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When Our Eyes Turn Toward Heaven - Matthew 25

A service plan from the Apostles' Creed focused on the return of Christ in a series on the Apostles' Creed as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service
The Apostles' Creed

Theme of the Service

As we reach the end of the Apostles' Creed's description of the identity and work of Jesus Christ, we profess to believe that the last act of his redemptive work will be his return to this earth as the Judge at the end of time. This worship service is built on that hope.

While the theme of the service will be the return of Christ, it will include the certainty of our hope, the purpose of his return, and the events that will be associated with his return.


Prelude: "The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship

*Song of Adoration: "Man of Sorrows-What a Name" PsH 482 TH 246, TWC 226, UMH 165

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
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.

*Song of Response: "To God Be the Glory" PsH 632, TWC 46

The Children's Moment


The Call to Confession
Listen to the voice of God calling us through the words of Isaiah in chapter 55.
These are words from a God who is eager to restore and forgive.

Seek the Lord while he may be found:
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him return to the Lord,
and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isa. 55:6-7)

Our Prayer of Confession
Awesome and compassionate God,
You have loved us with an unfailing, self-giving mercy,
but we have not loved you.
You constantly call us, but we do not listen.
You ask us to love, but we walk away from neighbors in need,
wrapped in our own concerns.
We condone evil, prejudice, warfare, and greed.
God of grace, as you come to us in mercy,
we repent in spirit and in truth,
admit our sin, and gratefully receive your forgiveness
through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.
(The Worship Sourcebook, 2.2.18)

The Assurance of God's Pardon
For our confidence and assurance, let us hold to the promise that Isaiah extends to us:
that God will have mercy and will freely pardon. On the basis of God's promise, be at peace,
for God has pardoned you.

And so, may the peace of the Lord be with you.
And also with you.
(The worshipers are invited to pass the peace of Christ to one another with the words
"Peace be with you" or "Christ's peace be with you.")

Song of Response: "When Peace like a River" PsH 489 TH 691, TWC 519 UMH 377

God's Call to Grateful Obedience


*Song of Hope: "View the Present Through the Promise" SNC 90 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of the Catechism
How does Christ's return
"to judge the living and the dead"
comfort you?

In all my distress and persecution
I turn my eyes to the heavens
and confidently await as judge the very One
who has already stood trial in my place before God
and so has removed the whole curse from me.
All his enemies and mine
he will condemn to everlasting punishment:
but me and all his chosen ones
he will take along with him
into the joy and the glory of heaven.
(Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 52)

Anthem: "My Lord, What a Mornin'," Work [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Reading of Scripture: Matthew 25:31-33 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "When Our Eyes Turn Toward Heaven" (The Apostles' Creed - #9)

The Prayer of Application


*Our Affirmation of Hope
We long for that day
when Jesus will return as triumphant king,
when the dead will be raised
and all people will stand before his judgment.
We face that day without fear,
for the Judge is our Savior.
Our daily lives of service aim for the moment
when the Son will present his people to the Father.
Then God will be shown to be true, holy, and gracious.
All who have been on the Lord's side
will be honored,
the fruit of even small acts of
obedience will be displayed;
but tyrants and oppressors,
heretics, and all who deny the Lord
will be damned.
(Our World Belongs to God, st . 57)

Anthem: "Keep Your Lamps!" Thomas [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory
The Offering of Music: "Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying"
or "Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
We Offer our Gifts for . . .


*Song: "Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending" PH 6, PsH 612, RL 605, TH 318, UMH 718

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*A Moment of Meditation

Postlude: "Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

1. The brief statement in the Apostles' Creed about the return of Christ is deceivingly simple. It opens up a very large subject by simply saying, "from there he shall come to judge the living and the dead." Therefore the writing of this sermon will involve some careful decisions about how much of this subject to address. It can easily lead to a whole series of sermons (and perhaps it ought to!). We suggest at this point that several main considerations form the heart of this message.

2. The certainty of Christ's return can be the starting point. Though that may seem obvious to those who are long-time Christians, many others are sorting though all such considerations. The movement and conflicts of history and the spiritual warfare of our world all point to the fact that things can't go on forever. But even more significant are the clear statements of Scripture in both the words of Jesus and in the Epistles.

3. The words of the catechism (Q&A 52) speak about the purpose of such an event-to reveal Jesus as Lord. Then the one who "stood trial in my place" is recognized by all, will end the warfare of this world so that all his enemies are condemned, and will bring our full redemption and take all his children into the joy and glory of heaven.

4. The two Scriptures speak about the process or the attendant events of his appearance. While many may focus on the signs of the times in preparation for this event, these passages tell us what the day itself will be like. Matthew 25 tells us that Jesus himself will appear, with all the angels, in glory, and gathering all the nations before proceeding with judgment. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 points to the personal appearance of Jesus, announced by a loud command, the voice of the archangel, and a trumpet call. His appearance will precipitate the resurrection of the dead and a joyful reunion of all his children with him.

