DATE: 23 November 2014
TO: Congregational Church of Weston

Call to Worship: Sue Ellen Herne, Mohawk, USA
from Gifts of Many Cultures Worship Resources for the Global Community, page 20

Leader: Thank you, Creator of the universe, for the people gathered around us today. We give thanks for the things of the earth that give us the means of life.
Congregation: Thank you for your plants, animals, and birds that we use as food and medicine.
Leader: Thank you for your natural world, in which we find the means to be clothed and housed.
Congregation: Thank you, Lord, for the ability to use your gifts of the natural world.
Leader: Help us to see our place among these gifts, not to squander them or think of them as means for selfish gain.
Congregation: May we respect the life of all you have made. May our spirits be strengthened by using only what we need, and may we use our strength to help those who need us. Amen.

Unison Prayer of Invocation: Jos Carlos de Souza, Brazil
from Gifts of Many Cultures Worship Resources for the Global Community, page 28

O Eternal Father,
for your grace that knows no limit and the richness of your gifts that do not cease to fall upon us, the food that comes to our table; the fresh water that quenches our thirst;
the air that we constantly breathe;
the clothes that we wear; the house in which we live;
our health that sustains us;
and all the many signs that remind us of your care and concern, which is always around us,… We thank you.

Keep us from destroying completely nature and from exploiting human labor in the name of profits and progress. We give you thanks because you invite us to a new life in love and service.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Scripture Background for Matthew 25:31-46
We know that the readers of this Gospel were Greek speaking because the book was written in Greek. There are also hints that the readers were Jewish, primarily the way in which the Jewish Scriptures are heavily quoted and the prophesies of the Old Testament seem to be fulfilled.

Today’s lesson is not paralleled in the Synoptic Gospels. It is a standalone story that according to some Bible Scholars cannot quite be classified as a parable, though some passages, such as the separating between the sheep and goats and dialogue between judge and those being judged definitely are parables.

As we read the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus through his ministry of education has announced and illustrated the kingdom of God. But it is in todays teaching that we find out how we inherit that kingdom. The good news to those who are not economically privileged is that those without status and those who seek to serve are all welcome. Matthew the tax collector whose name means “gift of the Lord” shows us the real gift of God’s abundance!

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who 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 drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them,‘ Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, 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 no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, 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.”

Leader: This is the Word of God for the people of God.
People: Thanks be to God.Justice, Excellence and High Expectations

Justice, Excellence and High Expectations

Happy Sunday Church!!

I am not sure if you know, but today we are gathered here in celebration! I don’t know if you have ever looked at the church program for Sundays, but it says, Order of Worship, which means we have a sense or a feeling of reverence and adoration for God that we are sharing together. That is the reason we come together on Sunday… To worship God in community.

The synonyms for the word Worship are: revere, reverence, venerate, honor, pay homage to, adore, praise, pray to, glorify, and exalt! I think sometimes we forget that that is the purpose for getting up out of bed on a cold day like today, we are coming together as a community to pray, praise, adore and glorify God!

As a church, today we are also celebrating Thanksgiving together. See, this week we gather to celebrate God’s bounty for God’s people!

Thanksgiving is here and with it comes the expectation of The Harvest Table. A table set with all our favorites. After all what would Thanksgiving be like if we did not have turkey, and stuffing, and cranberry relish, and salad, and green bean casserole, and candied yams, and pasteles, and yucca, and mashed potatoes, and and and so many other things.

The table is set and we are expecting a feast… but what if that feast does not materialize? What then?

For many of us this time of year is frocked with what to us are hurdles, everything from where will we eat (my parent’s or your parent’s), to when will we eat (before the game starts or after)? But for some of us, this is a day like every other day, a day when we will make the improbable possible and scrounge up yet another meal. A day when we will rush to get to work on time, though we are barely making enough to pay for gasoline.

But don’t fret, God has a word of encouragement and on today, we can talk about “Communion, Justice, and High Expectations” as we begin to prepare ourselves for the Thanksgiving Feast! I ask, are you ready…?

Communion of the Saints (Matthew 25:31-46)
Today’s Scripture reading comes through in the midst of some other eschatological passages. As we heard in the scripture background this story clues us in as to how we go about inheriting access into the kingdom of God.

