Worship on the Lord’s Day
Christ the King Sunday 10:00 am 26 November 2023
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia Vocalist: Linda F-B
Elder: Iris Routledge Children’s Time: Lynn Vaughan
We gather to worship God
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.
Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship
Call to Worship
L: We come from all walks of life: the rich, the poor; the struggling and the secure.
P: And God calls us all.
L: We bring our hearts to this time and place – hearts holding joy and sorrow, questions and wonders.
P: And God knows us.
L: We offer what we have to give: our talents and our imperfections, our faith and our doubt, our hope and our hands.
P: And God loves us. Let us worship God.
Opening praise: I lift my eyes up
Prayers of approach and confession
You our God are worthy of all praise. Like a refiner’s fire, you purify your people, temper their desires, and point them back to you. In fact, sometimes in life, the heat we feel in life is often just your love for us, even when uncomfortable. You are the shepherd, and you are the God of mercy and care.
Like children, often we believe that what we want, and what is best for us, are the same thing. Yet rarely are they. When you Father tells us not to touch the stove we find you controlling. When you want only to keep our fingers out of the light socket, we get upset, get mad at you, and blame you for our troubles or for your rules that do not make sense. But of course, they do not. How could we understand your ways? And so, we submit and call not ourselves but You Lord of our lives.
Lord today we come and admit that we do not always know what’s right for us. We ask you to lead us by your word. And we ask for the fire from above to judge us rightly and cleanse us of impurity.
Lord, fill us with fire. Fill our worship with fire. Fill our souls with fire. Clean us and make us nothing but on fire for you, your love, and the other people of this world you have given us to care for.
God help us to do the things we should do even when we do not want to, even when we’re too scared to, or aren’t even quite sure what’s right to do.
Lead us on and help us through.
Help us to turn from the things that harm us, move us away from you, or lead us to ignore our fellow travelers in this world or judge them too quickly.
In short, our Heavenly Father, help us know better, to do better, and to be… better versions of ourselves… not because you do not love us just as we are, but because you love us too much not to show us better ways.
Forgive, forget, and bring us peace. Amen .
Response: We come to ask your forgiveness, O LOrd
Assurance of God’s grace: God’s love for us is so great that all who humbly repent. and trust in the good news of Jesus Christ will be forgiven. Thanks be to God. – Amen.
Musical Offering: Here comes heaven (Binu, Linda & Brad)
Reception of New Members
Right hand of fellowship
We listen for the voice of God
Response: Lord, listen to your children (449)
Story: The Giving Tree. Lynn shared the basic elements of the story that can be found in the book by Sel Silverstein connecting the love of the Giving Tree with the love of God and with the ways that we love other people.. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Giving_Tree .
Prayer: Dear God, help us to be your hands in this world, bringing food to the hungry, clothes to the poor, and shelter to those without a home. Just as You are generous to us, we strive to be generous and sincere in our giving to all those others as You are generous to us. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer (535)
Song: Great is Thy faithfulness (324)
Scripture: 2 Peter 3:3-4; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46
Response: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
Message: At least we tried
Richard Warren was born in San Jose, California, the son of Jimmy and Dot Warren. His father was a Baptist minister, and his mother was a high school librarian. In high school Richard founded the first Christian club on the school’s campus, The Fishers of Men Club.
Warren received a Bachelor of Arts degree from The California Baptist University, a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1979) in Fort Worth, Texas, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological in Pasadena.
During his time at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Warren worked at the Texas Ranch for Christ, a ministry facility of Billie Hanks, Jr., where he began authoring books. Rick co-wrote two books there.
In April 1980 Warren founded a church that he called Saddleback Church (inspired by his time at the Ranch). It had its first public service on Easter Sunday at the Laguna Hills High School Theater. 200 people showed up that first day. Warren’s church-growth methods led to rapid expansion, with the church using nearly 80 different facilities in its now 37-some-year history. Which is pretty amazing considering Saddleback did not build its first building until it had 10,000 weekly attenders. They have just over twice that for their average weekly attendance today. For the last few years, they have held their Easter and Christmas Services at the Los Angeles Angels Stadium both with a packed house in a place that seats 68,000 people. At each Easter service nearly 1,000 people dedicate or rededicate their lives to Christ.
