Join our mailing list

Split Kingdoms - Matthew 12

A service plan in an Epiphany series in preparation for Lent focused on the necessary unity of the church for the sake of stability and effectiveness.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

Gems for Christ

In this series we explore Jesus' teaching ministry and receive his instructions for living as disciples.

Theme of the Service

The central theme of this time of worship is the necessary unity of the Body of Christ for the sake of its stability and effectiveness, and in obedience to Christ's command. Multiple considerations arise from this theme - the unity of the church as established by Christ, the tragedy of fractures within the body, the ease with which such fractures happen, and the weakness of the church that results. You may desire to focus on one of these above the others, or attempt to combine all of them.


Prelude: "The Church's One Foundation", arr. Krapf, Barr, Burkhardt
(See music notes at the end of this service for information on where this music and other
suggested music for this service may be found.)

The Call to Worship

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:

Congregation of Jesus Christ, where is your trust placed?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*The worshipers greet one another

*Song: "The Church's One Foundation" PH 442, PsH 502, RL 394, TH 347, TWC 689 or
"O Christ, the Great Foundation" PH 443, SNC 177, TWC 709


The Call to Confession

Our Prayers of Confession
Sung Kyrie - (from Ghana, SNC 50, WOV 601 or Russian Orthodox liturgy, RN 86, SNC 52, WOV 602)
Spoken prayer about the brokenness of the body of Christ
Sung Kyrie
Spoken prayer confessing our part in hurting the unity of the body of Christ
Sung Kyrie
Spoken prayer of a plea for God's forgiving mercy
Sung Kyrie

The Assurance of God's Pardon - Jeremiah 33:6-8

Response: "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" PH 591/2, PsH 637/8, RL 556, RN 83, SFL 11, TH 731/2/3, TWC 808/9

God's Call to Grateful Living - Exodus 20:1-17 and Matthew 22:37-40

The Children's Moment


*Song: "Like the Murmur of the Dove's Song" PH 314, RN 280, SFL 191, SNC 171, TWC 286, WOV 685

Scripture Reading: Matthew 12:22-32
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Prayer for Illumination

God, the Bible which we have is very special:
and it is very big and very old.
How did people find time to write the large books in it?
How did we safely get hold of it so many years later?
How do we now apply these old words to our lives?
We have many questions,
so please help us understand your Word, Lord God,
and send your Spirit among us all.
In Jesus' name. Amen
(from A Child Shall Lead: Children in Worship; see liturgy notes)

Sermon: Split Kingdoms
(Gems from Christ - #4)
Text - Matthew 12:25

Sung Prayer: "Ososo/Come Now, O Prince of Peace" SNC 209


The Pastoral Prayer

concluded with singing "The Lord's Prayer" PH 571/589/590, PsH 207, RN 177/8/9/180, SFL 48, SNC 196, TH 725, TWC 632 (see music notes)

Our Offerings of Gratitude
Offering our tithes and gifts for ministry
Offering our fellowship through signing the Friendship Folder
Offering of music: "Like the Murmur of the Dove's Song", arr. Hobby

*Our Corporate Profession of Faith - The Apostles' Creed or Nicene Creed
(see liturgy notes)

Anthem: "We Are the Church", arr. Young


*The Charge:

Go out in the power of the gospel.
Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.
When you suffering for the gospel, rely on the power of God,
who saved us and called us with a holy calling,
not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.
Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
(based on 2 Timothy 1:8-14)

*The Blessing:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And may the God of peace
make you holy in every way
and keep your whole being - spirit, soul, and body -
free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
The peace of Christ be with you all.
And also with you.

*Song of Commitment: "Mayenziwe/Your Will Be Done" SNC 198 or
"Sent by the Lord" RN 154, SFL 249

Postlude: "Prelude and Fugue in E Minor", J.S. Bach

* - you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

When you really stop to think of it, a tug-of-war between two groups may be an interesting sport but it is an outrageous waste of energy. Great energy is expended by both sides with the general effect of canceling each other out. Such is the concern of Christ in the teaching of our text.

This teaching of Christ is found in a specific setting. A demon-possessed man was brought to Jesus for healing, and when Jesus exhibited miracle-working power the Pharisees accused him of doing it by the power of Beelzebub. The sermon must set forth this context and clarify the intent of the Pharisees in trying to discredit Jesus. But it must also highlight the clever response of Jesus in which he shows that such a claim is absurd and preposterous, and then how he turns his response into a general teaching - any kingdom, city or household that is divided against itself cannot possibly survive.

