Sermon Sunday 22nd November

Dear Church Family

We trust you are well as we enter the second half of lockdown 2? It is great that we continue to get good news about various vaccines and this gives hope of a more normal 2021.  

I have been working hard on the content of our Christingle Pack and feel sure it will be well received by those who take it up.

We have also been in touch with Matt Garrard, and an idea he has had for brightening up the village with Christmas window displays. It fits in well with our strategy and we have suggested that we leave the church sanctuary lights on in the days before Christmas so that people can enjoy the stained glass windows from the outside.

It has also been an eventful week for us with the arrival of Chloe Rose, grandchild number six. For those who love new baby photos, I have attached one.

As last week, I attach a link to one of the bishop’s ‘start the day’ reflections. It is a very helpful look at Psalm 121 ‘I cast my eyes unto the hills’. He has drawn personal encouragement as he seeks to guide the diocese through a tough period.

Some of you have told me that you valued the worship songs that my daughter-in-law, Jenny, sings for her online church in Derby. They certainly bless me. The link below will take you to this week’s song.

This is the Sunday next before Advent, also called Christ the King. The prayer for the feast is : –

God the Father, help us to hear the call of Christ the King

and to follow in his service,

whose kingdom has no end;

for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, one glory. Now and forever, Amen

A few thoughts on one of today’s readings: –

(Matthew 25:31)  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

(32)  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

(33)  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

(34)  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

(35)  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

(36)  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

(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?’

(40)  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

(41)  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

(42)  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,

(43)  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

(44)  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

(45)  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

If ever there was a bible passage that speaks for itself it is this one. It is beautifully simple and yet profoundly disturbing.

It proclaims Christ as King.

Jesus, in seeking to show his followers who he truly was, took to himself the title of ‘Son of Man’ from the prophetic book of Daniel. We read that all authority was given to Jesus and verses 31 and 32 depict both His coronation and his action plan. It is the perfect passage to take us into Advent where Jesus takes up his rightful place in power and glory. It is an awesome but intimidating picture in some ways.

What the passage doesn’t say!

The passage says nothing about right belief and nothing about religious practice. It does not even point to ‘the sheep’ believing the right things. It is 100% about right actions. It is about how the sheep served Jesus by serving others. As good protestants we rightly believe in salvation by faith ‘not by any works that we have done’ (Ephesians 2 7-9). One reading of this passage seems to point to salvation by works. So what is going on?

What is it that the goats did wrong?

When a person is truly ‘born again’ and when they become that ‘new creation’ as spiritual beings, they have different eyes. They have eyes that look at a need and see Jesus in that need. One of the gifts of regeneration is the heart of compassion. Jesus was oriented, by his divine nature, to see deeply into people’s deepest and most heartfelt needs. He was a shepherd by nature. He actually embodied the sheepfold of safety and security. The goats could not see Jesus in the needy around them.

How do we put it into practice?

One of the challenges of living in 2020 is that we are surrounded by all the needs of the world and bombarded via the media with a million images that shake our ‘heart of compassion’ to the core. Yet we cannot respond to them all. We can become so overwhelmed that we find ourselves responding to almost none of them. Of course we help out and support our family and our neighbours and our friends but Jesus reminds us that ‘even the heathens do that’. Carol and I have been very encouraged by the way that churches across the country have birthed the ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ campaign that has seen tens of thousands of meals distributed to those who need them. For us it has reawakened our contact with Hope Nottingham (a charity that a colleague birthed in 2008). So many charities have found their traditional streams of funding dry up this year, yet people have been wonderfully creative in finding new different ways to fundraise and give. The needs of 2020 have begun to soften our hearts and point us back to Matthew 25.

What does the future hold?

The passage makes it clear that the Son of Man is coming to usher in ‘The Kingdom’. We often talk about now and not yet tensions. Jesus is King but will come in the future to establish his rule. As we approach our ‘different Christmas’ let us do so in a Matthew 25 frame of mind. As believers we have been blessed with a Christlike view of the world and the needs in it. May we find creative ways to be a blessing. May we go the extra mile to seek out those we know that are having a tough time and make Christmas 2020 extra special for them. Let us ask the Spirit of God to move in our hearts and show us what that means for us in practice.

May God bless you and keep you cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you and give you His peace.