May 2018  
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Matthew 25:  31-46       “Don’t Have to Tell Me”     11/26/2017

Rev. Jerry W. Krueger       Boardman UMC           Christ the King Sunday


Two weeks ago we spoke of 10 bridesmaids. Five foolish bridesmaids that failed to bring extra oil for their lamps, and five wise bridesmaids who brought extra oil. Last week we spoke of the master and 3 servants, and talents given them. Two used the talents to glorify and honor the master, one did not. In both teachings, there are those left out of the kingdom of God, by their failure to do what God asks. Some are unprepared for the Christ, and fail, even though told to be ready.

This, who is in, and who is out language, challenges Christian’s to ask “what in my life am I omitting. Am I serving the least, the lost, the widow, the orphan? Am I hearing the cry of the needy?”                                                                  This is not simply a text speaking of sinful behavior like adultery, lying, theft, dishonesty, abusive behavior, gossip. This is also about the sin of omission, failing to do for the least of these, as Jesus calls them.

Who ARE the least of these? Christ says, the widow, the orphan, the poor, the lost, and the ones in need of help, who are all around us.

 1 John 3: 14-15 instructs, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” A text delineating the test for judgement with this question; “have you acted in love to all God’s people?”  ALL, ALL God’s people. Maybe you’re thinking, “Surely Jesus is not talking about THOSE people?”

Sheep and goats are often pastured together, but for the shepherd, they are easily distinguishable. Goats are thinner and have different eating habits. Goats graze leaves, shrubs, and vines.  Sheep graze grass and clover.

Goats have hair, sheep have fleece. A goat’s tail stands up, while a sheep’s tail hangs down. Christ the shepherd sorts, not you, not me.

In Matthew 25: 31-46, we hear Jesus say, “All the nations will be gathered in front of him, and he will separate people, one from another.”

Those who love Neighbor, and those who don’t, can only be distinguished by the Son of Man, who serves as the great Sorter in the story.  Christ sorts, not any of us. Even the doers, and the non-doers of good deeds, don’t easily recognize, which are which. Members of both groups are surprised to learn which group they have been sorted into. 

Some of us may hear this story in a different way and decide they will participate in a mission trip to West Virginia, or work downtown at the Good Samarian Kitchen at Trinity UMC, support Veteran’s Outreach, or collect pajamas for kids through our partners at BUMP.

All are NOT called to go on mission trips, but every Christian can hear Christ’s words as a reminder that, doing good for neighbor, is an essential part of our love for Christ.

We might read and believe that Christians are the only righteous.  We may see all non- Christian’s of the world, as being doomed to the corral of the unrighteous. Yet, this text is about gathering, examining, and sorting all people, not by any of us, but only by the Son of Man. Jesus gathers in all the nations, Jews and all the gentiles. That would be us. Goyim in the Hebrew means Gentiles, non-Jews.  This not about the politics of foreign nations, but about the people, Jewish, and non-Jewish neighbors, and neighborhoods.

In the Bible we read about righteous gentiles. The Roman Centurion in the Book of Luke 7: 1-10, a Gentile Centurion who is a faithful, righteous Roman, receives news from Jesus, that because he is faithful to God, and cared for his servant, his servant is healed by Christ.

20 years ago I had cancer and went to highly recommended physicians for treatment. My gastroenterologist, Dr. Raj Sarva, was a fine physician and friend. He was a Hindu, as were most of his staff.  My oncologist was Muslim, caring and compassionate. My anesthesiologist, she was a Buddhist. Treating a Christian was not an issue. They were, virtuous, caring physicians who used their talents, their gifts for healing.

So, are any of those non- Christian’s who cared for me, excluded from being put in with the heaven bound sheep? I am not the judge, Jesus is. 

Some among us have had terrible experiences with a person or persons that are different ethnically, politically, or have different religious beliefs. Do we put a whole religion, race, or political party into the “going to hell lane?” because some have been reprobates, or evil?