Another issue this sermon must deal with is the antithesis that Jesus sees in the background - the constant conflict between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of evil. In that light his incarnation and ministry must be seen as God's plan to break the power of the kingdom of evil. Similarly, the ministry of the church is to carry on the work of Christ in breaking the power and influence of evil.

You might also want to do some research on what psychologists call the "Stockholm Syndrome". The experiences of prisoners of war and those taken hostage shows they sometimes have a tendency after a period of captivity to emotionally go over to the side of the enemy. This was first identified in 1973 in Stockholm, Sweden when a bank robber took four hostages, and after several days of terrorized captivity the hostages became emotionally attached to their captor. In this teaching, Jesus fears that some of his children will do the same with their archenemy, the devil, and the house will be divided.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company]
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

1. The organ prelude can be found in Sing and Rejoice vol. 5, by Gerhard Krapf, published by Sacred Music Press (KK323 [1984]) (E); Three Preludes on Hymn Tunes by John G. Barr, published by H.W. Grey (GSTC 01079 [1992]) (E-M); and Six General Hymn Improvisations set 2, Morningstar (MSM-10-534 [1999]) (E). The Krapf transcription is from a "mostly manuals only" collection that can be adapted for piano use in worship.
2. The two suggestions for opening hymn are sung to the same tune and have very similar themes. The text of "O Christ, the Great Foundation" was written in 1933 by Timothy T'inh Fang Lew, a Chinese Christian. Free accompaniments for the opening hymn can be found in Let It Rip! At the Piano, Augsburg (11-11045 [2000]) (p.13, arranged by David Cherwien) and in Hymn Harmonizations for Organ bk. 5 by John Ferguson, Ludwig (0-14 [1992]) (p.4).
3. We suggest that the Kyrie be sung in the original language, Greek. This text has been sung throughout the centuries and is still used by Christians around the world. Two settings are recommended: one comes to the Western church from Ghana, the other is historic and comes from the Russian Orthodox liturgy. Whichever you select, note how the unity of the church is expressed - either globally today or throughout the ages.
4. "The Lord's Prayer" may be spoken or sung. Sung possibilities include the "traditional" setting by Malotte or hymnal settings as found in PsH 207 (tune Langdon), SNC 196, or others.
5. The organ offertory music by Robert Hobby can be found in Three Hymns of Praise set 6, published by Morningstar (MSM-10-543 [2000]) (M).
6. The two-part children's anthem "We Are the Church" is arranged by Carlton Young and published by Agape (AG-7182 [1975]) (E).
7. The closing hymn ("Sent by the Lord" or "Mayenziwe/Your Will Be Done") uses the language that the congregation has already sung or spoken in the Lord's Prayer - this helps to tie together the response section of the service.
8. The postlude can be found in sheet music published by Schirmer (31146 [1940]) (M).

Liturgy Notes:

1. The early part of the worship service should focus on the importance of being a unified body of Christ. The Call to Worship should call us together as one body. The prayers of confession are designed to ask God's forgiveness for our failures to live that way, and to participate in the sung plea for mercy.
2. The Children's Moment could focus on the same theme, even using the illustration of a tug-of-war (see above). Every child enjoys the sport of seeing a tug-of-war, but this would be a good time to illustrate to them that it really accomplishes nothing but only aims to cancel each other out.
3. If you prefer to include the Scripture Readings from the Common Lectionary for this Sunday, they are as follows:
Isaiah 43:18-25
Psalm 41
2 Corinthians 1:19-22
Mark 2:1-12
4. The prayer for illumination is taken from A Child Shall Lead: Children in Worship, page 88 and is written by David Vroege. You are free to use it. This prayer is designed for leadership by a child. We suggest you consider preparing a child for this prayer by rehearsing it with her/him so that a microphone is not intimidating and the prayer can be read fluently. Being led by a child in such a prayer for illumination can be very powerful for the worshiping life of a congregation.
5. The pastoral prayer and corporate profession of faith are designed to continue our expressions of commitment to and appreciation of the oneness of the world wide body of Christ. Using either the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed will express our unity with the church of all time.
6. The charge at the close the service sends us back into life with Paul's realistic instruction to Timothy that we must be faithful, though the task may be difficult.