+ Christ the King A
TEXT: Matthew 25:31-46
DATE: November 23, 2014
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas
The saying goes that
there are two kinds of people.
Those who divide the world into two kinds of people
and those who don’t.
From this story that ends our church year
on this celebration of Christ the King,
it looks like Jesus, the judge at the end of time,
is the kind who divides the world
into two kinds of people.
This is a story of the end time –
when Jesus comes in all his glory to judge all people
and to take his eternal, heavenly throne.
We profess this regularly in the creed:
“He will come again to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.”
This second coming is a pretty stark contrast
to his first coming.
Then, he came as a baby
born of a young girl,
laid in an animal feed trough,
to live and suffer and die.
Here he comes in all his glory
with angels and heavenly host attending him,
and he takes the judgment seat – his heavenly throne –
to judge and redeem all creation.
It’s a glorious, heavenly vision.
But we have to be careful
about staring into the heavens too much
or fixing our thoughts too much on this second coming.
Because by looking heavenward too much,
we may forget to look around.
And what we find out in this little story from the gospel –
the irony is –
that it’s the looking around we do
that shows us to be heavenly.
When King Jesus comes again, what will he ask?
Will he ask if we’ve been born again?
Will he ask what awards we have received
or what influential people we have known?
Will he ask if we had foreseen his coming
because we were studying the stars? Or the calendar?
Apparently, if this story to the disciples here has it right,
he will ask, “did you look after the little ones around you,
the ones who have no voice of their own,
the ones who surround you every day
who are in need, or want, or shame, or suffering?”
When King Jesus comes again,
he will divide all people into two groups.
But they will not be the haves and have-nots,
or the powerful and the powerless,
or the self-righteous and everyone else.
They will be those who paid attention
to the needs of the people around them –
those who fed the hungry,
quenched the thirsty,
welcomed the stranger,
clothed the naked,
and visited the sick and the imprisoned, on the one hand,
and those who didn’t, on the other.
Faith, no matter how heavenly,
is really something for those around us,
in everyday loving actions
for everyday people like us in some need.
And the opportunities to show faith alive in action
are as real and everyday and varied
as there are people with needs and problems.
And all of them are really very do-able actions
You really don’t need special training
to help someone in need.
Just the vision to see the need
and the willingness to do something about it.
But what strikes me most about this story
is the reaction of those people
who looked around
and served the little ones among them in need.
Jesus calls them to inherit the kingdom prepared for them
from the foundations of the world.
“Come,” he says to them.
And they look around in bewilderment
as if to say, “Who, me?”
“What did I do?
When did I do that for you?”
They didn’t know!
And that’s when they and we find out
an amazing thing about the ways of God.
They weren’t doing these deeds of loving service
to earn their way to Jesus’ right hand.
They just did them because that’s who they are.
They found themselves at Jesus’ right hand
because the inheritance had been theirs
from the foundation of the world.
They had been God’s chosen people
from the moment God knew them.
And so God made them to be the kind of folks
who would live the kind of lives,
and love the kind of love
God had intended for his chosen ones.
Jesus calls these people to his right hand
and the inheritance prepared for them
because that is the way God had intended it.
And the fact that in their daily lives,
they had looked around
and cared for the little ones among them
is proof that God had made them that way –
that these people belong in the heavenly kingdom
God had prepared for them.
The surprise for them is
that in their daily lives of caring for others,
they had been serving not only the little ones around them,
but also the same Jesus who now judges them.
The surprise for them is
that caring for the little ones among them,
was really looking up, too.
And serving Jesus himself, too.
It’s the looking around we do
that shows us to be heavenly.
When we humble ourselves to serve the need
of any person in need,
when we kneel before the hungry and thirsty,
the sick and the imprisoned,
the stranger and the needy,
we kneel before the Lord our maker,
who made heaven and earth.
There are two kinds of people
and you are one of them:
the kind whom God calls in Holy Baptism
to holy communion with one another and with God,
the kind whom God fills with the Holy Spirit of life,
the kind whom Christ commands
to love our neighbor and God.
the kind whom God feeds and nourishes
with his word and holy meal
to be his body in the world here and now.
Jesus will come again to judge.
And when he does,
we will discover that he has come to us before.
Often in ways we did not even recognize.
So, in these days until he comes again,
we come into his presence with thanksgiving,
with praise and singing,
in our gathering,
in listening to his word,
and in eating and drinking the supper of salvation
But we also come into his presence
in the little ones around us in need
and in the little things we do for them,
even for the littlest ones around us,
Because that is how God has made us.
That is the calling to which we are called.
That is who we are as children of God,
the body of Christ,
and inheritors of eternal life in his glorious kingdom
prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
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