The Mystery of Faith and Service

Reign of Christ A

Stewardship: Fearless Service

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Ephesians 1:15-23

Matthew 25:31-46

Andrei Rublev- Christ in Majesty
Andrei Rublev- Christ in Majesty

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

That statement of faith is one that the church has been making since about the year 60. It is central to our understanding of who Christ is for us. We remember that Christ died giving his life for us- he died for proclaiming and enacting a message of radical inclusion and faithfulness to God and he died by our hands. In spite of our sinfulness, he still died for us. Christ rose from the dead defeating the powers of sin and death that enslave us. Christ will come a second time to set the world right. Christ is the king not only of the past and future, but also of the present. I think we can too easily forget that.

It is pretty easy to remember Christ as king when he was walking around Galilee and Judah teaching and healing. It is pretty easy to imagine the reign of Christ in second coming when he comes with trumpet fanfare, descending on clouds, surrounded by angelic hosts as is described in Revelation and other apocalyptic texts. But it is pretty hard to see the second statement “Christ is risen” today. Where is Christ anyway? I don’t see any traveling Rabbi multiplying loaves and fishes and I don’t see Lamb of God descending from heaven with a host of angels. Do you?

Jesus shows up in curious ways. Paul writes to the Ephesians and is totally gushing over them. He is smitten by how much love they show their neighbors and how faithful they are to God. He then says that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that enables the Ephesians to love each other in the way that they love each other. That same resurrection power that rose Jesus from the dead, is what resurrects the other deaths in our lives. When love defeats greed, loneliness, sickness, hopelessness, poverty, and anger- that is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

In our Gospel reading, the sheep and the goats unknowingly encounter Jesus in those who are hungry, imprisoned, and naked. The sheep who served those people were given eternal life and the goats who did not got eternal punishment. I find it so strange that neither the sheep nor the goats realize who Jesus was. In reading this parable I ask myself, “If we don’t even realize that we’re serving Jesus, why do it all?” Is it to avoid eternal punishment? No, I think that will drive us pretty crazy if we wonder whether that one homeless person we didn’t give money to or that one organization we didn’t support means our damnation. I don’t think that is the point of the parable either. I think it is to help us remember who Christ was so we can see who Christ is today.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

We remember that Christ gave everything for us- including his very life- even when we were the ones who killed him. We know the power of forgiveness and new life because we have experienced it. The know the power of resurrection and that is what makes it possible for us to share the love of God that we have experienced with others.

Purim and Passover are two Jewish holidays where the past is remembered and that memory influences our present actions. At Purim you are supposed to give to any needy person who asks of you. If there is one day in the year that you do this, it should be Purim. You give to the needy because we remember the Purim story of our own neediness. Haman plotted to have all the Jews of Persia killed, but God cared for us and saved us. We know the power of that saving love, so we know how important it is to share it with others.

At Passover you are supposed to invite strangers or at least non-family members to the table that night. You invite the stranger, because we remember at Passover that we were once slaves in Egypt. We were strangers in a strange land and God gave us the gift of hospitality when God saved us and welcomed us into the promised land.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

We remember the power of Christ’s love for us and it empowers us and compels us to share that love with others. Why would we ever want to hold back such an incredible gift? We have experienced the death of sin and the death of death. We remember the story of God’s deliverance to Esther and her people, we remember the story of Israel’s welcome into the promised land, we remember the Communion meal that promises newness of life, we remember the waters of baptism where God promises to be with the child or adult through life and beyond death, we remember the word of encouragement that we’ve heard from a good friend, we remember the listening ear of a loved one, we remember the meal given to us when we were hungry, we remember visits we received when we were lonely and lost. We remember the acts of God’s love and faithfulness in the person of our servant-King and friend, Jesus.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Amen.

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