In my past, Christians have attacked me, lied and gossiped about me, and threatened to kill me. So do I group all Christians, or Texans or Ohioans in the “going to hell as a group” lane? I think not. (Who said maybe only those from Michigan?) This text says, Christ will separate the people, all the people. Not you, not me. We are not the judges.

When Columbus, Ohio was clobbered by a Level 3 snow and ice storm 15 years ago, I was unable to get to my East side Columbus church. An ice laden tree branch snapped off, and crashed through a sanctuary window, making a mess of the interior of the sanctuary.

But four Good Samaritans in the neighborhood took it upon themselves to cut off and remove the branch from the sanctuary, clean up the mess, and scrounge up plywood to cover the broken church window.

I learned the good Samaritans lived nearby on the same street as the church, and attended OSU. They were Muslims, and our neighbors. I met them and asked, “Why do this for a Christian house of worship?”, and they replied, “We are to be caring for all our neighbors. You all are our neighbors, and we need to live together.”    This Matthew text is about us as Believers in Jesus Christ, but it is also about those who have unknowingly served Christ, by knowing the needs of others.

If you have a different faith belief than me, but assist me or my family for the betterment of humanity, if you help me when I am in need, not because you are a Christian, but because you feel compelled to help another, I think, and I pray, “God, bless this man or woman for their care for me, for others.”  I wonder, is God using those who do not profess Christ as Lord and Savior, as an instrument of God’s grace?

Church, the good deeds of non- Christians, are not treated as atoning for their sins, nor as evidence that they imitate God. Those who do not know Jesus, are unknowingly serving Jesus Christ by helping those who are the least and the lost. Could they be seen as “anonymous Christian’s?”

Jesus is saying, no less is expected of Jesus followers, than is expected of the righteous pagans. It says so in the text today. Those who hear the call to love each other, to serve others, especially the widow and orphan, the least and lost by acts of mercy, are living out the vision of God’s compassion, mercy and grace for humanity.

We who have been blessed with much, with knowing Jesus Christ, are called to serve others without hesitation, whenever we encounter need.  Did those assisting with rescues after the Houston hurricane, ask about political affiliation, race or religion before helping others? It is not up to any of us to judge, to chastise or condemn those who have differing faith lives.

The arena of faith, is daily living. Compassion belongs not just in the extra ordinary, but in the ordinary, simple mundane, daily living out our lives.

God is not some Cosmic Scorekeeper, keeping a database where He tallies up our exact number of good deeds. What Jesus wants for us and those around us, is to love God, love neighbor as we love ourselves.

Be encouraged by the words Jesus proclaims, to those on his right, and all of those, many of whom we might reject, who have unknowingly served Him, through doing good to others, “Come…inherit the kingdom.” To those who have unknowingly ignored him, by knowingly ignoring the needs of others, Jesus says, “Depart  ...into the eternal fire.”

As Christians we are called to care for each other, regardless of neighbor’s nationality, race, sexuality, faith belief. We are not to be put upon or taken advantage of, abused, oppressed or injured, but our overarching vison of the Kingdom is that we profess Jesus to all.

We give thanks for what Christ has done, is doing and will do in the world and in our lives. It’s not for you to convert everyone, however, it is your lives work as a Christian, to live in a way that models what Jesus tells us to do. How to live and love. Loving neighbor, loving God.

Before we close, I invite you to close your eyes, and think when you saw Jesus in the face of someone you helped in the last week or month.  (PAUSE) And now, recall a time when you had opportunity to serve Jesus, but let that opportunity slide by.

Keep your eyes closed, “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we have served you in the unexpected, in the unplanned, in the improbable, sometimes unknowingly. And at other times, we have missed an opportunity to serve you when time was at hand. We thank you for allowing us to serve you, and ask forgiveness when we miss a chance to serve YOU, through the mundane, simplicity of life. 

Accept our gratitude for You continuing to love us, and allow us each an opportunity to serve you by serving others. This week and every week of our lives. In Jesus name. Amen.

CLOSING HYMN- after our closing hymn, I will invite you all to join hands with another, perhaps we can join hands all around the sanctuary.