Ordinary Time (Proper 29)
See Christ among Us
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1:15-23; Doctrine and Covenants 165:6
Call to Worship: Psalm 100
Hymn of Rejoicing
“Amen, Siakudumisa!/Amen, Sing Praises to the Lord!” CCS 109
Sing several times, encouraging participants to sing in languages other than their own.
OR “All Things Bright and Beautiful” CCS 135
OR “Each Breath Is Borrowed Air” CCS 144
Prayer of Praise
Disciples’ Generous Response
Our Disciples’ Generous Response this morning is in the praise portion of our worship. With our offerings, we praise God and express our gratitude for God’s generosity.
“As stewards, we are not the owners of creation, but God trusts us with the care of everything—creation, gifts and talents, money, or other forms of currency such as seeds or livestock, time, the gospel—for the sake of God’s vision of shalom for the world. Community of Christ believes that who we are and all that we have are gifts from God. Life and all creation are God’s gifts. God’s grace and love for all creation is generous and unconditional. We see God’s grace and love represented in the life, ministry, and continuing mission of Jesus Christ.”
—Choose Generosity, Discovering Whole-Life Stewardship, page 10, Herald House, 2019
During the Disciples’ Generous Response we focus on aligning our purposes with God’s purposes, aligning our heart with God’s heart.
As you share your mission tithes or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings. When we understand God’s love and grace are given freely to us, we respond out of gratitude and are liberated to share freely in return.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Scripture Challenge: Doctrine and Covenants 165:6
“Meet Me in a Holy Place” CCS 162
OR “Spirit Fill Us” CCS 160
OR “In the Quiet of This Day” CCS 161
Reading for Peace: Matthew 25:34-40
Prayer for Peace
Light the Peace Candle.
We recognize you as the God of Peace and the source of our peace. The example of Jesus motivates our movement toward peace within ourselves and within the various communities of the world.
Yet peace is so difficult. Our response to wrong and injustice tends toward retaliation and even violence. We expend resources and lives on conflict and war even as we recognize that this is not your way. War and victory is so much easier to celebrate than peacemaking and cooperation.
Help us as we seek to live your way, in your peace. In your forgiveness move us to respond with nonviolence and peace in the situations we encounter. Help us recognize the Christ among us.
Sing for Peace
Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn
“Peace among Earth’s Peoples” CCS 448
“The Peace of Jesus Christ” CCS 317
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA, can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Let’s be clear, Jesus has nothing against goats or left hands; but he does point out those who don’t help others. This scripture says that Jesus wants us to give food to the hungry, and something to drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, and visit those who are in prison. This may sound familiar because it is similar to the Mission Initiative—Abolish Poverty and End Suffering. How do we have time for this service to others amid of our busy lives?
In his book The Wounded Healer Henri Nouwen explores the idea that we are most able to offer ministry out of our own woundedness. In our present world we might rename this The Busy Wounded Healer—a man or woman who is very busy with work and home responsibilities and cares for an ailing parent. Or it might be a young person busy with school, sports, music, friends but struggling with self-esteem. In any case, these Busy Wounded Healers make time to help others who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger or in prison even though they have their own issues and problems to face. Why? Because they are disciples of Jesus and they see others as Christ among us.
OR Share Old Turtle, a story by Douglas Wood, Pfeifer-Hamilton Publishers, 1992, ISBN 0- 938586-48-3. The artwork is stunning, but be sure to secure permission to project the images.
Discuss where people present have seen God among us.
Hymn of Mission
“When I Can Ache” CCS 590
OR “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me” CCS 581
OR “Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning” CCS 55
Based on Matthew 25:31-46
Hymn of Commitment
“Hidden Christ, Alive Forever” CCS 24
OR “Christ’s Word to Us” CCS 632
OR “When We Lift Our Pack and Go” CCS 634
Sending Forth: Ephesians 1:15-19
Reign of Christ, Ordinary Time (Proper 29)
Exploring the Scripture
Today’s passage is Jesus’ conclusion to his last major instructional speech to his disciples. The teaching ends a series of cautions and parables, which encouraged responsible choices and vigilance in living out one’s discipleship. The writer of Matthew and his community lived during the last decades of the first century (around 80 CE). They were under stress and transition. Also, they questioned their own self-understanding because of the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 70 CE.
Issues of the Christian message, mission, identity, and lifestyle were important. The Gospel writer encouraged the reader to live a life counter to the world and to resist its claims. He believed Christians were called to be active, as well as countercultural. To the writer of Matthew, Christian community consisted of inclusive, merciful, and missional servants. Today’s passage pointedly stresses what should matter to the Christian community—service to those less fortunate.
Jesus identified with these “the least ones.”
Our passage uses four major images: shepherd, king, goats, and sheep. The books in the Bible contain multiple references—both figurative and literal—of the shepherd. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus teaches a parable about lost sheep and the importance of finding the one lost sheep. In another parable in John, Jesus refers to himself as the “good shepherd” who “lays down his life for his sheep.” Other Biblical writers refer to Jesus as the “the shepherd and guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25), “the chief shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4), and the “great shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20).
