Sunday, November 26, 2017

Enough Light to See

I wanted to share my sermon today at St. James, Higganum.

Matthew 25.31-46

Just an aside. This Sunday, the Sunday before Advent, has been called "The Feast of Christ the King". The Episcopal church, thinking people in America might not take to the idea of a 'king' started calling it "The Feast of the Reign of Christ" a few years ago. Yet today, on the insert, it merely says: "The Last Sunday in Pentecost" and is in Green when, as you can see, Christ the King Sunday is White in the colors on the altar and in my stole.

I'm usually in favor of all 'political correctness", I really am. But you and I are celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. OK?

I had a New Testament professor at Virginia Seminary named Dick Reid. One day he was lecturing about the limitless of God's forgiveness. God's forgiveness, he told us, was beyond what we imagine or even CAN imagine.

A student raised his hand. He was, let me admit, more conservative theologically than I was--but then so were most of the students at Virginia Seminary...

"Dean Reid," he asked (Dick was also assistant Dean of the Seminary), "what do you believe about the Last Judgement?"

Dick thought for a moment and responded, "I am a hopeful Universalist...."

That's me too. A 'hopeful Universalist'. There's no scripture to back me up, but I, like Dean Reid, believe God's capacity  to forgive is beyond all boundaries.

Today's gospel isn't supportive of 'hopeful Universalists'. Christ the King comes back and divides the sheep from the goats, the blessed from the damned, the saved from the lost.

And the division between the two groups is over whether or not when they saw him hungry they fed him, or thirsty and gave him drink, a stranger who was welcomed, naked and clothed, sick or in prison and visited.

What's interesting is that both the sheep and the goats ask the same question when they are judged worthy or unworthy: "When did we see You like that and did those things?" the sheep ask. The goats ask, "When did we see you like that and didn't do those things?"

And the answer, beloved, is that Christ was present in the 'least of these' both groups encountered. The Blessed Ones served the 'least of these' and the Damned did not.

That simple.

I think this may be the most important part of not only being a Christian but of being a good human being--we must serve and minister to 'the least of these'. That may be the key to the whole thing.

I've tried really hard to not be political during the past year--I don't know if you agree that I've mostly been successful, but know I've really tried. And it's hard for me not to be political.

But I just want to ask now how we as a nation are standing up to Jesus' message that in serving 'the least of these' we are serving him?

The changes made in health care policy have hurt many and may hurt many more on Medicare and Medicaid in the future..

"I was sick and you took care of me," Jesus said to the blessed.

I heard on the radio coming to church that the Federal subsidies for the insurance coverage for poor children will stop in January. In Virginia alone that will affect 66,000 children since the states cannot do it without the Federal help.

Poor children. Talk about the Least of These....

The proposed tax cuts will help corporations and the rich but do little to nothing for the poor. Food stamps are in big trouble. "I was hungry and you fed me" is in trouble as well.

Government policy is aimed at putting even more people in jail than are already there by tightening drug laws. And nobody is visiting....

And 'welcoming the Stranger"--the Stranger is the enemy, the stranger is feared, the stranger must be kept out of our boarders.

Given Jesus' requirements, our nation isn't doing too well right now for 'the least of these'. Judgement may be harsh.

Jesus IS 'the least of these'. That's what we must always remember.

I'll end with a story I've told before but it's one of my favorite stories and we can all hear it again and again....

A very wise rabbi teaches his students all through the night by a river. As dawn is coming, the rabbi asks one more question: "How much is enough light to see?"

One student says, "there is enough light to see when we can tell the lambs from the baby goats on the other side of the river."

The rabbi thinks for a while and replies, "no, that is not enough light to see."

Another student, after a pause, says, "there is enough light to see when we can tell the myrtle trees from the fig trees on the other side of the river."

The rabbi says, quicker this time, "no, that is not enough light to see."

The students grow silent and wait. Dawn comes closer. Finally the rabbi says, "there is enough light to see when you can look into the face of any human being and see the Face of God. That is enough light to see...."

Pray for enough light to see the Face of God in the faces of the "least of these" in our midst.

Pray that we might serve them as if they were Jesus.

Pray for enough light to see.

Pray for light to see.

Pray for light.

Pray to see....


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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.