Children’s Challenge : Count the number of times the word “sheep” comes up in the reading and the talk. Answer sheet at the bottom of this page.
Hi everybody – welcome!. Once again we are worshipping at home as our world struggles against Covid. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody affected at this time.
Before I get going I want to mention today’s Children’s Challenge – Today it’s a really simple version of bingo – I just want to know how many times the word “Sheep” appears in this service – that includes the reading but not the songs. The answer, and a word search for afterwards is attached to download at the bottom of the service web page.
Today is known in our Church calendar as Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church year before we start a new year with Advent – and if you are thinking you have heard me say that before you would be right – this is the 4th straight year I have been on duty for this same Sunday. Now, thats good for me because it means I’ve got a lot of material I can recycle but I hope the sense of déjà vu isn’t too great for all of you!
This year I’m not going to bore you with the history of Christ the King Sunday – If you have heard me at all on this Sunday over the last few years you will remember that it was started by Pope Pius Xi partly in response to the rise in Fascism in Europe as a reminder that Christ should be the King of our lives, the ruler over everything we do. The church placed this particular Sunday right at the end of the Church year to help us look back and ask “Was Christ lord of all I did this year” And, as we prepare to move into Advent and celebrate the coming of Christ it’s a great time also to think about whether Christ does rule over every aspect of our life. I know personally this is not always the case for me.!
Father God we pray that you would be here with us wherever we are as we worship and praise you today. Help calm our minds and free us from the outside worries of this life so we can concentrate on you for this time today
Take some quiet time to say sorry to God for anything you wish.
Lets worship God together:
Throughout history there have been good kings and bad kings , gentle ones, and terrifying ones – we don’t need to think very hard to come up with the whole range – Kings are human just like the rest of us and through time there have been some great ones and some terrible ones. Some that really wanted to do the best for their people, others who were just in it for themselves, and didn’t care about anyone else at all. There have been so many that have abused their birthright believing that great power and great responsibility are not linked.
On this Christ the King Sunday its important to remember what kind of King we have as Christians. Jesus often uses parables to try and teach us the kind of king he is, just like the one we have in today’s reading from Matthew
This parable of the sheep and the goats doesn’t always get focussed on as much as some others we know. And this one can, on the face of it be quite difficult to reconcile with our knowledge of our saviour.
The theme of Judgement is something we are familiar with, it runs through the bible and we know that the final judgement on us will come when Christ returns . this parable is a not so subtle statement of what will happen when Jesus returns.
Matthew tells us Jesus will separate us into two groups – what he calls the sheep and the goats. In Biblical times this would have been an every day comparison that was understood by most people. Lots of shepherds would have looked after sheep and goats together and would know that sometimes its quite difficult to tell them apart – the hardy sheep of those times didn’t look quite like the white fluffy things we think of as sheep today.
And of course why this story worked so well was that although they may have looked the same the two animals have very different personalities. The sheep need more help to stay alive, they need taking to the right fields, they need rescuing if one gets lost, a theme Jesus used in another parable (Matthew 18:12-14 – Who wouldn’t leave their 99 sheep to go and find the one that’s lost). Basically, sheep struggle to survive without someone to look after them
Goats on the other hand are stubborn, independent, and will eat anything. They don’t need anyone and are more than happy left to their own devices. The folk tales of goats eating anything and everything are more or less true – if a goat can reach something it will probably eat it.
So, according to Matthew Jesus will split us into these two groups that he calls Sheep and Goats. And we know which group we want to be in don’t we? In the bible believers are often called sheep (and that’s not meant to mean we are just blind followers by the way) Psalm 95 says: “We are the sheep belonging to his flock”, and Mark 6:34 “When Jesus came ashore he saw a large crowd. He felt deep concern for them . They were like sheep without a shepherd”.
So we want to end up in the Sheep group right? We want Jesus to be our shepherd. We know he cares for us and that we can trust him.
But notice in this parable of what will happen when Jesus comes. When he comes back he wont be the shepherd – he will separate us “AS a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” but he will definitely be coming as a King. At this point the “leading” part of being a Shepherd will be over for Jesus and its time to find out if we listened to our Shepherd when we had the chance. When he comes back Jesus will be coming as a ruling King and the first thing he’s going to do is divide us into 2 groups. The first group, that end up on his right hand is made up of what he calls the Sheep. And this is what Jesus says he will say to them…
“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.’”
