Using our Bibles and our experiences we, as Disciples of Christ, are called to proclaim to the world who we know Jesus to be. He is our Christ, our King, our Lord of Lords. He is the one who died upon the cross so that we might live. As Disciples of Christ, we as individuals are the authorities when it comes to matters of theolog and are called to make profound statements of faith about who Jesus is and why his coming to the world was necessary.
November 26, 2023
All the Nations Will Be Gathered in Front of Him
Matthew 25: 31-46
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Matthew 25: 31-46
“Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”
All the Nations Will Be Gathered in Front of Him Matthew 25: 31-46
Today, we come to the end of our liturgical church year with Christ the King Sunday. Normally, this Sunday is not one we Disciples celebrate. Usually we skip over it and head right on into Advent. But this year…this year, the calendar added an extra week between Thanksgiving and the First Sunday in Advent so we find ourselves with a little extra time to contemplate what it means to proclaim Christ as our King.
This really is an amazing statement of our faith which we make today. It is a powerful life changing statement of faith and to be honest, it is really disheartening to know that it takes a special Sunday and a little extra time in our calendar for us Disciples to make such a powerful statement about who Jesus is to us.
As I have thought about why this is, I can only say that it must have something to do with our general dislike of labels and hierarchy in our institutions. What I mean by this is that in most denominations, there is a Bishop or a Cardinal, even a Pope who gives rulings on things the church should say about any given issues. But for Disciples of Christ, we don’t have that. Yes, I know we have a General Minister and President in Indianapolis but the fact of the matter is, Indianapolis doesn’t speak for our congregations. As a denomination, we are congregationally led which means the people sitting in the pews are the authorities. Did you catch that? We as members of the Disciples of Christ denomination hold that all are ministers who have the authority to say who Jesus is for us as God’s people. Using our Bibles and our experiences, we are called to proclaim to the world who we know Jesus to be. He is our Christ. He is our King. He is our Lord of Lords. He is the one who upon the cross died so that we might live. It is our Christology just in case you want to impress someone with a big fancy churchy kind of word. As Disciples of Christ, we as individuals are the authorities when it comes to matters of theology. We as individuals are called to make profound statements of faith about who Jesus is and why his coming to the world was necessary.
And I think that is exactly what makes us uncomfortable about Christ the King Sunday and why we try to avoid it year after year. It forces us to label just exactly who Jesus is in pretty big theology terms. We are okay with talking about Jesus being a man who shows us a different way. We are okay with talking about the human side of Jesus. This makes him real. This makes him relatable. But when big churchy words are used to explore, to explain theology, we claim to be no experts, saying we are leaving that stuff for the people who are trained to know.
But as I have lived with this text and as I have reflected on what Christ the King means for us as people of faith, I have come to realize that in our reluctance as Disciples to proclaim just exactly who Jesus is for us, who Jesus is to us, others are filling in the gaps. And they are filling in these gaps with dangerous and hurtful theology and practices. They have no problem claiming the authority to decide who is in and who is out. They have no qualms in saying that if we don’t believe just exactly as they believe then we are wrong. With this mantle of authority which they have no problem claiming, they offer no grace. They offer no mercy. They ignore the life changing power of God’s love. Instead what they proclaim is a Jesus who is the direct opposite of the Jesus we have come to know and experience in our lives. As Disciples of Christ, it is our understanding after reading the sacred text that Jesus welcomed the sinner and the saint alike, that Jesus cared for those on the margins, our understanding being that Jesus challenged the very systems which perpetuate injustice in our world.
As Disciples of Christ, in our reluctance to proclaim Jesus Christ as our King, others have stepped in to do so, preaching a theology of hate and division which has led to more and more brokenness, more and more hurt. This has led to more and more people turning away from the very life changing life giving transformative presence of God in their midst, something that goes against our very nature as Disciples who proclaim all are welcome.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying that there is judgment found within our sacred text, even found within this text which we shared today. I fully admit that in all the Gospels, in all the New Testament, in all the Old TEstament, there is some sort of judgment, a moment where we are held accountable for our actions if you will as people of faith.
However for me, what sets this judgment apart from the hellfire and damnation that is often preached or used as a fear tactic in many denominations, is that when I read the judgment found within our sacred text, I see it as a reminder that God is God and I am not, that we are not. It is a reminder that what I am called to do, what we are called to do is to love one another, to share grace upon grace with one another, that we are called to make justice, to share compassion and to walk humbly with our God.
And in order to do that, we need to become more comfortable with claiming our authority, with proclaiming who we believe Jesus to really be for us, to us. Yes I know this is not something we normally like to do. But in order to make this task a little easier, I’m going to let everyone in on a secret. Here it is….Are you ready for it? Each and every one of us is already an expert in the matters of who Jesus is to us, in the matters of who Jesus is for us… because each and every one of us has had our lives transformed by the powerful love of Jesus Christ. We know that we are named and claimed as Beloved Children of God. Each and every one of us has had that moment, that moment when we were so overwhelmed by the darkness that we didn’t know which way to turn and just when we had lost all hope, we heard a voice, calling us home. We felt a hand lifting us up, bringing us back to the light. Each and every one of us has had a moment when God’s grace and God’s love took hold of us and opened our eyes to the beauty and wonder of God’s Kingdom in our midst.
That’s it. Those moments when God’s grace and God’s love transformed us and challenged us to become the people God created and calls us to be. Those moments are already what make us experts in matters of faith. That is what already makes us authorities when it comes to who Jesus is for us, who Jesus is to us. All of us have experienced the life giving power of God’s love in our lives and we know, we know that Christ is our King, our Lord and Savior, the very one who will overcome all because we have experienced the power and might of God’s humbling grace in our lives.
Which is why this text is so perfect for such a Sunday. Matthew contrasts this beautiful awe inspiring vision of Christ ascending to his throne in heaven with simple everyday ordinary tasks of how we can live out these proclamations in our lives as Jesus’ disciples. He reminds his community, he reminds us that we are not called to bring about God’s Kingdom by ourselves. That’s God’s job. As Jesus’ disciples living here on earth, what we are asked to do is to live out our faith, to share God’s love with others by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick, welcoming the stranger, and visiting the imprisoned. We are called to proclaim Christ our King through our words and our actions.
Matthew reminds all of us that sometimes the biggest statements we can make in proclaiming who Christ is to us and for us as his followers is by simply sharing acts of kindness with the people around us, by simply noticing the least of these in our midst and seeing them as Beloved Children of God which they are.
Because you see, all the missions, all the acts of justice which we do as people of faith are not for ourselves. We don’t give our resources to these ministries to make us feel better about ourselves. Nor do we do them to make others think we are the best Christians ever. No, we do these acts of justice because through them, we meet Christ. Because through them, God’s Kingdom comes to fruition just a little more each time. Because through them, we make statements about who Jesus is for us. We proclaim loud and clear that he is our King. That he is our Lord of Lords, Ruler of all nations. That he is our Prince of Peace who came so that all would know the glory of our God. We proclaim for all to hear that love and light will always have the last word.
As Jesus’ disciples, we feed the hungry, visit those in prison, tend the sick, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger because through them, we see the ripple effects they have on our world, bringing healing and wholeness to all of God’s children, knowing that with each act of justice, with each act of Kindness, God’s Kingdom becomes a reality here on earth.
May it be so.
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