Welcome to the end… of the Church Year.
Christ the King is a celebration that reflects upon Jesus the Christ as our ultimate authority, which can be observed throughout the entire Church Calendar from his birth to baptism; in his public ministry, parables, and miracles; and from his passion and death to resurrection.
Our scriptures this morning paint an image for the final days of humanity, if not the entire creation. Unfortunately, this image is rarely (if ever) warm-and-fuzzy. These paint a particularly judgmental scene foretelling of divine authority administering justice.
Ezekiel provides insight for the necessity of said divine judgment.
We, fallen humanity, have been scattered by those in positions of authority, influence, and privilege gained and maintained through the abuse of under-privileged and vulnerable persons. This is contradictory to the whole of scripture, thus God “will judge between sheep and sheep” (34:22b). And yet, there remains a glimmer of hope because God will send King David as a shepherd to gather, to feed, and to tend to the entire people of Israel.
The Gospel of Matthew provides insight for the rhyme and reason of said divine judgment.
We, fallen humanity, often serve those in positions of authority, influence, and/or privilege or those who can otherwise elevate our own status.
We, fallen humanity, may occasionally serve those within our inner-most circle of family, loved ones, and friends through a rough patch without immediate reward.
We, fallen humanity, however rarely will:
- Welcome the Stranger, especially the Under-Privileged and Vulnerable;
- Feed the Hungry and Give Drink to the Thirsty;
- Clothe the Naked;
- Tend to the Ill in Mind, Body, and Soul; and
- Visit the Imprisoned
without expectation of earthly or heavenly reward.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus will be the divine authority to separate the “sheep and goats” based upon the above criteria. Therefore, it can be quite tempting to consider it as a checklist of sorts for gaining favorable divine judgment… but it is not.
Instead, Jesus is sharing limited, tangible examples of embodying our shared Christian vocation to:
- Proclaim Christ in Word and Deed;
- Seek Justice;
- Act with Compassion and Mercy; and
- Love and Serve ALL People, especially the “Least of These”.
Instead, Jesus is building upon the concept of Stewardship Investment from last Sunday. We are called to invest our time, energy, and resources (financial and otherwise) to again:
- Proclaim Christ in Word and Deed through Welcoming the Stranger;
- Seek Justice by Giving Food & Drink to the Food Insecure,
while Advocating for their Well-being;
- Seek Justice by Clothing the Naked & Sheltering Homeless,
while Advocating for their Well-being;
- Act with Compassion and Mercy while Tending to those Suffering
in Mind, Body, or Soul; and
- Love ALL People and Serve those in Any Need; and
- Build Relationships with the Imprisoned.
Similarly, it may be tempting to utilize this scripture for judging and dividing persons and communities into the “sheep and sheep” or the “sheep and goats”.
I confess. I have persons and even communities that I would condemn to hellfire.
I am confident persons/communities have me on their ‘condemn to hellfire’ list.
And yet, Ezekiel and Jesus do not hesitate to emphasize that we, fallen humanity, lack the ability and the knowledge to be said authority, judge, and jury. The all-loving, all-merciful, and grace-filled Triune God is the divine authority, judge, and jury… for our sake, for the sake of our neighbors and the entire creation:
Thanks be to God.
May we embody our shared, baptismal Christian vocations;
May we embody Jesus’ example of loving service;
May we resist the temptation to be judge, jury, and the ultimate authority; and
May the Holy Spirit transform us as need.
The Scriptures were Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24 and Matthew 25: 31-46.
Originally preached 22 Nov. 2020 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).