Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sermon, Christ the King Sunday-A, Matthew 25:31-46

Today is the Last Sunday after Pentecost, otherwise known as Christ the King Sunday. We have come through a long, green season hearing of parables and healings, miracles and teachings. Our goal has been to learn about Jesus to see what he has to offer, and to choose whether or not we wish to follow. This is the day we proclaim him as Lord and Savior. This is the day we acknowledge him as King.

But just what kind of king are we acknowledging? And what kind of king are we proclaiming? It's true that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, that we crown him with many crowns, that we bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all, and that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. All of that is true. And from those words we get the image of Jesus, all powerful, ruling heaven and earth, vanquishing evil, saving the righteous and punishing the wicked.

But it is also true that through his humble service he bore the weight of human need. It is true that our king was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. It is true that Christ was born to work and die for everyone. And it is true that he concerned himself not with high and holy things, but with the poor, the outcast, the lonely, the destitute and the forgotten. In short, he was concerned with the least of these.

Let me ask you this: what is the most important quality of a good leader? Now there are probably as many answers to that question a there are people here. We could say charisma, or knowledge, or skill, or the ability to communicate, or the ability to create a vision, and on and on. Here's what I think is the most important quality of a leader: never asking something of you that he or she is not willing to do themselves. In other words, the most important quality is leadership by example, not by position.

Do you remember M*A*S*H? It's the difference between Col. Potter and Maj. Burns. Potter led by being with his troops and not asking them to do anything he wouldn't do. Burns attempted to lead simply because he was a Major.

Jesus has all of those characteristics we listed, including leading by example. He followed God first. He was non-violent. He spoke the truth. He fed the hungry. He conversed and ate with outcasts. He broke down social boundaries. He welcomed sinners. And above all, he loved. He loved God. He loved his friends. He loved his neighbors. He loved his enemies. And he asked his followers to do the same.

We are called to love others not only because Jesus loved them, but because he loved us. Everything he did, he did from love. Consequently, we show our love towards him by loving others. But it is more than just others we are called to love; we are called to especially love the least of these.

And how do we love them? We love them by feeding them, offering them a drink, clothing them, caring for them and welcoming them. It is through our works and love for the Other, the outcast, the lonely, that we are welcomed into the kingdom that has been prepared for us.

Notice I said through our works, not by our works. We love others in response to Jesus' love for us. We do not do good works hoping to score points. We do not do good works only when we think the king is watching us. We do not do good works only when we think we are serving Jesus directly. Those actions are a false love, and it is that attitude that leads a person to say, "What's in it for me?"

It is this group that Jesus calls to task. We need to be very careful about choosing to do things based on their perceived status. We need to be very careful about avoiding those in need in favor of only working to be seen.

This is often the difference between pledging and donating to the church. It has been my experience that most of the time, not always, but mostly, people who pledge to the church aren't concerned about what's in it for them. Their pledge is a reflection of the generosity of God; it is a response to God's love; it is a way that the body of Christ can establish programs and missions to care for the least of these.

On the other hand, it has been my experience that people who donate to the church, not always, but mostly, are less concerned with the mission of the church and more concerned with showing off their gift. As in, "I was responsible for the new wing, or the new choir robes, or the new organ, or a particular window."

Those are generalizations, I know, and often the church needs both. But we must ask ourselves, are we pledging to help the church live into the mission of Christ and care for the least of these; or are we donating because we want to impress the king?

Today is Christ the King Sunday. Today is the day we proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior and King. As we look at the separation of the sheep and goats, the question isn't why do we do good things, or why do we pledge to the church, or even whether or not we've decided to make the proclamation of Jesus as King.

The question today is this: where do we see Christ? Because if we only see Christ in his glory, robed in splendor, King of kings and Lord of lords, and crowned with a royal diadem, then we've missed the mark. We will have failed to see Christ in humble service. We will have failed to see Christ in the least of these.

Where do you see Christ?


First time comments will be moderated.