Sermon from Sunday, November 26, 2023
Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46
Our lesson this morning comes from the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, starting in the 31st verse. Hear these words: When the son of man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate people from one another As a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, come you that are blessed of my father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty. And you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him: Lord. When was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it We saw you sick or in prison and visited you? And the king will answer them. Truly, I tell you, as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
Then he will say to those at his left hand, you that are a curse depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry. And you gave me no food. I was thirsty. You gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and imprisoned, and you did not visit me. And they will also answer, Lord. When was it we saw you hungry or thirsty, or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you. And then he will answer them. Truly, I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous into eternal life.
Friends, this is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
In the way the church reckons the Christian calendar and the Christian Year, this is the last Sunday of the Christian Year. The New Year in terms of the church calendar starts on December 3rd, the first Sunday of Advent. And we go through those four Sundays of Advent, and we have Christmas, and we all know about Christmas. We recognize the symbols of Christmas. We recognize the songs of Christmas. We recognize the crowds of Christmas. We know Christmas is coming and Christmas is all about baby Jesus. And we love going to Bethlehem and we love standing in front of the manger. We love cooing and oo-ing and aah-ing over baby Jesus. We are very comfortable with Jesus in the manger. There are two weeks called Christmas, and then we have six weeks of epiphany that celebrates the baptism of Jesus and his ministry. And then we hit the season of Lent. Lent’s one of those great seasons. Lent is 40 days as you observe it but it’s 46 days long. Only in church can we have math like that, because live you don’t count the Sundays. So, I’m telling you, if you give up chocolate for Lent, Sundays don’t count. Okay? Just go ahead and have your Hershey bar. We recognize the symbols of Lent. and we get to the Holy Week period We recognize the darkness that points us to crucifixion and the suffering that Jesus endured on the cross.
And we recognize at least somewhat that that suffering was on our behalf. It was for us, for our salvation, for the forgiveness of our sins. We know if we just hang on through this whole crucifixion thing, we’re going to get to resurrection. And we love the stories that he’s not here. He’s risen. He’s risen indeed. But recognizing Christ after the risen, after the rising resurrect action. Thank you very much. I’ll get it out is difficult. We’re told that Mary Magdalene met Jesus in the garden and didn’t know who he was. She thought he was the gardener. And there’s the great story in the Gospel of Luke of Jesus and the two disciples walking down the road back to Emaus, and they walk with Jesus five or six miles, and they don’t recognize him. While they were talking and discussing Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. He said to them, what are you talking about? And they said, are you the only one in Jerusalem that doesn’t know about Jesus and what happened, how he’s crucified and how there’s this strange story going around that he’s risen again?
Jesus kind of eggs them on and gets them to tell the story and it’s time for them to go in their house and they invite Jesus to come on in and stay because it’s almost the evening and the day is nearly over. So, he went in to stay with them, and when he was at the table with them, he took bread, he blasted, he broke it and gave it to them. That should remind you of something. He blessed it. He broke it and he gave it to them, and their eyes were opened, and they recognized, you know.
So, the church has weeks of Easter in which we talk about the post Resurrection Jesus, and we hit Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit comes and creates this powerful body of Christ that you and I call the church. And the church calendar runs the season of Pentecost for about 24 weeks, and this is the last Sunday of Pentecost, and it’s called Christ the King Sunday. It’s the Sunday, the church stops and recognizes that Jesus is king. the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord the glory of God, the Father. This is the Sunday where the Church recognizes we have a king. Paul described him thus. He’s the image of the invisible God. He’s the first born of all creation for in Him, all things in heaven and on earth were created. Things visible and invisible were the thrones or dominions or rulers of powers. All things have been created through him, and for him, He himself is before all things and in him all things hold together. He’s the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church here, acknowledges that he’s king, He’s sovereign. We are his subjects. And as king, as king, he is to be honored. He is to be obeyed. He’s to be listened to. The church has a problem with that.
