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Sermons SERMON

SERMON

+ Christ the King A

TEXT: Matthew 25:31-46

DATE: November 23, 2014

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas

after 2002

 

                                    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 not.

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

by anybody.

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,

                                    looking around,

                                    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

                                    in community.

 

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,

every day.

 

                                    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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