Christ the King Year A
November 22, 2020
Grace Lutheran Church
Ezek 34:11-16, 20-24
Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
How many of you have seen the movie the Titanic? There’s one scene where Jack, the poor traveler in steerage class, the cheapest seats, stood on deck with the wind blowing full into his face and he shouts, “I’m the king of the world!!!” Well, of course, he wasn’t the king – he had won his seats in a hand of poker just moments before the boarding deck would be raised in preparation for sailing.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus arrives on the scene in all of his glory, seated on his throne because he IS the king of the world – indeed of all of creation. And in just a few weeks we will celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus – Immanuel – God with us – God in human flesh. The divine King as a baby who cries. Yes, in today’s Gospel we learn about Christ’s second coming. But more importantly than that we learn some more about what the people of God do while we wait for his coming again.
Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
As I read this lesson, it looks to me like there are four main characters or groups of characters in this parable – there’s the judge, the sheep, the goats, and the least ones. Which do you identify most with? Because we are all gathered, albeit it virtually, I hunch that we probably view ourselves as the sheep. And there’s lots of basis for that in Scripture – and some of that has made its way into hymns and songs.
The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want…..
I am Jesus’ little lamb, ever glad at heart I am. For my Shepherd ever guides me, knows my need and well-provides me. Loves me every day the same. Even calls me by my name.
Or how ‘bout this one…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpYgYoNGM38
I just wanna be a sheep bah bah bah bah.
But, if my “sheep-ness” depends upon my kindness to those around me – well, I’m in trouble. I’ll not forget the day in the summer of 1988. I was working in the Countryside area of Clearwater. My boss needed me to head to Ft. Myers FAST to cover a hearing that was scheduled in just a few hours. This was also during the time of the construction on the new Sunshine Skyway – lots of traffic problems. I was a woman with a mission. I had slowed down for a traffic light just minutes into my trip and I noticed an old man with dark worn clothes and white unkempt hair and beard holding a sign that said “Will work for food.” And I drove by because I had places that I had to be despite the loud nudging that I heard in my spirit to stop and help. I wasn’t a sheep that day.
Often, I think of myself as the judge – the one who is to decide who is righteous and who is not, who is worthy and who is not, who is in need and who is not, who it is who has and who “has not.” I’m reminded of a story that my husband, Earl, told of his teen age years working at the Colonial gas station in LaPorte where he grew up. He and another friend of his were working one day – and this was in the days were everyone got full service because there was no self-service available. This newer Cadillac pulled in for gas. It had a bale of hay in the trunk, pretty well mudded up on the outside and the driver got out wearing denim overalls and rubber boots. He walked in to the office just in time to hear Earl’s friend say “darn dumb farmer” or words to that effect. He had judged this customer pretty harshly without realizing that this customer owned hundreds of acres of property, bought a new Cadillac every couple of years and used his old one as his pick-up truck, and raced trotters up in Chicago every year. As humans, we often step into the role of judge but without the ability to see things as they really are.
Do we sometimes act like the goats? Well, I’m sure that we do but my own myopic vision prevents me from seeing the times that I do this. There is a person with whom I had some type of relationship with for many years. This person was bitter toward me, wouldn’t engage in clear warm conversation with me, usually went out of their way to avoid me. There was that day that I said, “that’s it, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.” I was a goat. A well known theologian and social activist has said, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
Then there’s the fourth category – the “least” ones – you know, the have nots – the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the criminals. “Thank God we’re not in THAT category!” we may proclaim. Oh but wait, maybe we are or have been. Now I ask you to honestly consider this -- how many of us have been in a situation in which we were very very worried for our ability to stay afloat, just getting by, financially? How many of us have been sick – either in ways that are treated by doctors and nurses, or sick in spirit or heart? How many of us have ever broken a law – one for which we were punished or should have been punished? How many of us have cried out in anguish to God? I am one of the least ones.
Oh God, what are we to do?
I just wanna be a sheep bah bah bah bah.
Take a look at the Old Testament reading in Ezekiel. And if you have a pencil or pen please use it to circle all the verbs here that describe what God is doing for God’s flock
I will search
I will seek
I will rescue
I will bring them and gather them
I will feed them
I myself will be their shepherd
I will seek the lost
I will bring back the strayed
I will bind up the injured
I will strengthen the weak
Who is it that does this? Christ the King – Jesus the Shepherd. Christ who created all that is – Jesus who took on human flesh and lived among us knowing every pain that we know, every joy that we have felt, every sorrow we have experienced, despair greater than we can imagine.
I leave you today with two thoughts far more profound than anything I could write
Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them. Mother Teresa
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours;
yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion looks out on the world,
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
Teresa of Avila
So my friends, I just wanna be a sheep bah bah bah bah