A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Prayers of the People: The Always and Forever Shine: Christ the King, 26th/Last Sunday of Pentecost '23 Yr A

For Sunday, November 26, 2023, Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 95:1-7a, Ephesians 1:15-23, 
Matthew 25:31-46

   I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep...I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak...I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at the weak animals with your horns...I will save my flock and they will no longer be ravaged...I will judge between sheep and sheep. [Ezekiel 34:15a, 16,20b-22]

    Come let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation…For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. [Psalm 95:1-7a] 

   I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ...may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe... [Ephesians 1:17-19a]

   When the Son of Man comes into 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...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...but the righteous [will go] into eternal life." [Matthew 25:31a, 32, 40, 46b]

     In this Sunday of Christ the King, the Final Sunday in the Season after Pentecost, or The Season of the Kingdom in some Anglican Church places, we look at the Christ of Wisdom, of Eternity, of Majesty, and Jesus, of human form. The kingly Christ is now, has always been, will forever be the Divine-Human Incarnation, the manifestation of the love of God that is Jesus is more than 2,000 years old. Jesus ~ the human face of God ~ came and will come again as God's own divine self on Earth. It is more than difficult to comprehend, even as we continue to try, and forever as inexplicable and unsolvable as eternal mysteries always are.
     Ezekiel’s message is speaking to the faithless shepherds, those governors of Israel who oppressed their flocks. With inexcusable mishandling of power, governing for the benefit of rulers, they failed in their handling of God’s Divine Plan which is government ~ shepherding ~ for the sake of the governed. A true shepherd is one who strengthens and protects the flock, tends the injured and the sick, calls back all who have strayed. The Shepherds are accountable for the safety and well-being of their flocks. In this passage, God the Almighty, assumes the role of Israel’s shepherd. Ezekiel’s message is of both hope and warning.
     This first part of Psalm 95 is quite familiar to anyone who prays the Morning Prayer portion of the Daily Office [see page 44 or 82 in “The Book of Common Prayer” or same page numbers in https://bcponline.org ]. Filled with the joy expressed when we experience God’s Presence with thanksgiving, it’s a great way to begin a day and set our hearts and souls to remember our call more often than forget or simply get caught up in earthly things.
     In the Epistle, Paul is extolling the faith of the Ephesians and encouraging them so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, and praying that they [and now we] come to know Christ more deeply, we will all know the hope to which we are called, and the spiritual riches of his glorious inheritance, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
     And, as with last week’s passage, this, the following one in Matthew’s Gospel account, is also, on its face, an uncomfortable view of the Great Judgment. As in last week’s post, Matthew has been telling us all through his Gospel that the Law is only a starting point, we are to exceed those expectations by cultivating and manifesting an inner attitude of love for God in everything that we do. Especially difficult work in times of serious social media, political, religious, and other frequent arguments. There are many nice people doing good things but if one’s deeply held inner purpose is for personal gain or acclaim, however small, they may be heading into the goat pen. And of course, it’s not so easy to be so sure of one’s own true sense of purpose.
     As we strive to be good sheep, our everyday lives with their ups and downs on a variety of fronts, keep us fairly distracted and not always conscious of the what and the why we do as we do. It is often challenging, and even distasteful at times, when confronted with particularly sticky issues and people that may repel us. Yet we are called to remember to look for Christ in strangers, the sick, the imprisoned, and the poor, and care for them in any way we can, without any expectation of a return in kind. Also, as well, those who seem better off in life than we are, and those who, in our less than best moments, we simply disparage as goats.
     Some days, some seasons, some years, it's much easier to be a goat and rest in the more-comfy Jesus ~ the sweet Baby of the Christmas glitter, pretty packages, and sparkling decorations, and, ignoring the other “reason for the season,” the resurrected Jesus in the bright colors of Easter flowers, dyed eggs, and candy.
     But, as we are at the end of one liturgical season and beginning another, it is time to consider again our thoughts and actions as members of the Body of Christ, working to follow Jesus with intention and consciousness for as we do to others, we do to Christ ~ the Jesus who is our Messiah, the Rock of our Salvation, Christ the King of Glory.
     The writer of Ephesians prays for our wisdom, our enlightenment, and for us to know the glory of God’s immeasurable greatness. Let us not discard divine mystery for a false reality, but rouse ourselves from the haze of distraction, indifference, and complacency, and the once-a-week sense of “I’ve done it” by church attendance. Let us, as the blessed inheritors of the Kingdom, turn toward the inconvenient call of Christ. After all, if we believe that our very existence on this fragile island planet is truly a gift from God, what is there to lose if we live it through Christ? All that truly matters is not glitter, but, in Christ where it shines always and forever.


Leader:  ~ Christ Jesus, King of Glory, awaken us again to the wonder of God’s fullness in You, the beacon of our faith. Gather us as Your sheep into our divine blessings, for being Your love in the world, and for tending to and beckoning the goats of this life to turn and join us in Your eternal flock.
                                                         Jesus, Face of God
              RESPONSE:                Enlighten the eyes of our hearts
~ Christ Jesus, King of Glory, guide our conscious intent in our own actions to assure that we and the leaders of governments on this Planet, locally and globally, seek the lost, bind up the injured, feed the hungry, and all for their own sake, in justice with mercy. We pray especially for: add your own petitions
                                                       Jesus, Face of God
                                                       Enlighten the eyes of our hearts
~ Christ Jesus, King of Glory, grant comfort and healing for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit, and for those who give them care. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions
                                                       Jesus, Face of God
                                                       Enlighten the eyes of our hearts
~ Christ Jesus, King of Glory, embrace all grieving hearts as You joyously bless those now entering Your gracious and forever kingdom. We pray especially for… add your own petitions
                                                       Jesus, Face of God
                                                       Enlighten the eyes of our hearts
~ Christ Jesus, King of Glory, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Face of God
                                                       Enlighten the eyes of our hearts
~ Christ Jesus, King of Glory, inscribe special blessings upon the souls of those anointed to lead us in Your Church, as we journey together through the gifts and trials of this mortal life. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       Jesus, Face of God
                                                       Enlighten the eyes of our hearts

The Celebrant adds: Son of Man, the Incarnation of Love, even as we each are at once sheep and goat, You extend the blessing of Your welcoming and forgiving hands. Strengthen us in our weakness that we may one day rise into Your holy and sacred Kingdom. We offer our praise to You as Jesus, our Redeemer Christ; to the Holy Spirit, our Wisdom Guide; and to our Glorious Creator, who together and before time, live and reign as one God, then, now, and into forever. Amen.


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