Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon Matthew 25:31-46, Ezekiel 34:12, Psalm 100
As we wrap up another church year and get ready for Thanksgiving and Advent, we get this wonderful message from Christ that speaks to the mission of the Church but also where we are in this. I was reminded of a growing tradition at Plymouth that the Reign of Christ ought to be celebrated (and celebrated with pie.) One of the many ways we can be with Christ is through our dinner and dessert when we invite Jesus to dine with us. Where do we see, feel, and be with Jesus? We talked about some of this in Confirmation class this week, and they had some ideas on this question. I invite you to ask them. So let us invite Jesus this morning.
“May the words of my mouth and meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to in Your sight, O Lord; You are our Rock and our Redeemer!”
Verse 40 and Judging
Christ invites us to look for God in all of the places and people around us from verse 40 – just as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to me.” Jesus invites us to live with compassion and grace and to share that with “the least of these who are members of Christ’s family…”
Some read this passage and sense an air of judgment, but if we listen to Jesus little deeper, we are asked about our missed opportunities. Where are our missed opportunities?
It is easy for us to get blinded by our own feelings, busy thoughts, long pandemic, ugly politics, and hard struggles, but we are in this together. And only together will we survive and live in the community that is there for us. We could sit there and try to tally up the things we have done and pronounce that we have done enough. What however do we miss because we all fail and we all miss opportunities?
Reckoning and Paper Routes
This Gospel is a reckoning - a “come to Jesus” moment for us. This reminded me also of when I was young and ran paper routes.
Each month, I would have to go around and collect the bill payments. When I did well, customers might give an extra tip. In those days as a paperboy, I routinely would get invited into homes to settle the bill, and thinking back on this today, I wonder how many precarious situations I could have been in. I recall one particular involved an older woman who said she didn’t have much cash, but she just made this German marble cake that she would share. I started nibbling on this German marble cake that was just the most luscious and tasty awesomeness I have ever had – I think God was there in that experience.
Paper route was more than throwing newspapers. In addition to distribution, the job involved billing as I said, but also quality control and handling complaints. When there were complaints, people usually didn’t wait until the bill collection, but assuredly if there were, they might be remembered during collection.
That forces one to reconcile and be sure to offer better service. That made me look for opportunities to bring something more than just rolled newspapers, and yes I missed opportunities.
In each moment, we get the chance to reconcile, learn, grow and find Jesus in our hearts because we don’t need to spend time judging or tallying up our blessings - for that belongs to God.
Be Thankful for Gifts
Be thankful for your blessings, and Jesus reminds us that there are more opportunities because we miss some. Even though we fail, we get new opportunities, new tastes (like German marble cake or pie); we get forgiveness and grace!
For all of the struggle we have had in 2020, I believe that God might be reminding us not to get complacent. Don’t forget the gifts we have and how valuable those are. We are reminded that heroes don’t need to wear tights and capes. Heroes are ones that care for our neighbors. That is what Jesus says in this challenge. Look beyond our suffering, find Christ in the community, and share your gifts.
We can even think in terms of the sentiment from Robert Herrick – carpe diem.
Given his youth and work mobility, my son decided to explore the western areas of our vast country and “work from anywhere” (Zion National Park, Sedona, otherwise.) This is truly the spirit of carpe diem and seizing the moments we have. I hope he takes advantage of all the opportunities he can during his journey. He will see God in some of the most beautiful places our creation reveals to us because mountains have a way of demonstrating how vast God is. I hope he continues to find that beauty and love of God right there with him (and in the communities around him) – I hear it in his voice when he is talking about it.
I wish that excitement also for us and our families. That despite the heaviness of COVID, emotional elections and the many stressors in our lives - that we don’t have to wait to see God around us because we might meet each moment with open eyes, heart and ears. We may find the adventure of God there in those moments. We can witness God everywhere whether mountains, wide prairies, gorgeous sunrises, at the stoplight, in a baby’s eyes, the healthcare worker, the protester, or us - finally finding time for those avoided projects around the house.
Finding Confidence Amid Struggle
We are in our own adventures, our own challenges, bills to pay, and to seize opportunities to find God. Christ challenges us to see grace in all the nooks and crannies of life, in people (young and old, rich or poor, black, brown or white, neighbor and prisoner), in the tasty pie we eat, the beverage we drink – and even in our struggles.
Especially there, we find what is important - hope and comfort in the One who brought us.
We have our adventure; we have our duties - even though fear and risk remain. However, we meet these with confidence; that we are not alone in this. We don’t do this alone, and we can explore where Christ is - in us and throughout our community.
We find Christ through prayer, thoughts and our actions – clothing the needy, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, or visiting the sick or imprisoned. We have many opportunities around us to reveal our love of God and neighbor.
Are we willing to witness these opportunities - to see God where God is – and to be calmed through the wonderful tastes and presence of our Creator? I submit to you that through all of these challenges of the tough year, Christ has been and is right there comforting us and reminding us of our blessings – how valuable they are.
The bill is coming due, but our Collector has forgiveness, grace and more opportunities ready for you. Doing Christ’s work does not have to be an ongoing, drudging chore, but it is the opportunity we don’t want to miss.
On your journey, as a Christian, find opportunities to do for the least of these. Maybe you have marble cake to share, maybe just a sandwich. Enjoy our beautiful creation and care for your community. When you do, watch your spirit lift!
Thus, keep asking where do you see God today; where do you see Jesus? Open your heart and you will see. You will find those comforting arms and warm voice - waiting to mother you and guide you to more opportunities.
Thanks Be to God