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November 22, 2020

 Message for November 22, 2020- “Well Done!”

(From Matthew 25: 31-46)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.  A second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

     Our parable lesson from the gospel of Matthew for today is one that almost preaches itself.  It is one of the most practical of Jesus’ parables to understand and implement in our daily living.  It comes at the end of a series of Jesus’ teachings about the end of days and his second coming, and it explains the manner by which he will judge “all the nations,” as they gather before him. He will judge by a method of separation—separating his righteous sheep from unrighteous goats.  Just who are the sheep, and who the goats?  Jesus’ parable is very clear, so let us turn now to his words, as we explore this parable and its implications for our lives.

     When Jesus comes to judge the nations, separating righteous sheep form unrighteous goats, he will say the those at his right, the sheep, “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, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”  Then, those who are judged as righteous will ask Jesus when it was that they saw him in any of these conditions and took care of him.  In a startling revelation, Jesus will reply, “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.”

     In a similar fashion, Jesus will look to his left, to the goats, and he will say, “You are the accursed,” [the unrighteous ones], “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I 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.”  The goats, in a similar fashion, will ask of Jesus when they ever found him in any of these conditions and failed to care for him.  Jesus 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.”  You see, Jesus accounts every kindness we show to one of our brothers and sisters in this world—the least of these—as if we did it directly for him.  What a blessing of Jesus’ love for us when we act to bless others.  But, there is another part to this parable.  Jesus accounts every kindness we fail to show to our brothers and sisters, his “family,” as if we failed to do it for him.  So many blessings are lost when we fail to bless others when we are able to bless them.  Jesus does not ask for great miracles performed with flashes of lightning, just for simple acts of kindness performed for others in the course of our daily living.

        This Sunday is the final Sunday of our Christian year.  We have completed our Extra-Ordinary time of learning how to live as brothers and sisters within the kindom of God, to begin living our divine new and eternal life right here and now.  As people of faith, we have been given two commandments by Christ Jesus our Lord—to love God with all that we have and all that we are, and to love other as we love ourselves.  If we do these two things well, we have fulfilled all of the Law and the teaching of the prophets.

     Church, it has been a difficult and divisive year.  We have suffered a COVID-19 viral pandemic and all of the suffering, loss and anxiety that has come with it; the death, destruction and civil unrest that has come about as a result of centuries of racial injustice that have been operating in our nation; and bi-partisan political discord that threatens to further separate us from one another.  All of this is enough to threaten even the strongest of us as we attempt to navigate our journey of faith.  Yet, even amid these times, in fact, I believe especially amid these times, we are called to heed Jesus’ commandment to love—both God and others.  God is a “no brainer,” others…. Well, not so much.  It doesn’t always feel like unconditional love is in our makeup—our DNA.  Even Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive, for he was weary of the task.  Yet, when we remember all that God has given us in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, we come back to the great truth—that God did it all for us out of love.  We are simply being called to be ripples of God’s love back out into a needy world.  The best part is that Jesus counts every good deed we do as our having done it for him.  We don’t even have to like the people we help—we just have to love them, as Jesus loves us.  

So, as we celebrate this Thanksgiving, let us truly show our thanks and love by caring for others as Jesus loved and served us. As we close this chapter called 2020 and begin anew, let us remember, even in the difficult times, both who we are and whose we are.  For when Christ comes again in victory, we want to hear him say, “Well done!”

Amen, may it be so.

“How Great Thou Art” (words and music-Stuart K. Hine, 1953).

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.  Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, and here proclaim, my God, how great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee; how great thou art, how great thou art!  Then sings my soul, my Savor God to thee; how great thou art, how great thou art!