The Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Well, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. That you had the opportunity to gather with family and friends and remember what it is that we have to be thankful for. There is so much that we have to be thankful for, isn't there? Even with the challenges that many of us face we have a great many things to give thanks to the Lord for.
So, today we have reached a milestone. The end of the year of the "Sundays after Pentecost in Ordinary Time." Today we have the opportunity today to celebrate Christ the King Sunday.
Next week we will launch another series of Sundays. The Sundays of anticipation, of hope joy, and love. We will begin Advent next Sunday as we prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of the coming of Christ.
All of this will culminate in our joyous celebration of the Feast of the Coming of Christ, with the Mass for the Celebration of Christ on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The past few years the scriptures for Christ the King Sunday have focused on the Kingship or Lordship of Christ. There has been an emphasis on Christ and how we should recognize and acknowledge His Lordship or Kingship in our lives.
This year the Lectionary takes a different tack. The readings this year are more about our behavior because we are in relationship to Christ as our Lord or our King.
But before we get to talking about the scriptures for this morning I would like to spend some time talking about motivation. I would like to use the phrase "You could tell they really put their heart into it." Or its counterpoint: "Their hearts just weren't in it."
We usually use phrases like that when we are talking about sports teams, or athletes don't we? We reflect on their level of participation and sometimes on their success by talking about how much effort they appear to put into the game or the event. One of the highest accolades you can give an athlete or a sports team is to say "They played their hearts out."
When we do that we are seeking to describe what we understand to be the motivation behind the athlete's performance or the sports team's efforts and achievements. We might say that we are seeking to express how much we understand about how committed to, or how much they love, what they are doing. We can often tell when an athlete or sports team is grateful for the opportunity they have to be competing or to be a member of a team.
Motivation is key to the level of participation and often results in athletics or sports. Sometimes it is the heart, that is shown, that makes the difference between athletes or teams that have face other athletes or teams with greater skill levels or abilities. Sometimes the "underdog" will rise up and defeat the "better" athlete or team because their hearts are in the competition.
The passage from Ephesians this morning uses a really interesting phrase that I believe is key to connecting our readings for today.
"I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power." Ephesians 1
"The eyes of your heart enlightened. You may know what is the hope to which he has called you."
Isn't that an interesting concept? "The eyes of your heart be enlightened."
Why does Paul pray that for the Ephesians? Well, because he wants them to "know what is the hope to which he has called you." Paul wants the Epesians to know the hope that is theirs.
Paul is consistent in his concern, throughout his writings, to have people understand deeply in their hearts what the hope of the Gospel is. He understands that when people get a heart knowledge of the Gospel it makes a difference in how they go about living their lives. They stop living for themselves alone. They want to live for others and for Christ.
I would suggest that people who know for themselves the hope of the Gospel are also motivated to want to bring others into a similar relationship with Christ and the Trinity.
At Sundays@Five two weeks ago I spoke about having an "attitude of gratitude." When we are grateful and thankful for what we understand has happened in our spiritual lives we are eager to draw others into a similar relationship.
Going back to my sports metaphor from earlier when a fan notices that the athlete they support or their team is playing with heart. When they know that the person or the team will give their all for the cause they want others to know about it. How often have you heard the phrases: "Did you see....... play the other night " or "What about those...." "They are really on the top of their game" You can insert your own athlete or team? When they are doing well we want other people to experience the joy and the hope that we feel. We want others to know about someone or a team that is performing well.
In the Old Testament text this morning from Ezekiel we see that it is the Lord's desire to draw all those who are wandering and lost into his loving compassion. Ezekiel uses the metaphor of the sheep to describe the people of Israel, and unfortunately us. He shows how the Lord desires to draw us to Himself.
There is a corollary to that proposition and it is expressed in the famous passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions in which Saint Augustine states “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
I am sure many of you have heard of the "heart-shaped hole" or "the Jesus hole in our hearts" that some preachers talk about. That emptiness within us that only Jesus can fill. When we experience that infilling we suddenly have all kinds of motivation to talk about what the Lord has done for us. It is a bit like Scrooge on Christmas morning after he has experienced the visitations through the night. He realizes he has an opportunity for a new lease on life and his response is to shout it from his window. He begins to make amends to those he has slighted or ignored.
Now in the time we have left, I would like to consider the Gospel from Matthew. As we consider this Gospel reading this morning there is a great challenge for us all isn't there?
I would be tempted to say that this reading is a wonderful follow-up to my message last week. As we look at our life together here at Christ Church what is our motivation? Where are our hearts? Have our hearts been moved by the realization of how much the Lord has done for us? Are we like Scrooge, on Christmas morning, ready to shout from the windows - Merry Christmas - and then go out into the world to share what we have experienced? Are we putting our hearts into it? Are we playing our hearts out in the mission and ministry of the life of Christ Church in this community?
Maybe it is taking the sports metaphor a little too far, but do people here in Huron know what team we are on?
I would be willing to say that the Goats in the parable in Matthew this morning are unaware that they are playing the game for themselves. They are focused on the outcome for their own sake.
While the sheep are engaged in the sharing of their lives and their resources for the sake of those around them. Isn't it interesting that they are surprised to be rewarded for doing what they are doing out of gratitude?
"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’"
They weren't even aware that they were doing anything unusual. The King's response is clear and direct: "‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’"
I can't help but think of the prayer we pray after Communion. I know I have quoted it quite recently, but it is worth sharing again:
"Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen."
I love that part that says:
"Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart..."
We are not passively leaving the Sanctuary this morning we are being sent into a world where we will need the peace that only Christ can offer us. Then we ask the Lord to "grant us strength and courage to love and serve you" Then it all climaxes with our asking that we would make the Lord our focus and our priority - our heart motivation: "with gladness and singleness of heart.."
That we would be glad to be a Christian in the world and that we would desire to do it with a singleness of purpose and care. A care for the sake of others.
Bishops & Father Mike