Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46
November 23, 2014
Christ the King – Thanksgiving
Christ The Redeemer
Andre Rublev (1360s-1430c.)
In Les Miserables, Victor Hugo wrote, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” A number of hymns delight in the Christian’s anticipation of seeing God face to face. Yet we also talk about the terror of unrepentant sinners coming to the end of life not ready to “meet their Maker” face to face.
The Apostle John wrote that no one has seen God but God the Son, Jesus Christ, has made Him known. (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12)
Martin of Tours (316-397) was a Christian conscripted into the Roman army in the 4th century, before the Emperor Constantine made his distorted version of Christianity the official religion of the Empire. One cold winter day a shivering beggar asked Martin for alms. Having no money, Martin cut his soldier’s coat in half to share with the beggar. That night he had a dream of angels asking Jesus why he was wearing half a soldier’s coat. Jesus answered, “My servant, Martin gave it to me.” Not long after that, Martin’s unit was sent to battle with the Gauls. Martin said, “I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight.” Not a coward, he volunteered to go unarmed in front of the troops. Before the battle, the Gauls sued for peace, and Martin was released from the army.
Our image of Kings and Queens comes from European feudalism that emerged out of the collapse of the Roman Empire, which is dramatically different than the Hebrew ideal of a shepherd king who cares for the weakest of the people in the kingdom (Psalm 72). We need to think of King David at his shepherd best when we listen to Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘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 to me.’ 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
We end the Church Year facing Jesus, the King coming in glory. Next Sunday we start a new Church Year with Advent, facing Jesus the King who came in humility.
In this story Jesus gave us a multifaceted gem, giving us four interchangeable ways to look at him: the Son of Man, Shepherd, King and Son of the Heavenly Father.
I frequently notice that when I am preaching on a challenging passage, I am tested and have to examine myself. This week a woman with some serious mental health needs walked in to “talk to the pastor.” I had a hard time tracking with her and thought, “How can I get her out of here as soon as possible?” But with this passage in my mind all week, I was reminded that she was “one of the least of these” and I needed to give her the respect and attention I’d give to Jesus. I did give her as much time as she wanted and a mental health referral. But whatever her situation, I was called back to Jesus’ story.
The sheep were surprised that the King accepted the little things they had done for little people, as service for him. They had the holy ignorance of not keeping score to rack up points to win eternal life. They just lived compassion.
There are several versions of the story of a monastic movement that was in decline and almost extinguished. By the 19th century it was down to one monastery with five monks, all over 70. They heard rumors of a holy hermit who lived in the same forest. The abbot searched, found him and asked how to save their order. When the Abbot returned, the other monks asked what the hermit had said. The abbot replied, “He didn’t have any advice, but commiserated. We read Scripture and prayed together. As I left he told me one of us is the Messiah.” They all pondered who it might be and began treating each other as if all might be the Messiah. When visitors came through the forest, they noticed the love between these five old monks. Young people came to listen to the monks, and some joined the monastery, and it began to grow again.
Ephesians 1:18 asks that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened. Based the prayer we read from Ephesians 1today, I’m going to lead us in a shared contemplative prayer.
With Thanksgiving this week, thank God for the people through whom Christ has revealed himself to you. I invite you to speak their names aloud so we may pray together.
Ask God to show you what it would mean to you, to people you know, to Highlands Christian Church for the Father of glory, to give a spirit of wisdom and revelation so you come to know him, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, to know what is the hope to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe. Dare to ask for this!
With the eyes of your hearts enlightened by God whose power raised Jesus from the dead, and with holy imagination, stare into the face of Jesus the King, sitting at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, who is head over all things for the Church.