Sunday, November 26, 2017

On what side do you stand?

Matthew 25: 31-46

If today’s gospel doesn’t sober you up, you aren’t paying attention.  It does many things, including putting a pin in the balloon of the grace alone path of salvation.  Yes, we are save by grace given to us through Jesus, but He Himself tells us in this passage that we must cooperate with that by being servants to one another.  All too often we get caught up in the free gifts idea of what it means to be a Christian: Grant me grace, salvation, forgiveness, gifts of the spirit, understanding, and so on and so forth.  Yet, with privileges like that, there comes great responsibility.  A “ME” centric Christianity just doesn’t work.  We had two readings earlier in the week about the master giving his servants talents and how when returned he rewarded those servants who used the money to multiply his kingdom.  The one who hid what he was given was cast away.  We culminate those readings in today’s reading.  Let’s explore this together.

Mt: 25: 31

Jesus said to his disciples:"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him,

he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.

And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”.

This isn’t the first time this kind of divine shuffling is mentioned.  Matthew 3:12, Matthew 13: 30, Luke 3:17, John 15:2, all of these places in scripture just off the top of my head give us the same allusion.  The divine separating.  In this verse I practice my Ignation meditation skills by closing my eyes and attempting to place myself in this throng of people.  All nations through out all time standing before the majestic throne.  My limited human mind, I am sure, can’t conceive of such a splendorous thing, but even what I can come up with overwhelms me.  If you haven’t tried this kind of scriptural meditation before I suggest this beginning verse as it definitely leaves an impression on just how powerful and motivating it really is.  Then we go on to the next verses.

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who 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 drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

This is yet again another sobering verse and when you read this and think on your life I want you to realize something very special and important.  All the people around you that are hurting, lonely, in need, or ill….they are the face of the Almighty himself.  Your friends, enemies, family, and strangers, everyone who has need…they are the Jesus himself.  Obviously, not literally, but in the same breath literally.   I am me, but if you have helped me in my time of need you literally have helped Jesus.  If your mind isn’t blown by that you aren’t paying attention.  I would dare to say that if we could embrace that, really truly embrace and understand that, how we treated EVERYONE would so drastically change the world would transform into something so beautiful and kind that joy would be found everywhere.  I would wager money that the anti-depressant industry would fold overnight, along with half the prisons, illicit drug use, and all the other slave to sin industries that thrive because we constantly hurt and ignore each other.  Jesus is telling us that not only is how we treat each other powerful here on earth it holds ETERNAL power as well.  He is saying that how we treat others is how we have treated HIM.  Let that soak in for a moment before you move to the next verse that makes me ill to dwell in it too long. 

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, 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 no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

This verse tells me that a Me-centric Christianity doesn’t work.  We are called to be about each other.  We are called to be His hands in the world, and care for one another as we would care for Him.  In our minds, and actions, we often try to separate the wheat from the chaff by deciding who is worthy of help and who is not, but that isn’t our job.  Our job is to care for those around us without trying to decide if they are worthy of the care, because what we are doing is ultimately for God himself.  Life-style and nominal Christianity doesn’t exist, we are either living this truth, or we are goats.  By our own merit and works we are not saved, only grace does that, but faith without works is dead.  (James 2: 14-26)

Just some food for thought and prayer…

Heavenly Father, allow me to see Jesus and You in those people in need so I may be moved to action by love to serve them as I desire to serve You.  Let my work be about the importance of this, and not about my reward.  In Jesus name, AMEN!

Here I am, Lord, send me!

Lisa Brandel

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