Matthew 25:30-46 Sunday November 26, 2017 Pastor Michael Bodger Sermon Title: When? Today we find ourselves on Christ the King Sunday, which is also recognized as the Reign of Christ Sunday, it is also the last Sunday of the Church Calendar. Each year we complete a cycle as we journey from Hope and anticipation in Advent, through Easter and resurrection, then onto living in the gap between Christ’s leaving, even as we look for Christ’s return and then we come to this Sunday. On it we celebrate the Kingship of Christ in and through our lives and as that celebration takes place, it lives into the Reign of Christ for others to see and experience in the here and now, as well as for eternity. Our text brings to completion the Judgement Discourse in Matthew’s gospel, found in Chapters 24 and 25, it speaks about the second coming of Christ. Last week in the third parable, we spoke about what the three servants, who received the Talents, did between the Master leaving and returning and the fact that they told their stories upon the Master’s return. We too are encouraged to tell our stories and over the past week a number of you have come to tell me that you found opportunities to do just that. May we all find opportunities to do so. Our text is one of a few texts unique to Matthew’s gospel and it raises many questions, as we wrestle with its implications. It takes the form of more than a parable, rather it is a text that conveys an apocalyptic scene, which ultimately finds its fulfillment in the everyday actions of Christ followers here on earth. So listen then to what the Spirit is telling the church this day. Firstly, let’s pick out the roles that Christ plays within this text.  Son of Man When the Son of Man comes! We start out with a picture of when the trumpet blasts and Christ descends, coming on the clouds and our cry of Come Lord Jesus is answered. 31“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. Shepherd And when all the nations gather, Christ becomes like a shepherd and separates the sheep and the goats. It was a familiar practice in those times that sheep and goats would be kept together and oft times they would have to be separated by the shepherd. The sheep, being the more productive animals, were considered the prime flock and so the analogy to those favored being sheep would have been well understood but the listeners of the day. Notice, they are separated, but not told why until they are in their respective flocks. King and also the least of these Christ knows us better than we know ourselves and understands who we are and as King, acting like a shepherd, is the one who separates the nations and so Christ the King, brings to him those who are blessed to inherit the kingdom. Then in the description of why they are blessed, Christ becomes like the least of these. 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.’ The Son of Man who comes in His glory at the end of time, is one and the same as the least of these that are upon the earth in the here and now. Earlier in Chapter 20 James and John came to ask Jesus if they could sit at his right and left in positions of power, Jesus concluded his words to them by saying, whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. Our text today is a litmus test to the nations of the words that Jesus spoke to James and John. The determining factor as to whether one is a sheep or a goat would appear to be in the actions that are carried out or not carried out as the case may be. 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.’  Or, you did not do those things. In verse 44 those who did not take care of the least of these, who did not do that to Jesus, asked a question, ‘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?’  The Greek word translated as care is the word diakoneo. It is also translated as ‘ministering to’ or as ‘serve.’ It is the same word Jesus used back in Chapter 20 to James and John, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to ‘diakoneo’ to serve. Those who did serve, who did what the Son of Man came to do, are those who are blessed and who inherit the kingdom. All seems pretty straightforward wouldn’t you say. It leaves some very uncomfortable feelings though – not least of which is, Am I a sheep or a goat? And the text is no help whatsoever, in fact it is extremely disconcerting and it all revolves around a simple four letter word – WHEN. Both the righteous and the accursed in our text today asked the same question, because they did not know the instances that the King was telling them about. The righteous after hearing the King tell them they had done all these things to HIM asked – When? The accursed did the same – When? It begs the question as to whether we see in the eyes of those we encounter the image of the living God. Do we see Jesus in the other person on the street, at our workplaces, at school, at play? Each encounter every one of us has, is Jesus within us, interacting with Jesus in the other. If the least of these are the King, and the ones doing the serving are doing so because like the Son of Man, they are serving and not being served. Then Jesus is on both ends of the encounter. Do we live and act as if that is the case? We might not know or realize it, but Jesus knows, because he is present in both. [1]King Abdullah, the ruler of Jordan since 1999, has been known to disguise himself and go out into public places. His purpose is to talk with ordinary people and find out what they are thinking, and to check up on civil servants to see how they are treating his people. He has visited hospitals and government offices to learn what kind of service they are giving. The