Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Christ the King Sermon

This short sermon was offered at the Episcopal Church of the Saviour in Clermont, Iowa on November 26, 2017.  The lectionary readings were Matthew 25:31-46, Ephesians 1:15-23, Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, and Psalm 100.

This Gospel has always struck a chord with me. Once, many years ago, I was helping with a political event in Council Bluffs. While I was outside getting some things from a car, an older man came up to me and asked if he could have some money. I said no. Then he said that he was hungry, that is why he asked for money. I said I had nothing to give to him. He said that was ok and thanked me for my time. As I carried the things I retrieved from the car into the building I thought of the buffet of food that was set up inside. I dropped the things inside the door and went back to look for him. The man was nowhere to be seen. Then the next day in Church, this passage was the Gospel Lesson.

The King says “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food,”

And when those say ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food?'

The reply is ‘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.’

I failed God, I failed Jesus, I failed the King that day, but I've tried to learn from my failure.

I think what Jesus is looking for is real compassion, a real response to the needy. We often read about Jesus being filled with compassion. A gut wrenching compassion. The heart of compassion is something that cannot be manufactured. It is unintended, the natural product of the heart rather than a conscious effort.

What Jesus is looking for is uncalculating and unselfish. The blessed in the parable gave without thought of reward, it was the last thing on their mind. This is the very type of giving that Jesus commanded. They gave what was needed. They gave very simple things. What they gave did not necessarily involve very much. A meal; a place to stay; some clothes; some time.

What is our unselfish love? Just how do we respond to those around us? Are we looking through people? Are we always looking for the important person? Do we serve people out of duty, rather than love? Do we serve people out a sense of responsibility? Do we serve people out a desire to score points or to convert them?

And like the need for a relationship with God, this is not something you can either borrow or delegate. This is a real danger for us. We are so used to paying other people to do things for us. But you cannot buy unselfish love. You cannot delegate unselfish love.

For we are judged not on our wealth, but on our response to the poor. We are judged not on the evidence of our power, but on our response to the powerless. We are judged not on our prosperity, but on our response to the hungry.

Over the next few days, people will be asking us the perennial question‘Are you prepared for Christmas’. A far more important question is this. Are you ready to see Christ the King in those around you? I hope so.


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