Nov30ThuA sermon for the Reign of Christ November 30, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
This morning is the third part of a series on Matthew 25,
a comforting but also frightening chapter.
The last two Sundays,
we had parables based on relatively normal circumstances,
a wedding and an extended trip,
where people were divided into two groups:
The good and the bad:
The good were those who were prepared and responsible,
The bad were those who weren’t.
Today's Parable of the Sheep and the Goats isn’t about an ordinary situation, but it Has an apocalyptic context:
the last judgement of all the nations.
And we also have people divided into two groups:
But this time, it’s due to whether they showed mercy or not.
Like a (caring) shepherd the Son of Man will separate the sheep from the goats.
He will say:
I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat…I was homeless and you gave me a room,I was shivering and you gave me clothes,…
‘I’m telling the solemn truth:
Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
One brief observation to begin:
Both the sheep and the goats are equally shocked
that when they were or weren’t helping the least of these
In front of them, it was as if they were or weren’t doing it to Christ.
None of them potentially thought that their actions on earth could have eternal consequences.
None of them thought that the divine was present in a very special way in the lost, forgotten and marginalized.
The righteous, however, were just innocently doing good works, being faithful and responsible citizens.
So, what does this parable mean?
The sheep represent the righteous,
those who have shown mercy to those in need,
while the goats represent the unrighteous, those who haven’t.
The message here is that our actions towards others,
specifically those in need, are a reflection of our relationship with Jesus.
When the King welcomes the sheep into his kingdom, he commends them for their actions of feeding the hungry,
giving drink to the thirsty, and so on.
These are not just mere acts of kindness,
but they are acts of love towards Jesus himself.
This is because the “least of these,”
the marginalized and vulnerable, are members of Jesus’ family.
By showing love and compassion to them,
we are also showing it to Jesus.
On the other hand, the goats are condemned for their lack of compassion and love towards those in need.
They are accused of not meeting the basic needs of their fellow human beings, which ultimately means they have not loved Jesus.
This is a stark reminder that our faith in Jesus must be accompanied by actions that show love and compassion towards others,
especially the poor, the lonely and the sick.
The parable of the sheep and the goats is important because
It reminds us that our salvation is not solely based on our faith in Jesus,
but it also depends on our actions towards others.
“Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17)
it highlights the importance of social justice in the Kingdom of God.
As Christians, we are called to actively seek justice
and meet the needs of those who are marginalized and oppressed.
Our faith should drive us to work towards creating a more just and equal society.
We need to have solidarity with the poor and needy.
Furthermore, as Lutherans,
we recognize that we are at the same time saint and sinner,
we are both at the same time sheep and goat.
There are times when we help out the least of these,
and other times where we close our eyes and ears,
and ignore the misery and the suffering.
And certainly COVID has robbed everybody of compassion and patience through our trials of the past 3 years.
In our rite of Confession during worship,
we acknowledge the times we have not done
what we ought to have done,
that we have often thought of ourselves and not of others.
We recognize ways we have failed:
We acknowledge times when we should have helped those who needed it and we didn’t.
But yet, we as Lutherans remember that we are also saints,
justified by grace.
We embody the presence of Christ,
so we can share God’s generous grace with all.
And we can see Christ’s presence in our midst where it’s least expected:
In the child, the convict. the panhandler, and the palliative patient.
One person most would recognize as a modern-day saint was Mother Teresa.
When people would ask Mother Teresa how she was able to love people in the most desperate situations,
she would respond by holding up her hand and speaking one word for each finger: “You; did; it; to; me,”
referencing this morning’s text.
She called this the “Gospel on five fingers.”
“You; did; it; to; me,”
Mother Teresa described her ministry as caring for
“Jesus in his most distressing disguise,”
that is, by caring for the poorest of the poor.
Her words honor the spirit of this parable.(Sundays and Seasons)
What are some practical ways we can apply this passage in our daily lives?
Firstly, we must recognize the importance of showing love and compassion towards others, especially those in need.
This can be as simple as volunteering to help others,
donating to a charity,
or even offering a kind word to someone who is hurting.
Secondly, we must examine our hearts and our actions
to see if they align with our faith in Jesus.
Are we loving and showing compassion to others?
Are we making a positive difference in the lives of those around us?
Again, we must remember that our salvation is a gift of grace from God,
and our actions do not earn us a place in his kingdom.
However, our actions are a reflection of our faith
and a response to the unconditional love that God has shown us.
As a congregation, as we gather for our Budget Meeting after worship,
today is a good time to ponder how we care for the least of these
as if they were the Son of Man.
Having a Rite of Healing and Laying on of Hands today
reminds us of the ministry of support for the sick that the church can offer, not only by the pastors, but by every member.
All Christians are called to pray for the sick, whether privately,
or during visits,
over the phone, or in person.
Our Out of the Cold programme is perhaps the most visible sign of St. Matthews caring for the least of these,
on our Wednesday evenings from November to April in the Fellowship Hall.
We give thanks for all those who contribute financially,
and for all volunteers who offer their time for this much-needed occasion for feeding of mind, body and soul.
And more recently,
our St. Matthews Centre, our community hub,
serves an a extension of our mission to the community
by providing space for our partners to care for the least of these
within our walls.
We have the Narcotics Anonymous Hope Group,
who on Friday evenings seeks to bring healing to those ravaged by drug addictions.
We help feed the least of these by partnering with the
519 Community Collective in our basement,
which has a community fridge, an urban garden,
free food pantries installed across the region,
and an assortment of emergency food programs.
And our mission to help Christ in those in need is also made possible through the programmes of our sister churches; the Iglesia ni Christo,
UNA and Trinity United Churches.
Together, thanks to our (space-sharing) partners,
we are able to multiply our gifts and help the least of these
in our community in a variety of ways.
As we have seen, this passage from Matthew teaches us about the importance of our actions towards others.
It reminds us that our faith must be accompanied by love and compassion for those in need.
Let us strive to be a people who not only profess their faith in Jesus but also live it out through our love for others
Embodying the “Gospel on five fingers.”
“You; did; it; to; me,”