The passage starts with Jesus “coming into his glory” and sitting in the throne room passing judgment on the community. Culling members, as we mere mortals would separate animals placed before us, putting some (sheep) to the right and others (goats) to the left.

And as the Son of Man looked at the sheep at his right hand he deemed them worthy of inheriting the kingdom of heaven that had been prepared from the foundation of the world, saying:

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.

And when the righteous people wondered, when did we do that? When did you see us? The king answered: ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

In the same way, when the Son of Man looked at the goats to his left, he cursed them, reminding them that they too had met him and their choices had been different:

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,
I was naked and you did not give me clothing,
I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

Before us today, is a banquet, a communion table, a harvest table filled with the bounty of God’s undeniable, unmerited, but very solicited mercy. We each have access to it. And, not much is asked of us, except JUSTICE!

Justice for all Believers (Ezekiel 34: 11-16 and 20-24)
If we turn our attention to an earlier Bible passage found in Ezekiel we read the following:

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.
I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered I will bring them out from the nations and gather them
I will pasture them
I myself will tend my sheep and have them [rest]
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy.
I will shepherd the flock with justice.

This passage gives us some great verbs with the Lord as the one who will: search, rescue, gather, feed, heal, and nurture. The sheep will once more experience public justice as restored and strengthened members of society.

But we are active participants in that society. And we who claim to be a people of God are part of that restoring and strengthened public justice.

Before us today, is a banquet, a harvest table filled with the bounty of God’s undeniable love. Yet some of us, can’t even imagine it. Some of us, can only see the empty plates filled with even emptier promises of the unimaginable and somehow unattainable good that we can’t quite seem to get a hold of. Yet not much is asked of us, except JUSTICE!

High(er) Expectations (Psalm 100)
But again, it is in todays teaching that we find out how to inherit the kingdom of God.

Thus far, we have heard about Social Justice. We have heard about feeding, healing, and nurturing. We have heard about visiting and clothing each other. And we have heard about restoring and strengthening.

But wait! There’s more!!

Friday night a small group of us went to see Godspell at Regis College, and I must admit, this was my first time seeing it. While there were many moments that I enjoyed, my eyes were open to something new when I heard: “Turn Back, O Man” in which the community is asked to stop being foolish and turn to God!

I was once more reminded that while good works are great, good works without understanding the reason we do them are insufficient.

Higher expectations! We are a community of faith, that does good works because we are a faithful people, but we are a people filled with hope and in all things we return our focus to a living God that works in us and through us. Godspell’s Jesus said: “This is the beginning.”

And so today, I remind you of Psalm 100:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

It is through God’s help, with our eyes focused on God’s redemptive power, with our trust on his Love and Mercy, it is with all HOPE placed in the hands of God that we find the courage to do Justice and seek Truth. And that is the message that we need to share with each other, THE LORD IS GOOD AND HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER AND EVER.

The table is set and we are expecting a feast… and it is in God’s love that we are all made welcome. Our empty plates can be filled to overflowing.

May we be generators of God’s love to all people in all our days. Amen.

Please remain seated for the Postlude…
This benediction will also be our offering of grace for our meal…

Let us pray,
God we are your people thanking you for your abundant mercy. When we think we are unworthy, you look at us with love and forgiveness and remember us as the apple of your eye.
We gather in community as companions on this journey to you Merciful and Loving God.
As we gather for this meal, we pray for the hands that dug deep in the soil to plant the seeds that became this meal.
As we gather for this meal, we thank you for the families of those who farmed the soil, who packed the trucks, who drove the trucks…
Creator we ask a special anointing upon each of those families, they are members of your household and we remember them.
We ask that you encamp your angels around them that they may feel your presence near… as we also feel you close. And now let all God’s people say…Amen

Suggested Hymns
Hymn #465 “God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending” (The New Century Hymnal) Hymn #420 “We Praise You, O God” (The New Century Hymnal)
Hymn #421 “We Gather Together” (The New Century Hymnal)

Music that is feeding my spirit Welcome to DC by Mambo Sauce

You know where you’re at, the USA Cap
You’re taking this lightly, Stop taking this lightly
Now how you gone act
Oh you gone be right back, Well we gone be right here, We gone be right here
We aint going Nowhere Welcome to DC