Due to the success of his book sales, (particularly The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life) in 2005 Warren returned his 25 years of salary to the church and discontinued taking a salary from that point on. Today he and his wife are “reverse tithers”, giving 90% to charities and living off of 10% of their income. Don’t feel too bad though, because he’s sold over 90 million books at about $20 a pop. He will be all right.
All of this makes Warren a bit of a celebrity pastor. And that is why Fox News had Warren on T.V. for a feature broadcast in August of 2006. The feature was titled, “Can Rick Warren Change the World?” Reverend Warren was interviewed about his books, his church, his work with President Obama and his leadership in the church growth movement. The interviewer also highlighted Warren’s attempts to move outside the continental United States with a global network of churches to revolutionize how to manage what he considers the five biggest problems on earth: poverty, disease, illiteracy, spiritual emptiness, and egocentric leadership. 233
Jesus had his own list of six things to address.
Jesus began talking to a group of listeners about the “Day of Judgment” exactly what Ezekiel had written about hundreds of years earlier when he proclaimed the time that, “the Son of Man will come in glory”.
In the semi-parabolic story of today, Jesus says that the Son of Man will divide up the sheep and the goats based upon his own 6 criteria. In the story His sheep are the ones who: [not feed] fed Jesus when he was hungry, gave Jesus something to drink when he was thirsty, invited Jesus in when he was a stranger, gave Jesus clothes when he needed them, took care of Jesus when he was sick and visited Jesus when he was in prison. 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
And Jesus will answer, “Whatever you did for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”
Next in the story; in the same way, The Son of Man will divide the goats to his left hand and by the same 6 criteria he judges them: In opposition to the Sheep, The goats did not fed Jesus when he was hungry, they did not give Jesus something to drink when he was thirsty, they did not invite Jesus in when he was a stranger, they did not give him clothes when he needed them, take care of Jesus when he was sick or visit Jesus when he was in prison. And like the “righteous” the goats too are confused. And very interestingly, they also call out in the exact same way. And they call Him Lord! They are His followers… or at least they think they are.
And they cry out, “When Lord, did we see you hungry and not feed you, or thirsty and not give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and not invite you in, or needing clothes and not clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and not go to visit you?’
And conversely Jesus said, 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did not do for me.’”
It is interesting because it is a story many of us probably know very well. But it’s also a story we all pretty much agree with in principle.
Some of the things Jesus says are (while usually my favorite) actually very outrageous. Some of the things he says are just wild and shocking. This… well I think we would all pretty much agree that we should be feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty and clothing the naked and on and on. Helping people seems second nature to us… doesn’t it?
Sebastian Junger is an author. You might know him from his most famous book. It is also a movie and in fact Tracy and I watched it just a few nights ago. The film and the book go by the same name – The Perfect Storm.
But long before Sabastian became a famous writer, he decided to hitchhike his way across the United States as an interesting experience. The following story occurred while he was making his way through the aftermath of a blizzard in Gillette, Wyoming:
After two or three hours I saw a man working his way toward me along the on-ramp from town. He wore filthy canvas coveralls and carried a black lunchbox, and as he got closer, I could see that his hair was matted in a way that occurs only after months on the skids. I put my hand on the pepper spray I kept in my pocket and turned to face him.
“You been out here long?” he asked. I nodded.
“Where you headed?”
“Warm out there.”
“You got enough food?”
I thought about this. Clearly, he didn’t have any, and if I admitted that I did, he’d ask for some of mine. That in itself was not a problem, but it would mean opening my backpack and revealing all my obviously expensive camping gear. All the sudden I felt alone and exposed and ripe for pillage, and I just did not want to do that. Twenty years later and I can still remember my answer to him as clear as day: “I got some cheese”, I said.
“You won’t make it to California with just a little cheese,” he said. “You’ll starve.”
At first, I didn’t understand. What was he saying, exactly? I kept my hand on the pepper spray.
“Believe me,” he said, “I know. Listen, I’m living in a car back in town, and every day I walk out to the mine to see if they need any extra help for the day. Today they don’t, so I won’t be needing this lunch of mine.” “So, I’ve got just the right ticket for you.”
