Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
A woman named Judy passes away and heads up to Heaven, where she is greeted by St. Peter.
St. Peter says to her, “Welcome to Heaven, Judy. Now before you enter you have to answer one question.”
Judy is nervous.
She says, “Ok. I’m ready.”
St. Peter- “Can you spell LOVE for me?”
Judy- “L O V E?”
St. Peter- That’s correct. Come on in.
Judy is amazed.
“THAT was the question?”
St. Peter- “Yep. It’s the question I ask everyone when they get here.”
Then the phone rings,
St. Peter answers “Hello. Ok I’ll be there in a minute. Judy, do you mind taking over for a few minutes?”
Judy- “Sure. What do I do?”
St. Peter- “just ask them that one question.”
Judy- “You got it.”
A few minutes later, Frank, Judy’s ex-husband shows up.
Judy and Frank were both surprised to see one another at the gates.
Frank- “how do I get in?”
Judy- “You just got to answer one question.”
Judy- “Can you Spell Czechoslovakia?”
I love that joke.
You know, that joke actually features some common questions for us Christians.
“What and how do I get into heaven?
“What is the question I will be asked?”
Now for some Christians, the question will rely on where you fell on certain subjects like:
Pro-Life or Pro-Choice
Infant baptism or Believer baptism
Just to name a few.
I could go on.
I have my own theory a belief of what that question will be.
And it comes from our Gospel lesson today.
Our Gospel today comes at the end of Matthew 25.
Chapter 25 is not the final chapter of the Gospel but it feels like it because it is an end to Jesus’ public ministry.
To conclude his public teaching, Jesus has a few words to share with his disciples concerning a topic that began in Matthew 24.
Back in 24:1-2, Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Now the Jewish people have already seen this happen once before many generations in the past with the Babylonian Exile.
So the disciples, naturally, are freaked out and they ask Jesus a very good question:
“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
The disciples want to know the exact time this will occur.
But Jesus does not give them the answers they want.
Jesus does not talk about timing.
Instead he uses Chapters 24 and 25 to prepare the disciples for being
- ♣ Alert
- ♣ Faithful
- ♣ Compassionate
- ♣ Prepared
And our Gospel today marks the last parable…the last example…Jesus uses to teach his point.
And it is a point not only for the ears of those disciples but for our ears as well.
Jesus talks about sheep and goats.
This is an image that the people listening to him would be familiar with:
At the close of the day, shepherds separated the sheep and the goats.
The sheep would graze through the night outside in the chilly air, and the more fragile goats would be sheltered from the weather.
As the shepherd divides the animals into two groups, the beloved sheep find themselves in the position of honor, they find themselves in the position of work and service.
For Jesus, the sheep represent the saved.
But what does this mean to the people listening to Jesus?
What does this mean to us?
I believe Jesus wants us to act like these sheep.
Now sheep are not the brightest animals in the world.
And I don’t mean for us to act like sheep in that way.
I believe Jesus wants us to act like these sheep that work during the night, and follow their shepherd.
In ancient times, the Shepherd was a popular image of the king.
So what Jesus is teaching us is to follow him…our shepherd…our king.
What does it mean to follow?
It means being real.
It means being sincere.
It means being willing and able to get our hands dirty.
It means tending to the needs of our neighbors.
It means obeying our King.
And there is no better day than today to do that.
Because today is Christ the King Sunday.
Today DOES mark the end of the Church year.
Next week, we begin a new church year, with the season of Advent.
To mark the end of the church year, today we celebrate a Sunday we call Christ the King Sunday.
Another name of it is “The Reign of Christ” Sunday.
As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I tend to like “The Reign of Christ” name more than I do Christ the King.
When I think of kings, I think of:
- • King David.
- • King Solomon.
- • King Henry the 8th.
- • King George the 6th.
All of them human.
And that means all of them are not perfect.
From reading our Bible we know David and Solomon had their sins.
From knowing our history we can say the same for Henry and George, and pretty much every king that has ever ruled a country.
But our King is different.
Our King is not like the rest.
And that is why it is important that we take this moment in the church year to give honor and praise and thanks to Christ our King.
It is important…and necessary.
Now getting back to the end of the Church Year,
When a New Year arrives, people around the world make New Year resolutions.
Resolutions about eating better, more exercise, reading more books, less time on the internet, to name a few.
So let’s now take the idea of resolution and bring it into the church.
Today I invite you to join me and make some New Church Year resolutions.
Where does one start?
You have a map in front of you.
The map is your Gospel lesson.
In this scripture, there are 6 steps
6 new church year resolutions
that I invite you to join me in making:
And rather than thinking of these six as resolutions, think of them as six Acts of Ministry:
- • Feed the hungry
- • Give drink to the thirsty
- • Welcome the stranger
- • Clothe the needy
- • Take care of the sick
- • Visit the prisoner.
By making these six acts our resolutions, we will be doing the Lord’s work.
And that is what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples.
Jesus wants them and us not to be concerned about the time of the last days.
Jesus wants the disciples and us to focus on the work that needs to be done today.
And every day.
And to me that is the question Jesus, St. Peter, Judy, whoever is at Heaven’s gate will ask:
“Did you do these things?
Did you take care of MY people?”
To me it is that simple.
And that hard.
Because if we are honest with ourselves, we at times do not do a good job of following the rules.
Or we make our own rules or our own escape clauses
We take care of people if:
They are of the right skin color
The are of the right sexual orientation
They are of the right nationality
They are of the right political view
If WE can look good at doing it.
That is not what God is calling us to do.
That is not what God has DEMANDED us to do.
So many people talk about “I want to be a Christian.”
But few say they want to TRY to be a Christian.
Being a Christian is more than coming to church on a Sunday morning.
Being a Christian is more than talking a good game.
As Pastor Mark said last week, we are called to DO SOMETHING with the gifts and talents God has given us.
This is the same point that Paul makes in our second lesson when he hopes we are given the gift of “spirit of wisdom and revelation.”
Paul does not want us to sit around, rather he encourages us to DO something with these gifts Because the gifts are not for our benefit.
They are for the benefit of our neighbors.
For the ones who are hungry, thirsty, alone, afraid.
On December 31st, when we make resolutions, we usually do them for our own benefit.
The resolutions we make today are not to make us feel better about ourselves.
It’s to make the world a better place for our neighbors.
We make these vows to let people know that we DO have a king.
That We DO have a ruler.
And this morning I invite you to make your resolutions to the one true king in our lives.
The only one that matters.
The only one who has given us eaverything.
The only one who has never failed us.
That ruler’s name is Jesus.
And for St. Peter, Judy, and those at the gate of heaven,
Spell that name with me:
J E S U S