As Christ’s representatives here on Earth, we know that it is and never has been about being in competition with one another. Rather, the Kingdom of God has always been about showing compassion for one another.
May 23, 2021
I Dream of a Church: Christ’s Representatives
Matthew 25: 31-40
Pastor Heather McColl
Matthew 25: 31-40 (Common English Version)
“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.’
This is a very familiar text, Christ’s Representatives Matthew 25, familiar that it may be difficult for us to hear something new. After all, we have heard the parable of the Shepherd separating the sheep from the goats many times over the years. We know what we are supposed to do as his disciples. We are called to take care of the least of these in Jesus’ name.
Yet, what I have learned along the way…taking care of the least of these is much easier said than done. What I mean by this is I often find myself placing limits on this care of the least of these. I find myself asking, “What’s her story? Why does he need help? I find myself becoming overwhelmed with the need. I find myself downsizing the care I can give.
And when I do this, what I soon discover is that I have taken up residency with the goats rather than following the way of the Shepherd.
So I want to invite us to listen to this parable again, listen to it with open hearts and open minds, to listen again to this parable today as it invites us to answer the question: What thoughts and behaviors do we need to shed in order to make room for hope and peace to grow in and through our lives and our churches?
Each week, in our worship series, as we have heard the different stories of Jesus, stories about his preaching, stories about how his teachings transformed people, how his very words showed them the presence of God in their midst, each week as we have heard the different stories about who Jesus is, as people of faith, we have been building up to this very moment. And now here it is, this new beginning for Christ’s Church here on Earth.
On this Pentecost Sunday, we are invited to watch the ripple effects of this new beginning, this movement for wholeness, this transformation of us as the people of God, we are invited to watch the ripple effects this new beginning has upon our world, to experience the Holy Spirit moving in and among us, to know that God is at work bringing about healing and wholeness for all of God’s people. We are invited to watch the ripple effects of this new beginning moving across our communities so that all will know the power and mercy of our God.
This Pentecost experience really is an amazing statement of our faith, a statement about who we understand Jesus to be, a statement about how we understand God at work in our world. This Pentecost experience is a powerful, life changing statement of faith. Yet it takes a special Sunday for us Disciples to make such a powerful statement.
As I have thought about why this is, I can only say that it must have something to do with our general dislike with labels and hierarchy in our institutions. In other denominations, there is a Cardinal or even a Pope who gives rulings on things the church should say about any given issue. But for us Disciples of Christ, we don’t have that. Yes, I know that 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 here are the authorities.
Did you catch that? We as members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) hold that all are ministers. As Disciples, we understand ourselves to be Christ’s representatives here on Earth. We are the ones who 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 died upon the cross so that we might live.
As Disciples, as Christ’s representatives here on Earth, we have experienced the grace and love of God in our own lives. We know the power of God’s healing. We know the hope found in God’s Shalom. We know that God will always have the last world.
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. These moments when God’s grace and God’s love transforms us, when God’s justice challenges us to become the people God created and calls us to be, these moments are what shape us, these moments are what form us, these moments are what transforms us into Christ’s representatives here on Earth for all of God’s people.
Which is why this text is so perfect for this celebration, for this new beginning for Christ’s church here on Earth. It reminds us once again of who we are. It reminds us why we do what we do. This parable about the Shepherd separating the sheep from the goats is about righteousness, that this righteousness does not come from superior knowledge of Scripture. Nor does it come from exceptional spiritual gifts. This righteousness which has the power to transform the world is grounded in mercy and compassion, mercy and compassion which the sheep, which we as Christ’s representatives here on Earth, first experienced when God claimed us and named us as God’s own.
Matthew lifts up this beautiful awe inspiring vision of Christ ascending to his throne in heaven. He connects it with simple everyday ordinary tasks of how we can live out this righteousness, this mercy, this compassion in our lives as Jesus’ disciples, as Christ’s representatives here on Earth. Matthew wants to point out to his readers, to his community, to us that faith has never been about us. It has always been about who we know God to be. It has always been about being in relationship with a merciful and loving God. It has always been about loving others as God has loved us.
By doing this heavenly vision to simple everyday ordinary tasks of serving the least of these, Matthew 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.
You see, we live in a world which is driven to achieve power and might. We live in a world which is filled with noise. We live in a world where bigger is always better. And in the midst of all that, all that brokenness, all that hate and hurt, all that noise and disruption, we are called to let everyone know that we are Christians by our love.
Matthew reminds us that we make the biggest statements about who God is for us as Christ representatives here on Earth is by sharing acts of kindness with the people around us, by making justice for all of God’s people, by simply noticing the least of these in our midst and seeing them, honoring them as the Beloved Children of God.
Christ came and showed us a different way….a different way to live, a different way to see our brothers and sisters, a different way to understand what it means to be in community with one another.
As Christ’s representatives here on Earth, we know that it is and has never been about being in competition with one another. Rather, the Kingdom of God has always been about showing compassion for one another.
All the missions, all the acts of justice which we do as people of faith, all the ways we work to bring about God’s Kingdom here on Earth is not just 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. Because through them, 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. Because through them, we proclaim that God’s love will always have the last word.
As Christ’s representatives here on Earth, we dream of a church where God’s Spirit is poured out on all people. We dream of a reality where sons and daughters will prophesy, where our young will see visions, where our elders will dream dreams.
As Christ’s representatives here on Earth, we dream of a reality where peace and mercy reign, where God’s Shalom is fully realized for all of God’s people, we dream of a reality where the waters of justice roll down and everything is made new.
And in order to make this reality fully realized for all, and not a select few, as Jesus’ disciples, as Christ’s representatives here on Earth, we feed the hungry. We visit those in prison. We tend the sick. We clothe the naked. We welcome the stranger because we know that it has never been about what we know in the Bible. It has never been about us having superior spiritual gifts than all the others. Our faith, our service, our very being has always been, and forever will be, grounded in our understanding of who God is and how he came to serve, not to be served.
Through our acts of justice, through our acts of mercy, through our acts of compassion, we see the ripple effects they have on our world. We see how they bring healing and wholeness to all of God’s children. As Christ’s representatives here on Earth, we know that with each act of justice, with each act of Kindness, with each act of compassion, God’s Kingdom becomes a reality here on earth for all of God’s people. May it be so.