king got the idea while in New York. He couldn’t leave his hotel without being mobbed, so he slipped out in disguise. It worked, so he tried it at home. He reported that once this practice was begun, civil servants and hospital employees started to treat everyone like kings. Jesus is God with us, do we treat everyone accordingly? At the end of Matthew’s Gospel we read Jesus’ words that He is with us even to the end of the age. Whether we do or do not serve the least of these comes down to whether or not we have accepted that Jesus Christ is King. The picture that is painted at the end of time over and over again is one whereby the Son of Man comes in glory and there will be an accounting. Thus everyone, in all the nations, will gather and at that moment all will come to understand the Kingship of Christ. What our text is telling us today is that the Kingship of Christ must be lived out in our lives every day, in the here and now. For if we have accepted that kingship, then we have accepted what it is our King commands us, which is to love the Lord our God and our neighbor as ourselves. We then, as part of the essence of who we are, reach out, and in our coming and going, we feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome strangers, give clothing to the naked, care for the sick and visit those in prison.’ 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.’ If Christ is not King of our lives today, then our text doesn’t matter. But if Christ is King of our lives, then this text acts as a warning to be doing that which our King commands us – love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself – Amen. And When do we do this? – all the time, as best as we possibly can. Taking the words of John Wesley we are encouraged to, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” And in so doing, the world around us is transformed and we show the world that we are transformed into new life by the King of our lives, by showing love for others as the King showed love for us - Amen. Let me leave today by telling a story. It can be found in the book entitled ‘The Different Drum’ by Dr. M. Scott Peck [2]The story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. It was once a great order, but now there were only five monks left in the decaying house: the abbot and four others, all over the age of seventy. In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi occasionally used for a hermitage. It occurred to the abbot that a visit to the rabbi might result in some advice to save his monastery and so he went. The rabbi welcomed the abbot, but when the abbot explained the reason for his visit, the rabbi could only say, "I know how it is" . "The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." So the old abbot and the old rabbi wept together. They read parts of the Torah and spoke of deep things. When the abbot had to leave, they embraced each other. "It has been wonderful that we have met," the abbot said, "but I have failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me that would help me save my dying order?" "No, I am sorry," the rabbi responded. "I have no advice to give. But, I can tell you that the Messiah is one of you." When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, "What did the rabbi say?" “The rabbi said something very mysterious, it was something cryptic. He said that the Messiah is one of us. " Over the days and weeks, the old monks pondered the significance of the rabbi's words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks? If so, which one? One abbot thought to himself, Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people's sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for always being there when you need him. He just magically appears. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah. Of course the rabbi didn't mean me. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? No, not me. As each monk contemplated in the same way, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect as well. People occasionally came to visit the monastery in its beautiful forest to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even to meditate in the dilapidated chapel. As they did so, they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery to picnic, to play, to pray. They brought their friends to this special place. And their friends brought their friends. Younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another, and another. Within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order, a place transformed by wondering if the Messiah was present, if Jesus was the one being encountered. The reality for the monks and for us, is that Jesus is the one being encountered. In our text today, both the righteous and the accursed asked the same question – When? It’s when showing acts of kindness becomes a part of who we are that we don’t even notice that when we engage with others we are seeing the Messiah, seeing Jesus in one another, as we go about living life and it makes the world of difference, actually, it makes a kingdom difference. It ushers in the reign of Christ and we don’t have to worry about Christ’s return, and it’s made possible only if Christ is King in our lives, in the here and now and we serve like the Son of Man came to serve. And all of God’s people said. Amen Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2017 Michael D. Bodger Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved [1] Our Daily Bread. February 22, 2001. https://odb.org/2001/02/22/treated-like-a-king/ [2] The Different Drum, by Dr. M. Scott Peck, M.D. Touchstone; 2nd Touchstone edition (January 2, 1998)