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Sermon November 26, 2023

Christ the King Sunday Year A 2023 The Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25:31-46

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

We made it.  Today is the day that marks the end of the church calendar year.  Today is the day when we celebrate the ultimate reign of Christ.  Today is the day when we come to the end of the “Year of Matthew” in our lectionary cycle.  Next Sunday we will begin the “Year of Mark” as we begin the Advent Season.

But before we say goodbye to this lectionary year, today we turn our attention to the final words of Jesus concerning the “End of the Age.”  And like the three parables that come before our text today, the parable of the Sheep and Goats describes what will happen on the final “Day of Judgement.”  So, take a deep breath and get ready for what you are about to hear, because today’s reading is Christ’s last words on this subject.  

As I read the text this past week, the one thing that immediately stood out was the element of surprise that is expressed in the text.  Throughout this final warning, Jesus makes it clear that the final judgment will come when we least expect it. 

Jesus wants us to know that when the Son of man comes in glory, it will come as a big shock to everyone.  God’s date for this event will not be on our calendar.  And God’s final judgment will not be on our radar.

Back in Chapter 22, we heard of a wedding guest who was thrown out of the party because he or she did not wear the proper wedding attire and live as Christ’s disciple.  This person only thought of themselves and did not live out Gods’ greatest commandment to love God with all their heart, and all their soul, and all their mind.  And to love their neighbors as he or she loved themself.      

The foolish bridesmaids at the beginning of chapter 25 were surprised to learn that they were unprepared to wait it out until the bridegroom arrived.  And then, when they went to gather the resources they needed, they found themselves locked out of the wedding feast.

The third servant in last week’s text was surprised to learn that his master expected him to share the Good News that he had been given, and not bury it or put it away in a safe place. 

In other words, the man discovered that the Good News that he received must be proclaimed to all people and not securely stored in a locked box.

This morning we hear that the sheep and the goats were surprised to find out that they had met the “Good Shepherd” whenever they had come across the people known as “the least of these.”  This, of course, was not what they expected.  And this was not how they thought Jesus would present Himself to them.

And so, they asked.  “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or an outsider, or naked, or sick, or in prison.” 

They had forgotten that a life of discipleship meant seeing the world as Christ views the world.  And they had forgotten that when we put on the garment of Christ, we are able to recognize Christ in the lives of other people as well.

When we meet the Lord in “the least of these,” as our text describes it, we are called to respond to them with love, and compassion, mercy, and grace; just as Christ has responded to us.

And that’s the difficult part of this text.  Why?  Because too often we don’t see others as Christ sees them.  And we don’t recognize Christ in the people that we meet each day as we go about our daily activity.   

What would happen if we recognized Jesus in every person, we encountered?  How would we respond towards the person who rings up our groceries at HEB, hands us our meal through the drive through window, answers the phone at the doctor’s office, delivers the mail, picks up our garbage, or teaches our kids at school?

How would we react to that unpleasant co-worker at work, the person who acts like they are better or smarter than we are, the unshaven and smelly person on the street, or the person living on the other side of town? How would our encounters with these folks change if we knew that Christ dwelt in each one of them?

The bible tells us that just as Christ came to earth in human form, Christ will one day come again to rule as Christ the King.  But in the meantime, we are to be His people in this world now.  And we are to let Christ’s light shine brightly in our lives so others may see Christ in us and go and shine brightly, too.

Yes, I know this is hard.  But our text today is not meant to put us down.  For you see, the word often translated as “righteousness” in the bible means justice or God’s rightness.  And we need to remember that God’s justice includes both judgement and mercy. 

We are both Saints and Sinners at the same time.   We are sinners because of our rebellious nature, and saints because of the salvation given to us through the Redeeming Activity of our Lord and Savior. 

Today we are told “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it me.”  It is my prayer that when we will leave this house of worship today, we will be a part of God’s plan for our world.  And we will go and love one another as Christ loves us.  That we will see Christ in our neighbor.  And that as we see Christ in other people, they will be able to see Christ in us as well.

Let us pray: God of grace, you loved the world so much that you gave your only begotten Son to be our Savior.  Help us to see you in the people that we meet so we can respond with love and mercy.  Allow us to be a part of your redeeming activity, so that we can live as your people as we await the day when you will come again in glory.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.