All a sudden I began to sag with understanding. In his world, whatever you have in your bag is all you have, and he knew “some cheese” would never get me all the way to California.
He didn’t ask because he needed something. He asked because he had something to give.
The guilt of that truth washed over me.
“I’m fine, really,” I said. “I don’t need your lunch, [but I do thank you for the offer.]”
He shook his head and opened his box. I remember thinking that it was a typical church meal—a bologna sandwich, an apple, and a baggie with chips—and I kept protesting, but he would not hear of it.
In the end, I finally took his lunch and then I watched him walk back down the on-ramp toward town.
Sometime later, I’m not sure I remember when, it hit me… I was his Jesus. Not because I was his savior, but because to him I was the least of these.
I learned a lot of things in college, I thought, and I learned a lot from books on my own. I had learned things in Europe and in Mexico and in my hometown of Belmont, Massachusetts, but I had to stand out there on that frozen piece of interstate (so that I, a person with a lot of safety nets to catch me) to learn true generosity from a man who owned nothing but a sandwich and then gave that away too, so a person he’d never met could eat. 487
No doubt we should be just like that man on the cold, frozen road… trying to care for people in need. And yet as Mother Teresa very rightly pointed out, it’s generally “the least of these” that do the best job of caring for others.
Now I’m not, not saying that the so called “poor” care for each other and we don’t. That is just not true.
The truth is, we all believe we should be doing these things, right? But we are also busy people. In an era when many of us feel that time is our scarcest resource, hospitality falters… In the words of a Benedictine Monk, “In a fast-food culture, you have to remind yourself that some things cannot be done quickly, Hospitality takes time.” 184.
We care… I think we’re the sheep on the right. Sometimes we’re just too rushed.
Or is it worse?
Are we apathetic? Have we gone numb?
I’m going to beg some forgiveness for this before-time, and I’ve toned it down a bit for you. But I’m going to do it anyway because I think there is a lot of power in this quotation.
Easily one of my favorite theologians and someone I’ve quoted many a time is Tony Campolo. He is a pastor and a professor at Northeastern University and Pittsburgh theological Seminary and he is a truly amazing speaker with his finger on the button of modern life.
In fact, Tony Campolo and his wife did a tour where they debated each other on the issue of same sex relationships in the church. Tony saw no biblical justification. His wife said differently. But they were both so wonderful in how they disagreed. Tony has since come to agree with his wife.
But Tony Campolo first garnered significant media attention several years ago because he went to a very famous and very large and very conservative church and there Tony preached a sermon on the Sermon on the Mount, (just like I am right now).
He began like this: “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to a simple lack of clean water. Second, nobody in this room gives a damn about them. Third, what’s worse is that most of you are more shocked right now by the fact that I said a certain word, than by the fact that I said 30,000 human beings/little kids! died! last night! of something easily preventable.”
People say kids are desensitized due to video games. Well… then what was my excuse the first time I heard this quote? Tony got me. I suspect he just got some of you too.
Do you think that sometimes we followers of Jesus get our priorities a little mixed up?
Did you know that 7.66 million human beings (mostly children) will die of nothing but simple lack of food this year? Where is our outrage? Where is our righteous indignation!?! The true cry for justice?!?
Last year, 1.7 million people died from runny stool.
Don’t we care???
… but I also feel like one of those goats Jesus’ story, right now.
Honestly, this world is so huge and so out of control. More people will be hungry or thirsty or naked or wrongly imprisoned or ill or alienated in the next 24 hours than most of us will even ever meet in our lifetime; let alone be able to do something for. I don’t mean to be a downer, but I think sometimes (it’s not that we don’t care it’s that) we don’t get shocked about the “least of these” anymore because there are too many of them and too few of us. And unless you are one of the 1.12% of the word’s population holding 45.8% of the money, it feels like spiting in the ocean.
Yes, Jesus told us to take care of the poor, to feed and clothe and consider the needs of everyone.
But quite frankly, I think at this point, we’re all just overwhelmed. I mean, really … What can we do to put a dent in things?
This world is complex. And the truth is, it’s hard to know exactly what to do, when and how. Brilliant minds and thousands upon thousands of social workers and community organizers have tried massive projects.