Contemporary Near Eastern literature often called kings shepherds. Matthew identified Jesus as a Jew whose lineage comes from King David. His use of the word king was consistent with his overall view that Jesus was the Messiah, who deserved to be worshiped. Matthew, like the other Gospel writers, used “Son of Man” as Jesus’ self-designation and highlighted Jesus’ royal claim to the title “Messiah, the Anointed One.”
The writer’s allegory using goats and sheep would have resonated well with the early Christians. Sheep and goats, were the most common domesticated animals of the time. Flocks in Palestine would contain both goats and sheep. Owners raised sheep for wool, milk and its by-products, dung, meat, bones, and horns. Although goats were hardier, they were not as desirable or valuable as sheep. The early Christian listeners would clearly understand the king, as a shepherd, would separate the more valuable sheep from the goats. One interesting part of this story is that Matthew writes that righteous (the sheep) and the accursed (goats) are surprised at what the king said. Each group asks the king, “When did we see you and then, fail to serve you?” In both cases Jesus replied that their lack of mercy to “the least” was to also neglect him.
Specific actions of the righteous—or inactions of the accursed—are key points in today’s passage (for example, feed the hungry, give drinks to the thirsty, offer hospitality, and give clothes). The Gospel writer highlights them four times.
Parallel to these works of compassion and ministry is Jesus’ understanding of his own mission (Luke 4:18); the mission of Community of Christ.
- Jesus is a loving shepherd who cares deeply about his flock.
- Our choices matter. We are called to serve “the least.” The acts of mercy outlined in this text are our mission, the mission of Jesus Christ, which matters most.
- Our lives have meaning. Our actions either of Christian service or of inaction impact others.
- God is in the world in the form of people who are dispossessed, vulnerable, and weak.
Questions to Consider
- Do you see Jesus as a shepherd or a king? How does each perspective influence your own Christian discipleship?
- When and where have you encountered Jesus in the form of the “least”?
- Is your congregation engaged in acts of compassion, as outlined in this text?
- Is your congregation hospitable to strangers?
- Have you ever been surprised in your service and ministry to others?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Ordinary Time Proper 29/Reign of Christ
Matthew 25:31–46 NRSV
The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.
The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.
Reign of Christ Sunday is the final Sunday of Ordinary Time and the Christian calendar year. On Reign of Christ Sunday, we celebrate God’s peaceable reign made manifest in our lives, relationships, the church and the world. This is what we understand as Shalom, God’s healing and restoring activity in the world.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
God, we gather here today to unite our prayers and our hope in your great mercy, and to petition your grace for the pursuit of peace on Earth. The vast universe—the planets and stars—demonstrate your great power and majesty. The beautiful Earth—with shining seas, great mountains and canyons, forests and flowering meadows—exhibit your love of beauty and grandeur. We also are your creation, but we have fallen short of your wonderful promise and plan for our well-being. Many times we are not as beautiful as when we were created.
Greed, envy, pride, and jealousy have led us into wars and suffering. This is why we come to you now in earnest prayer. Save us from ourselves. Bestow upon us your grace and guide the leaders of nations so that with your help they, and we, may know that you are our God, Creator, and Shepherd, and our Hope. We pray that your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. May your will embrace us; may it lead us into love for each other and infuse peace in our hearts. We offer this prayer in the name of the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Read the following:
Reflecting on hymns can bring new insight into our life in community with each other and with the Divine. The following meditation is an opportunity to read through a hymn instead of singing it. As we read we will focus on the words and the meaning of the song.
Our hymn meditation focus today is Community of Christ Sings 130, “For the Beauty of the Earth.”
We will read this hymn aloud together, one time through. Then we will read it through once silently. After the period of silent reading and meditation, there will be time to share some of our meditation reflections.
I invite you to consider these questions as we engage in our hymn meditation:
What might the message of this song be for us today? How is the Spirit stirring within us to respond to this message?
Read the hymn aloud together.
Instruct the group to read the hymn silently. Continue a period of silence to include time for meditation.
Close the silence by saying aloud, “Amen.”
Read the questions above once more and invite the group to share their meditation reflections as they feel led.
Close the time of sharing with a brief prayer of gratitude for all that has been shared and for the blessings of this day.
Sharing Around the Table
Matthew 25:31–46 NRSV
“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, 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.”
The writer of Matthew and his community lived during the last decades of the first century (around 80 CE) under stress and transition. To such a community, issues of the Christian message and mission were important. The gospel writer addressed these concerns with a series of teachings and parables that encourage vigilance in living out one’s discipleship.
The message is clear, when disciples act in ways of mercy and hospitality toward others, they are offering hospitality to Jesus Christ. When they fail to act, they are in turn neglecting Christ.
We are called to be faithful disciples engaged in Christ’s mission. The community of disciples is called to be countercultural, choosing to practice radical compassion and hospitality. This passage takes discipleship well beyond simple belief and calls Jesus’ followers into a life of inclusive, merciful, and missional service. Today’s passage pointedly stresses what lies at the heart of Christian community—service to others, specifically those in need.
- How is radical hospitality countercultural?
- When and where have you encountered Jesus in the form of the “least of these”?
- What steps do you take to follow Jesus as a merciful and missional servant?
Note: If you are using Thoughts for Children, now is a good time for the kids to share with the group their representations of God.
Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.
—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9
The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
God of our discipleship,
As we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In these ways may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.
Invitation to Next Meeting
Community of Christ Sings 290, “When the Poor Ones”