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Reign of Christ Year A        
November 26, 2023      
Grace Lutheran Church      
Lakeland, FL       

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24    
Psalm 95:1-7a       
Ephesians 1:15-23     
Matthew 25:14-36                                                                                                                                                                 

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 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.

When I sit down to study a section of Scripture – or even just read it like a devotion – I often have colored pencils with me. And the pages of my Bible end up looking rather colorful as I have noted some of the parts that were more significant, more important, to me. Sometimes the words Jesus speaks from the Old Testament are underlined with green. And if there are phrases that recur time and again in the reading, they may be highlighted with yellow. If there are things that are repeated, I pay attention to those. If there is a phrase that seems out of place or a question that isn’t answered, I might underline that with red.

Actually, that happened when I was working on the Pentecost reading in Acts – you know – with all names of the lands and the people and those listening thought the apostles were drunk. But there in the middle was this question raised by the crowd – “What does this mean?” This little question in the middle of the reading. Indeed, what does it mean? It got highlighted in yellow, underlined in red, and it stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of that reading. Well, that is for another sermon, another time.

Now, over the last couple of weeks we have looked at parables of Jesus that have been misunderstood and misapplied. The parable of the 10 bridesmaids isn’t about being sure you are ready and have enough saved up – it was about trusting enough to stay with fellow believers even when your wick was burning dimly. And last week the parable of the enormous sum entrusted to servants wasn’t about how “you better turn a profit” but instead was about how it is that we wait for the master’s return – is it with fear or with eagerness. With these parables, we looked through a kaleidoscope and turned it a smidge and perhaps found some different ways of reading them.

So, while I might normally say, “get out your kaleidoscope and let’s take a turn,” instead today, I’d like you to put your kaleidoscope away and let’s see what this says through clear glass.

Let me tell you about a time some years past. I sat at the roll top desk in a corner of our living room, just outside the kitchen door. Deep in the study of something very legal. It was at the end of one of the semesters of my second year of law school. And my youngest came. He was about 5 at the time and asked in his 5 year old voice, “Can I help you Mom?”

Now, I want to say that, upon hearing that, I dropped all that was at hand, and grabbed his hand and we went out on a walk through the neighborhood. That isn’t what happened.

Instead I picked up a highlighter and gave it to him along with a book I had no intention of reading. I said, “This is what you can do – here is one of my books and here is a highlighter. Please mark the important parts yellow.”

He took the book and put it on the seat of one of the chairs in the living room, he knelt in front of it and opened the book – to the important parts, you know. And, after a time, he went back to his transformers in the city he had built with blocks in his bedroom. And I continued on with my studies of the intricacies of the exceptions to the hearsay rule.

Sometime later, I was doing some usual cleaning and got to that chair and was fluffing and turning the tufted cushion and noticed something very curious. Around each of the buttons there was a circle of yellow. He had highlighted the important parts.

And so let us take a look at today’s Gospel reading again. Please open your worship folders or your Bible if you have it with you and let’s look again.

So what are the important parts? Well, that varies from reading to reading, from book to book.

You each have a highlighter and as I read the Gospel again, please listen and then highlight the important parts, something so important that it is repeated four times….

Yes, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. This is the mark of a Christian community. This is what the coming of the kingdom of Christ looks like. This account as well as the parables from the last two weeks were spoken by Jesus after he had entered Jerusalem for the last time. His disciples were gathered around him on the Mount of Olives and were asking him about the end of the ages when Jesus would come again. And, of course, he didn’t give them a day and time. He gave them, instead, a caution to be alert and to be watchful. Don’t worry so much about who is in and who is out, who is a sheep and who is a goat.

During this time of waiting, stay together, have an attitude of eagerness not of fear, and take care of those around you. Touch those within your reach and then stretch a bit farther.  Now, I know that this can pose some difficult questions – what if they don’t deserve it? what if they waste what I give them? What if they use money I give them for things I don’t agree with? You’ve had those questions and so have I. But we of all people, we who live in the abundance of God’s good grace to us, to we who do not deserve it, we who squander it, we who waste it, we who are saint and sinner both, we may want to withhold those questions because Jesus’ teaching didn’t include any of these qualifications.

And Jesus said to those on his right, “Come you who are blessed by my Father – inherit the kingdom that has been prepared for you.” Throughout the Gospel of Matthew we have learned about this Kingdom – this new kingdom that is different from any earthly kingdom. A kingdom described in the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. A kingdom in which the poor and the least will be blessed, those who mourn will be comforted, a kingdom of peacemakers and the pure of heart.

This my friends is the Reign of Christ, a reign that is fundamentally different from the earthly reign of kings and kingdoms, a reign with a Lamb on the throne – in fact, in the Book of Revelation where the Lamb is the center of the City of God, the word for “lamb” is a diminuitive form of the word that might better be translated as “lambikin,” a reign not built by might or power but by compassion and care, a reign with the love of Christ at the center, a reign into which we are welcomed.

Thanks be to God.