But bear in mind that this same Jesus also told us that we would always have the poor among us. We could all give away everything we have and barely put a dent in things, so that can’t be the answer, can it?
As the story goes, one night a woman dreamed that she was having a conversation with God. She was angry about all the suffering and evil she saw around her, so she complained to God like a lot of us do. And with streams of salted tears pouring out her eyes, across her cheeks and even dripping from her chin… she called out in agony, “God, why don’t You do something about all this?”
And across God’s face came a sense of deep and utter disappointment as God gently whispered “I did do something. I gave them you.”
You know the truth is, I believe we have been called to care for each other in very literal ways and that this is exactly what Jesus meant. I suspect most of us would agree on that. I suspect that most of us would agree also that the job just seems too big to handle for us as individuals, us as a community, us as a church, as a network and even for us a nation. But I also suspect that you would agree as well that there are things, we can do to make a difference for someone (or many someone) else’s lives.
Back in California, throughout that slightly awkward interview Rick Warren found himself haunted by the question continually thrown his way: Can his plan really work? Can one nation or one network or one church or one person really heal the hurts of the world? Does Warren have the golden ticket?
At the closing of the program Warren did not shy away from the question any longer but met it with the words that he has asked to be the sole inscription on his tombstone: It is to read, “At least he tried.”
I do not know what you can do.
I do not always know what I can do.
You and I will have to figure that out for ourselves.
But know this… Somewhere out there; on that highway that is your life, Jesus is there waiting for you. He is cold, unkempt, sick, suspiciously imprisoned, in a country torn by war, a place where poverty rules, or just simply in need of water and a sandwich.
For the least of these:
Go out this week and change the world.
Do not empty your bank account.
Remember that tomorrow there will still be more to do.
Do not be overwhelmed.
Find some small way and keep doing it.
And though we cannot feed and clothe them all,
BUT if someone ever asks you if you cared for the goats, you can say, “I don’t know if it’s the golden ticket, but at least I tried.” Amen.
Song: When the poor ones (762: vss 1,2,4)
We respond to serve God: Our time of giving
Reflection on giving: Dayspring is empowered to carry out our mission of worship, service, and care by generously given volunteer time, talent, and treasure. Many thanks to all who give so generously!
Praise: Praise God from whom all blessings flow (830)
Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves
Your kingdom is among us, and you are always at work, bringing good out of bad and life out of death.
Open our ears to the cries of those who seek your kingdom’s justice,
open our eyes to situations where the reign of your kingdom appears absent, open our hands so that they might help build your kingdom in your world.
You came as one who was hungry and thirsty.
Where people are without homes, suffer drought and unjust economic practices, where people gather to make the world a better place.
where they use their skills to improve the quality of life and society.
Your kingdom comes.
Your will be done.
You came as a stranger in need of welcome.
Where there are people who wander and live lonely lives and are strangers in a strange land, or who feel that love is missing, or they experience pain because of the loss of love or friendship; and where people are warm and extend friendship and are inclusive and welcoming.
Your kingdom comes.
Your will be done.
You came as one who was naked.
Where people do not have enough clothing, shelter, or the basic resources of life, where people live without dignity and are exposed to every kind of pain and hardship, and where people work in shelters and through the government, courts, and churches to ensure that people are well cared for.
Your kingdom comes.
Your will be done.
You came as one who was sick.
Where people feel pain in their bodies or in their minds or spirits; where people seek healing or help those in pain; in places where illness has done its worst and desperation and death have moved in, and where people work with science, medicine, prayer, and counseling to improve life and health.
Your kingdom comes.
Your will be done.
You came as one who was in prison.
Where people are inhumanly treated and the law is unjust and where people work within the legal and political systems to ensure that justice is done and wherever new life has begun, where hope flickers, where there is laughter and joy, where there is healing and positive change, wherever there is good news to celebrate.
Your kingdom comes.
Your will be done.
Song: The love of God comes close (474: vss 1,2,5
Sending out with God’s blessing
And now, go with the love of God behind you. With Christ as your instructor. And with the Holy Spirit leading you on. Go forever. Amen.
Response: God to enfold you
Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).
The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.