Thursday, November 22, 2014
Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of the church year.
Next week we begin our year-long journey through the Gospel of Mark.
This is our last week in the Gospel of Matthew.
And boy, am I happy about that.
Matthew has been hard on us. For weeks now, we’ve heard one troubling parable after another. Distressing stories of judgment. People cast out into darkness. We’ve heard of weeping and gnashing of teeth more than a few times. And even the beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5 offers the not so comforting, “blessed are you when people revile you and persecute and speak all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
If Matthew has been harsh on the people in the pews, just imagine what it is like to struggle with these texts as a preacher, trying to receive the scripture honestly, while still looking for some bit of good news to share.
But hold on folks, we are almost there! We are almost done with Matthew for a while. We just have to get through this Sunday’s gospel.
Oh, and what a lesson it is.
We get the judgment of all judgment, as the Son of Man sits on his throne and divides the nations “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
Spoiler alert: you do not want to be a goat.
And yet, are there any sheep among us?
Is there anyone among us who would not finding themselves standing accused at the King’s left hand, whimpering, “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?”
With so many opportunities to see Christ in the least of these--the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner—without a doubt, we have all overlooked him at some point. Even worse, we have likely blamed Christ for his own poverty, or met a lonely Christ with only a cold shoulder, or abandoned a multitude of sick Christs as someone else’s problem, or justified Christ’s isolation in prison because criminals deserve to be punished.
There is no wiggle room in this judgment scene. The goats do not get to argue their case. The king makes no allowances for special circumstances.
If we don’t all feel like a goat after hearing this lesson, we’re just not being honest with ourselves.
There may be no good news for the goats in this scripture, on this Sunday.
But listen up goats: Christmas is coming!
Christ is coming.
Hope is on the way for us sinners, in God’s Word made flesh.
Forgiveness, for all the ways that we fail and fall short, coming to meet us right where we are, in the person of Jesus.
God among us shining light into the darkness.
After all these weeks of confronting the darkness of our deficiencies, our shortcomings, our failures, perhaps, this is what the Gospel of Matthew has been getting us ready for.
I for one, am ready.
Come, Lord Jesus.