A reflection on Matthew 25:31-46
I’m not sure why, but this year, that we celebrate something called, Christ the King Sunday, has really gotten under my skin. Maybe because we have spent the last few weeks talking about what the kingdom of God is like, or could be like vs what the world is like – the naming of this Sunday as Christ the King, is irritating.
I’m not even sure how to read it subversively; because, according to a quick wikipedia search this is only a recent incarnation in our church; instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, as a response to increased national and secularism. It was adopted by traditions who follow the Revised Common Lectionary, like Anglicans and Lutherans. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweden calls this day, “Sunday of Doom’ – likely looking toward the return of Christ and day of Judgement.
So here we are and the Gospel passage that we encounter this morning comes directly after the parable of the talents and again, much like the previous passage there is no, ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like this…’ No, we just launch into the passage with, ‘When the Son of Man comes..’
There will be sheep and there will be goats and they will be separated according to whether they got it or not.
Interestingly here, though Jesus is talking about ‘nations’ and there is some debate over what is meant by that, Nations as in everyone or nations meaning: those who believe or nations as in gentiles.
So a bit like what we do at Beer and Bible, just to set this a little bit for us I want to tell you what comes before and what comes after. Before, back at the beginning of Chapter 24, Jesus is on the Mount of Olives alone with this disciples and what we hear this evening seems to be a response to their question:
“Tell us when will this be, and what sign of your coming and of the end of the age.”
They are trying to figure out what all of this means. All of this following him around and teaching and healing.
After this Jesus will tell them what the end will look like, his end. He will try to prepare them for the betrayals and his death.
So this is quite a loaded conversation between Jesus and his disciples.
‘And the Son of Man will come in Glory, and the angels with him, and he will sit on the throne of his glory’. The Reign of Christ. But what will his reign look like? Not like Churches full, necessarily, not like huge mega churches necessarily, not like church leaders who have a role in decision and law making or land ownership – but I would like to make a pitch for deep and complete understanding of what it means to follow Jesus: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked – the sharing of resources and not just walking by.
And as I read this, I kept thinking about our friends at Jacob’s Well, who leave their doors open and offer friendship and support to their neighbours in the Downtown east side.
And I realized that I am a mixture of sheep and goat by Jesus definition. I both try to be respectful and careful with those around me and I share what I have – to some extent – but I’m also pretty selfish in lots ways.
There is still some work to be done within me – I am still a work in progress.
I feel like I have said this before but maybe it’s worth saying again.
I think that the Reign of Christ will be realized when we can be no other way but to be transformed by Jesus’ teachings. When we can do no other but share what we have and live equitably with each other. When my concerns do not trump yours.
I’m not convinced that secularism or nationalism are our problem. Rather our ablity or maybe inability to be transformed – us – those who proclaim that we follow the Gospel. – our ability to be transformed by the teaching so Jesus so that we live it. SO that those who encounter us know by our actions whose we are.
I feel like blaming the world around us for how well we are able to follow Jesus, is kinda like saying, ‘You made me do it’ when we were kids. Like we have no choice. And this is maybe where I differ from Matthew a bit because he has that whole thing about the trees where good trees give good fruit and bad trees give bad fruit a- for this Gospel it would seem that you either have it or you don’t and maybe that’s true for some but I don’t think it’s true for all of us.
And maybe it’s just my Canadian wanting for a middle ground but I think that most of us are a mixture of what Matthew would call sheep or goat.
And I think that we have the ability to choose. We can choose how we behave, how we treat those around us, what we can and cannot live without. When I think about the Reign of Christ – If that is a thing that we are to talk about overlayed with this Gospels, then I want to think about a community like the one we are trying to build here. Gathered together to think about who Jesus is for us and looking for ways to build community together, listening to each other and allowing ourselves to be changed by the words we use and they ways that we choose to be together.