And in V 37 comes the first sign that we want to be the sheep. Jesus says “Then the righteous will answer him” So the sheep are righteous – its definitely the group we want to be in but they don’t understand what Jesus is saying They reply – You What? We’ve never met you, haven’t given you a drink or food, we definitely didn’t visit you when you were sick or in prison. They are saying “What are you on about?!!!”
And, although this is a parable Jesus doesn’t want to leave us guessing what he meant so he makes sure we understand:
“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.’
So because these people loved and cared for those around them they had loved and cared for him – and therefore they get invited into the Kingdom of God. Whats important here is that good deeds alone aren’t enough to get us into the kingdom of heaven. One commentary I read said that there are not enough good deeds in the world to change the fact that we have been separated from God and his kingdom by our sin – Romans 3:23 says “Everyone has sinned, No one measures up to God’s glory”. So what does make us right with God? Well only God’s grace of course, Romans 3 goes on to say “The free gift of God’s grace makes us all right with him” Christ paid the price to set us free and if we believe and acknowledge that then we can be saved.
So how does that fit with this parable that says we also have to ACT in a certain way in order to be part of the Sheep? Well, the point is that belief should change us. If we follow Jesus with our whole heart our lives will reflect him and what he taught to those around us.. If we believe wholeheartedly then we are changed, the way we behave should change, what is normal to us should change.
The way we behave is evidence of whether we believe or not!
Corinthians 5 says it all…
V15 “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
V17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!”
Jesus when he sorts the sheep from the goats shows that the “sheep” – the righteous – don’t even know that the good stuff they do is that good – they just do it as normal because that is their mindset. They have heard the message of the gospel and built it into their whole lives, it just comes naturally.
Its worth saying none of the things the righteous people – the sheep – have done are hard, they are simple acts of kindness that cost us nothing, and yet are done purely because they are the right thing to do – giving a drink to a thirsty person, food to a hungry person, visiting a sick person – all small things but they change the quality of life for that person. At the end of the day that’s all Jesus is asking of us – just to show a bit of his love.
BUT what happened to the goats…
Well, if the sheep are the righteous then these are the damned – these people are not going where they would like to. These people are going to Hell.
Jesus says to them – I was thirsty and you didn’t give me a drink, I needed clothes you didn’t clothe me, I was sick, you didn’t look after me.
And they reply the same way as the sheep did– We didn’t see you hungry, thirsty, sick.
Jesus ‘s reply is quite clear once again – If you didn’t do it for them you didn’t do it for me. These people – the goats, had seen others in need but did nothing. These people are like the supposedly Godly people in the Good Samaritan story who looked the other way. Maybe they didn’t have time, maybe they didn’t want to get their hands dirty, or maybe doing the little kindnesses in life wasn’t showy enough for them – who knows.
The attitude of the goats was “If we’d have known it was you we would have done something – it just wasn’t worth doing anything for THEM. Jesus point is that only helping when it will get you something is not right.
So how do we make sure we are sheep not goats? Well, if we are behaving like Christians we will do the right things without thinking – if we hear and believe the message of Christ, if Christ really is the King of our lives then the rest follows naturally. The point of this Sunday and our job today is to check that Christ really is our King, the Lord over all of our life.
Prayers of Intercession
Spend some time in prayer with your family group or on your own and prayer for whatever and whoever is on your heart and then end with the Lord’s Prayer
Our leaders and governments
Everyone involved in the fight against the pandemic
The sick and the bereaved
Countries in the world that are struggling to cope with and corona virus, especially 3rd world countries who are already struggling with war and famine.
Our Church family and the local area of Totley, including our primary school
Our family and friends
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”
Blessing and Dismissal
Thank you for joining us today – if you were counting sheep through the service the answer sheet is just a bit further down.
I hope and pray that you would all stay safe and that Jesus would be with us all and bless us this week and always.
And we will end by saying the grace together:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and evermore. Amen.