“Did You See Me?”

Matthew 25:31-46

26 November 2017

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Matthew 25:35-36

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.’

 

Prayer.

 

Today we celebrate the fact

That Jesus Christ is our king!

 

We may love our country, our democracy, our flag,

But let there be no mistake,

Jesus Christ is our king!

We may love our family, our sons and daughters, our wife or our husband,

But Jesus Christ is our king!

We may love our homes, our neighbors, and our friends,

Yet, Jesus Christ remains our king!

 

Jesus may be physically absent for a time;

But this is only temporary.

He has left us with his Spirit, the Holy Spirit,

One and the same God, the Lord God, almighty.

His Spirit fills the body of every baptized Christian,

Making us, during this time of waiting, his body,

The Body of Christ,

Who forever remains our king.

 

When Christ returns,

Jesus gave fair warning to his Temple adversaries,

There will be a time of judgment.

 

How have we spent this time in waiting?

Have we been faithful to Christ and his teaching?

Have we followed the commandments of our God?

Have our actions been a reflection of our words and our faith?

 

Judgment spares no one, Jesus affirmed.

Jews and Gentiles alike would be judged,

Indeed, all the nations.

All the nations, Jesus allegorizes,

Will be gathered before him

And people will be separated one from the other.  

 

Those who have been actively preparing,

Faithfully and righteously waiting,

Will be rewarded with eternal life.

Jesus could not be more clear;

Those who have not been living a faithful life,

Will go away into eternal punishment.

 

How does that square itself, we ask,

With a gracious, loving, and forgiving God?

How does this square itself with John 3:16-17

Where Jesus taught

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

 

Jesus wants us to believe in him,

Trust in him,

Follow only him;

For he is our king!

Jesus wants us to have life,

Life abundant,

Not a life of abundant things,

But a life of abundant love for God and neighbor.

 

Jesus wants us to choose life,

A good and righteous life,

Lived completely in his kingdom.

 

The Gospel of Matthew forces upon every disciple

Our Lord’s model for kingdom living,

For waiting for his return.

While justice may make us wince

 

Justice is necessary to complete Jesus’ vision

For how we spend our time in waiting.

 

The bookends of Matthew frame kingdom living.

Jesus begins teaching with his Sermon on the mount.

This is the standard by which we are to live

and by which we shall be judged:

 

Bolster the poor or weak in spirit.

Comfort those who mourn.

Be meek and humble.

Hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Extend mercy.

Keep your heart pure.

Be a peacemaker.

 

Be God’s blessing to the world!

 

Be willing to suffer for your faith.

Illuminate Jesus.

Obey God’s laws.

Reconcile with those with whom you are angry.

Maintain fidelity in your marriage.

Keep true to your word.

Don’t retaliate against those who sin against you.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

 

This is how one lives in waiting for Christ’s return and his final judgment.

 

Our Gospel for today

At the conclusion of Christ’s ministry and teaching

Is the opposite bookend,

Framing his directives for our time in waiting.

 

Feed the hungry and satisfy thirst.

Welcome strangers.

Clothe those who have no cloths.

Care for the sick.

Visit prisoners.

 

Let’s spend some time evaluating ourselves.

How are we doing feeding the hungry and providing drink?

 

Locally, yes, we are providing food on a weekly basis for our local food pantry.

But is this enough?

According to the Census Bureau,

 

More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans

Live below the poverty line.

 

The hungry look at us and ask, “Did you see me?”

Certainly there is more work to be done.

 

Globally, yes, we are sending people to Central America,

Nicaragua and, more recently, Guatemala,

Supplying our short-term missionaries, Terry and Katie,

 

With malnutrition food bags

That can feed a family of four for four weeks.

But is this enough?

According to the World Bank,

Based on a poverty line of $1.90 a day,

700 million, or 9.6 percent of the global population live in poverty.

The hungry and thirsty look at us and ask, “Did you see me?”

Certainly there is more work to be done.

 

Let none of us idle away this time of waiting.

 

Let’s do a bit of self-analysis when it comes to welcoming strangers.

How are we doing?

 

Locally, yes, we have greeters every Sunday at church,

Welcoming visitors and guests.

But is this enough?

In 2012 our United Methodist

 

General Council on Finance and Administration

Reported that nearly 91 percent of United Methodist are white.

In contrast, the 2010 Census reported that the U.S. population

Was 72.4 percent white,

16.3 percent Hispanic,

12 percent African-American, and

4.8 percent Asian.

In addition whites are no longer the majority of births in the U.S.

 

I ask again, “how are we doing welcoming strangers to our worship?”

This only looks at the narrow axis of race;

How about people with disabilities?

People with different sexual preferences?

Are we a welcoming Body of Christ open to all people?

Are we truly inclusive as Jesus teaches us to be?

 

People who attend once and are never seen again

Are probably asking, “did you even see me?”

Truly, there is more to be done.

 

Globally, are we welcoming strangers?