5. As this sermon draws to its conclusion, it will be helpful to return to the focus of the Catechism question, which is not "What do you know?" or "What do you believe?" but "How does this comfort you?" The aim of this truth is not first of all fear, or even knowledge, but comfort for those who believe!

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)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

1. The suggestions for prelude based on the hymn tune MORNING SONG ("The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns") can be found in the following resources:

  • Held, Wilbur. Hymn Preludes for the Autumn Festivals. Concordia 97-5360 [1976] (E-M).
  • Johnson, David N. [Consolation] (1973). Augsburg Organ Library - Advent. Augsburg 11-11034 [2000] (E-M).
  • Johnson, David N. Hymns Settings for Organ. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7498-7 [2002] (E-M).
  • Page, Anna Laura. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (ed. Lyon, Sharron). Broadman 4570-31 [1976] (E-M).

2. The Song of Faith, "View the Present Through the Promise," is also arranged as a concertato by Roy Hopp. This joint choir and congregation setting is published by GIA G-5943 [2002] (E-M). If your congregation is not familiar with this relatively new hymn, you may wish to introduce them to the song through this arrangement.

3. The SATB anthem "My Lord, What a Mornin' " by John Work is published by Presser 312-40622 [1964] (E-M). A choir or ensemble could easily sing a hymnal setting of this same African American spiritual. We have found it interesting to see that occasionally in hymnals the title is "My Lord, What a Mourning." What a different flavor the text has then!

4. The SATB unaccompanied anthem "Keep Your Lamps!" by André Thomas is published by Hinshaw HMC 577 [1982] (E-M).

5. Suggestions for the offertory music, based on the hymn tunes WACHET AUF and WESTMINSTER ABBEY can be found in the following resources:

WACHET AUF ["Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying"]

  • Bach, J.S. Six Organ Chorals ( Schubler, ed. Riemenschneider ). Ditson [1952] (M).
  • Behnke, John A. Road to Bethlehem. Concordia 97-7071 [2004] (E-M).
  • Ferguson, John. An Advent Triptych. Morningstar MSM-10-008 [1995] (E-M).
  • Hobby, Robert A. Six Preludes for the Church Year. Morningstar MSM-10-716 [1996] (M).
  • Hotton, Martin. Organ Music for the Seasons, vol. 3. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7564-9 [2003] (D).
  • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 6. SMP KK339 [1986] (E-M, adaptable for piano).
  • Leupold, A.W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M).
  • Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M).
  • Peeters, Flor. 30 Chorale Preludes. Peters 6023 [1950] (M).
  • Reger, Max. Sleepers, Wake! A Voice Is Sounding. Le Grand Orgue [1951] (D).
  • Wold, Wayne L. (1996). Augsburg Organ Library - Advent. Augsburg 11-11034 [2000] (E-M).


  • Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (D).

WESTMINSTER ABBEY ["Lo! He Comes, with Clouds Descending"]

  • Baker, Richard C. A Fancy on Westminster Abbey. Randall M. Egan, The Kenwood Press [1992] (E-M).
  • Miller, Aaron David. Improvisations for the Church Year, vol. 2. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7676-9 [2004] (M).
  • Powell, Robert J. Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart. Augsburg 11-10478 [1994] (E-M).
  • Sedio, Mark. The Praises of Zion. CPH 97-6728 [1998] (E-M).
  • Towers, George. Festival Postlude on Westminster Abbey. Cramer APS 484 [1981] (E-M).

6. The organ postlude based on the closing hymn can be taken from the suggestions for the offertory.

Liturgy Notes:

1. You'll notice that this service begins with one of the hymn suggestions of last week, "Man of Sorrows-What a Name." Doing so provides continuity with previous weeks as we give our praise to an exalted Jesus Christ and sets the tone for a consideration of his final act of returning in judgment.

2. You may prefer to relocate the Children's Moment depending on the subject you plan to address in your words to the children. It is often helpful to locate this at different places in the service from time to time and to allow its subject to influence its location.

3. As in previous weeks we encourage you to provide variety in the readings from Scripture that provide God's guide to grateful living. Many different Scripture portions can selected. The Law of God can be used in one form or another, or other passages can be used. You'll find many of these suggested in The Worship Sourcebook, pages 126-137.

4. The two readings/affirmations in this service represent two statements of the church. The Heidelberg Catechism is a historic document, having been written in the sixteenth century. Our World Belongs to God is a contemporary testimony of the church's faith, written and adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in 1986. Your own denomination may have other such creedal/confessional statements that you prefer to include. Our intent is that worshipers take words to their lips to give expression to their hope and comfort at the return of Christ.