Pentecost -- The Least of These

A Celebration of the Reign of Christ

On the last Sunday after Pentecost, before the church opens a new liturgical year, we commemorate the ministry of Jesus Christ as our Sovereign. The language of royalty, alien to our civil vocabulary, is transformed by the servanthood of Jesus Christ. Our hearts are directed not to the privileges and prerogatives of earthly rulers but rather to compassion offered to humankind simply because "God so loved the world."

In this celebration, we honor one who came not to be served but to serve and offer life itself as a redeeming gift for many. Following this Sovereign means welcoming a reign of compassion for others in our hearts and lives. It means turning the world upside down with justice, mercy, and peace in the midst of the disorder of human alienation and suffering.

Call to Worship

One: Blessed be the Triune God who gathers us as the church of Jesus Christ our Sovereign.

People: And blessed be God's holy reign now and forever.

One: Rejoice, people of God, in the one who came that all may have life and have it more abundantly, who places the needy, "the least of these," at the heart of God's love.

People: Praise and honor to Jesus Christ, God with us, who calls us friends and reigns in our midst by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hymn "Jesus Shall Reign" TNCH 300

Confession and Assurance

One: Confident in the mercy of God, let us ask for the forgiveness we need.

People: Loving God, shepherd of our souls, hear the longing of our hearts for fullness of life.

Too often we exchange the gift of your grace for things that do not endure.

We speak of Jesus Christ with reverence but spend our days in service to selfish ends.

We sing of our Savior's reign but occupy trivial thrones of self-importance.

Deliver us from all that confounds our relationship with you and one another.

We ask this in the name of the one who taught us to pray, "your reign come on earth as it is in heaven." Amen.

(A time of silent confession and intercession.)

One: Beloved, God forgives those who face their own failures and ask for mercy.

In receiving this gift, let us forgive ourselves and those who have wronged us in any way.

Where Jesus Christ reigns there is no room for thrones that enshrine human sin.

Rejoice in the reign of redeeming love!

People: Amen! Thanks and praise to God.

The Sign of Peace

(The people greet each other with a sign of reconciliation and peace, such as a handshake or embrace, saying these or similar words.)

One: The peace of Christ be with you.

People: And also with you.

Readings for the Reign of Christ

Ezekiel 34:11–16, 20–24
Psalm 100 (responsive reading or sung) TNCH 688
Ephesians 1:15–23

Hymn "Glorious Is Your Name, O Jesus" TNCH 53

Gospel Reading for the Reign of Christ

Matthew 25:31–46

Sermon

Prayers of the People

One: Merciful God, your goodness outdistances our imagination. When we ponder your ways and your gifts, our words cannot contain the riches of your regard for us. We believe that you made us in your image and likeness and breathed into us the breath of your Holy Spirit.

People: Make us more like you in sharing your goodness with the world. May Christ Jesus, your beloved, reign in our midst.

One: Show us the privilege of feeding the hungry, satisfying the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and those in prison.

People: When we ourselves are in need and others reach out to us, grant us grace to receive thankfully what is offered in love. Come, Christ Jesus, reign in our lives.

One: Fill your church with passion for your mission entrusted to its care. Reform and transform its life and make it a worthy vessel of the good news of your love.

People: Reshape our wills to your own that we may be one people in your one church.

Forgive the racism and every sin that excludes those you have welcomed in the body of Christ. Come, Christ Jesus, reign in your church.

One: Holy and Triune God, Sovereign of all creation, call forth from your people voices of hope in a world wounded by warfare and disfigured by violence of every kind.

People: Open our lives to worthy possibilities for justice and peace. Forbid that the voices of violence shall prevail in the midst of persons of goodwill.

Come, Christ Jesus, reign in all the world.

(Silence for prayers of intercession.)

One: Let us pray as Christ our Savior has taught us...

Prayer of Our Savior

Offering

One: Sisters and brothers, one of the vital signs of Christ's reign in our lives is shown by our use of the resources we receive from God. Let us remember the words of Christ, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

(The tithes and gifts of the congregation may be received according to the custom of the local congregation.)

Celebration of Holy Communion TNCH 16–20

Hymn "Rejoice, Give Thanks and Sing" TNCH 303

Benediction (Jude 3:24–25, adapted)

One: Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of God's glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Sovereign, be glory, majesty, power and authority, before all time and now and forever.

People: Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among all with whom God is well pleased. Amen.

TNCH refers to hymns or resources from The New Century Hymnal (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 1995). Similar resources may be found in other hymnals.

This service was prepared by the Reverend Thomas E. Dipko, retired executive vice president of the former United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. Dr. Dipko also served as the first draft writer of the Book of Worship: United Church of Christ. For more information on liturgy or worship, contact Worship and Education Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries at www.ucc.org.

Copyright © 2002 Stewardship and Church Finances Ministry Team, UCC, Cleveland. Permission is granted to reproduce or adapt for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved. Designed and printed by United Church Resources, Local Church Ministries.

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CONTACT INFO

Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115
216-736-3869
blains@ucc.org