace,
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all, evermore. Amen


CCL No. 213535 / One Licence A-632495

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *