Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sermon for Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Last Sunday after Pentecost
Christ the King Sunday
Proper 29 Year A

Ezekiel 34:11-17
Psalm 95:1-7
I Corinthians 15:20-28
St. Matthew 25:31-46

Many of you are probably familiar with the lyrics to the song “Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?” The chorus tells us that “He’s here in plain view.” But is Jesus that easy to see in the world around us.

Yes it is very true that as the song also states. “Have you ever stood in the family, With the Lord there in your midst, Seen the face of Christ in each other? Then I say, that You’ve seen Jesus my Lord.” But that is the easy answer. Now don’t get me wrong, it is a true answer as well. As we look around here we see Jesus around us in each wonderful person, and that is a good thing. But still that is the easy part and in the Gospel today Jesus calls us to a harder and more difficult understanding of where we may be able to see Jesus.

Because Jesus can also be found in those who are the most unlike us and I fear too often we miss that point.

In today’s Gospel Jesus addressed two different groups, each apparently equally clueless. The parable in the Gospel lesson for today is quite a challenge in several ways. For me the first challenge of this parable is the response of both groups of people to the King. The first group had ministered to Jesus, represented by those in great need, the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the shivering, the sick and those in prison. Now that in itself we, as Christians, should not find particularly remarkable. It is part of the Gospel message we all recognize. The second group was chastised for failing to minister to Jesus. They had failed to minister to the hungry, thirsty, homeless, shivering, the sick and those in prison and so had failed to minister to Jesus.

But it is the response of both groups that is intriguing. Both of the groups claimed that had no idea that they had ministered to Jesus.

Every one of them had failed to see Jesus in the people around them. And I think more critically, they failed to see Jesus in the people not like them. And this is the challenge for us in the church! Our great danger is in only seeing Jesus in the people around us. It is only seeing Jesus in the people like us. It is easy to see Jesus in the people like us, often much harder to see Jesus in the people unlike us. Singer Joan Osbourne had a great song entitled “What if God was one of us?” The chorus included these words “What if God was one of us Just a slob like one of us Just a stranger on the bus Trying to make his way home."

I think that people are actually ok with seeing God as one of us, just a slob like one of us. Just so long as he is like one of us and not like the people who we are uncomfortable with or afraid of.

And yet the parable for today clearly tells us that we will find and minister to Jesus in the people actually most unlike us.

This should be inspiring because it challenges us to be at our very best as a Christian. But it is also frightening because it seems so very easy to end up on the wrong end of the equation. The end where we are found wanting.

It is inspiring because we all want to be that Christian who feed Jesus, who gave water to Jesus, who welcomed Jesus, who clothed Jesus, who visited Jesus.

It is challenging because we are also reminded in this passage how easy it is to be the Christian who does not feed Jesus, who does not give water to Jesus, who does not welcome Jesus, who does not cloth Jesus, who does not visit Jesus.

Both of these groups had one important quality in common. They shared one common trait. In both of these groups, the people did not see when they either were or were not doing those things for Jesus.

That is the key. They did not see Jesus in what they were doing. It is easy to do the right thing when we know Jesus is there. It is easy to see the Jesus who did so much for us and want to do any small part to do something for him. But Jesus Himself is not here physically. I believe that the Gospel passage is driving home a very important lesson. And that lesson is that Christianity is not just about our relationship with God. It is about our relationship with those created in the image of God.

That is why in each individual around us, when we do anything for them we are doing it just as if we were doing it for Jesus. You see, God is to be found in each and every one of us. But now comes the challenging part.

When we look at humanity, particularly when we look at the poor, the disenfranchised, the street people, the mentally impaired, the felons it is very hard to see Jesus. Instead our prejudices and our fears and our dislikes spring into our minds.

They prevent us from wanting to serve the Jesus found in each one of us. And that was what the second group saw too. When they looked at these needy people, they did not see Jesus, they forgot to see God in them.

And that allowed them to ignore them and pretend that they did not exist. And that is the truly frightening part in this lesson. That Jesus may be right in front of us and the danger is that we do not see Him.

Just as he was in the Gospel, Jesus is challenging us again today. He is challenging us to look at the world in with new eyes. Actually He is challenging us to look at the world through His eyes.

When we do, we will see the opportunities to serve those who need to experience the love of God the most. When we look through the world in Jesus eyes, we will see Jesus looking back at us.

Have you seen Jesus my Lord? He’s here in plain view. Take a look, open your eyes.