Or are we afraid to address the question

Because we might be opening Pandora’s Box on the issue of immigration?

When Jesus gathers all nations before him,

I’m confident borders and nationalities will disappear into thin air.

The politics of King Jesus can’t be found in our laws and constitutions.

The politics of King Jesus can only be found in his words

As recorded in the Gospel.

 

Let us not idle away this time of waiting.

 

As if I haven’t made us all squirm a bit,

Let’s be daring enough to ask ourselves,

“How are we doing clothing those who need cloths?”

 

Locally, yes, we’re supplying clothing

To the East Rochester Resource Center,

To the Second Thought Retail Shop,

And to our St. Paulies collection bin out back.

We are doing good,

But how many of us don’t have closets stuffed with clothing

And chests of draws packed with goods?

All it takes is an attempt to move

To realize how much we have accumulated and failed to let go.

According to the same Census Bureau figure of 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans

Living below the poverty line,

A survey funded by Procter & Gamble reports

 

That one in three of these households find it difficult

To afford basic household necessities in the past year.

Three in four report cutting back in food in order to obtain necessary household goods.

That’s 15 million Americans struggling to afford clothing.

 

That family in emergency housing we passed by on our way to church this morning are probably asking, “did you even see us?”

Truly, there is more to be done.

Let us not idle way

This time of preparation

For the King’s return.

 

Internationally, keep packing suitcases to send to Guatemala.

Keep paying to ship suitcases filled with 50 pounds of children’s clothing, shoes, and underwear.

Give it away, and in doing so,

Make friends.

Don’t leave anyone wondering if we saw them.

 

How are we doing, Church, when it comes to caring for the sick?

Are you happy with your health care?

How about the health care of the poor?

In past centuries the Church was front and center

Opening hospitals and clinics,

But now,

A new idol has emerged in competition with our King;

The god of greed.

We have handed over the care of the sick

To political realities that worship at the altar of the almighty dollar.

Follow the money, goes the old saw,

And see how the poor are cared for

In stark contrast to the wealthy.

We Christians are guilty of letting it happen.

 

This is not to say that all is lost.

Good Christian doctors and nurses,

Administrators and support workers,

Some in our own congregation,

Work tirelessly and with mercy

To bring healing to the sick and dying.

Yet, the larger ship named health care

Needs turned in such a way

 

That efficient health care stewardship can be employed

Such that all may be equally cared for, loved, and healed.

Wellness is our King’s desire;

Wellness for all.

 

How many frightened patients in our beds or waiting rooms

Are left wondering, “did that doctor or nurse even see me?”

Or, “was I just another blood draw to be taken and charted?”

 

Pause.

Give presence.

Listen.

Extend mercy.

Heal, and be God’s healing.

Let us not idle away this time of waiting.

 

Internationally, how are we doing?

 

Let me just encourage you to donate your unused wheelchairs.

Katie, Terry, and I will see

That they are shipped to Guatemala,

Remanufactured to good as new condition,

And given to people who need them.

For these people, a wheelchair is life changing.

It may only be a small drop in the water in an enormous ocean,

But it is what we can you.

It’s what you can do.

And we can all agree that more can be done.

 

Lastly, kingdom living, preparing for Christ’s return and final judgment,

 

Includes his teaching to visit prisoners.

I’ll be the first to admit this,

I am an abject failure at visiting prisoners.

Other than completing a two-year program as a volunteer police chaplain

While in seminary,

I haven’t visited one prisoner in a jail in 32 years of pastoral ministry.

None from my flock have ever served time.

At best I can say is that some of our Conference Apportionments

Support jail ministry, justice, and chaplaincy programs.

Let’s be honest,

This is too little to hardly be worthy of our King’s attention.

 

Visiting the incarcerated isn’t about politics

Or condemnation under the law.

It isn’t about making someone’s punishment easier to endure.

I believe, Jesus wants us to visit prisoners

Because it’s an act of mercy.

Jesus was a prisoner.

His captors did not extend to him mercy.

Perhaps the 0.91 percent of Americans living in prisons,

And the nearly 200,000 prisoners living in the rest of the world,

Need some of God given mercy and grace.

 

Is the prisoner sitting in the Monroe County jail this Sunday morning

Thinking about all of us church going Christians

And asking themselves,

“do they even see me?”

“do they even know that I exist?”

Truly there is more to be done.

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Let us not idle away this time of waiting.

 

This last Sunday of the lectionary year,

When we celebrate the Reign of Christ

And the fact that Christ is our King,

We mostly leave the Gospel of Matthew until 2019 – 2020.

Until then we will travel through the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John.

Though we leave Matthew for a time,

Let us not forget how he has accented Jesus’ teaching:

Live prepared.

Actively engage and meet the needs of the world.

Love lavishly.

Forgive abundantly.

Extend mercy.

Welcome all.

And know,

Judgment is coming.

Jesus will return.

We will each be held accountable.

Amen.