We live in a culture where everyone has an opinion and everyone has a right to their opinion, right or wrong. And you’re not allowed to say anybody’s opinion is right or wrong. It’s their opinion. This is not opinion. This is Christ the King. And the passage we read from the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel is the illustration of the King judging his kingdom; of the King, judging the sheep and the goats of the king, separating the sheep from the goats. The Gospel of Matthew is bracketed by two great sermons. The first is the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew five through seven, Jesus goes up on the mountain, He gathers his disciples, and He teaches them. And the crowds are obviously listening In. the second big sermon is Matthew, chapter 24 and 25. Again, it’s on a mountain, the Mount of Olives, olives. OLIVET It’s called the Olivet Discourse, and it’s a prediction of the end of time and what it’s like when Jesus brings history to a conclusion. And what I want to say is you can’t understand the second sermon without the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says this: Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one that does the will of my father. on that day: What day? Matthew 25, When Jesus comes with His angels in His glory. And that day when Jesus comes back as the reigning King, on that day where Jesus comes back as judge on that day, many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not cast out demons in your name and do many deeds of power in your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you. go away from me, you evil doers. And Jesus continues: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house. But it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the floods came, the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell. And great was its fall.
So, Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount predicts the judgment that is described in Matthew 25. one sermon Then links to the other sermon. And in the early part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, in what we call the Beatitudes, said something that’s very important for us in understanding this text I just read, Jesus said, Blessed are the merciful, for they, for they shall receive mercy. Hang on to that. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. So, Jesus, I see nothing in anything. You said, Lord, about an altar call, about coming and doing the four spiritual laws, about about giving our heart to Christ, about being baptized, about doing all this church of Jesus. You don’t say anything about that in this passage. You just say that if you hear these words of mine and act on them, you’re like a wise man. And if you hear these words of mine and don’t act on them, you’re like a foolish man. What are you talking about, Jesus? And then it’s answered for us in Scripture, in other things that Jesus said. a lawyer one day comes to Jesus and says to him, Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life? We love that because we want to know what we need to do. Jesus, if you just give us a list about five things we need to do and four things we don’t need to do, we’ll do. Those five will avoid those four and we’ll be good. So, Jesus, tell us what we need to do to inherit eternal life. Thank God for the lawyer coming to ask Jesus the question, and Jesus answered Him. What’s written in the law? What do you read there? And the lawyer said, well, you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, all of your strength, and you shall love the neighbor as yourself. If you shall love your neighbor as yourself. And Jesus said to him, you’ve given the right answer. Now go and do this. Do this, and you will live. Jesus just answered the question. Love God completely. Love your neighbor as yourself. Now, the lawyer, Luke tells us, wanting to justify himself as Jesus. And who is my neighbor? You can say I love God with the entirety of my being. Nobody can test it; nobody can contradict it. It’s when you say I love my neighbor, that we get in trouble.
So, this lawyer wants a definition of neighbor. Jesus How how big does my love for another human being have to be? And Jesus tells a story we’re very familiar with. It’s the story of the good Samaritan. A man is going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. You always go down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He falls among thieves. They beat him, they strip him, they rob him, they throw him in a ditch, leave him half dead. Now, by chance, there was a priest. Now by chance there was a preacher. I’ll put myself in it. Going down that road. Going down again. From Jerusalem to Jericho. The priest has already done his duty. He is not late for church. He’s going home after church. He’s trying to beat the Baptist to the Picadilly. He is in a real hurry, and he sees the guy beaten and walks by on the other side. And deep down inside you always knew we preachers like that. And then a Levi comes by. That’s the Greek word for a layperson comes by. Haha, you’re in there too. Sees the guy in the ditch, walks by on the other side, but a Samaritan. And when the crowds listening to Jesus teach this heard the word Samaritan. They thought all that poor nice Jewish boy. He’s already been stripped and beaten and robbed and he’s thrown in the ditch. Now this Samaritan is going to finish him off, but the Samaritan while traveling came near him, and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. The Greek says he had splagchna, he had bowels of mercy. So, what it means in Greek, he had mercy in his gut for this man. He picked the man up and put him on his own animal, brought the man to an end, took care of him. In the next day, he took out to dinner, and he gave it to the innkeeper. He said, Take care of him. And when I come back, I will repay you for what you have spent. Which of these three, as Jesus was neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers.
And the lawyer said the one who showed him mercy. What de Jesus said, Blessed are the merciful. Why? For they will receive mercy. And Jesus says, Go and do likewise. Go and be merciful. without boring you, It’s a Greek errors participle. It’s a definitive action that starts at a point in time and continues on eternally. How long do I have to love? My neighbor starts back here and goes on eternally. How much do I have to love my neighbor? Infinitely. If you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, how do you love your neighbor with all of your heart, Soul, mind and strength? How can we do that? How in the world can we do that? Because what does that lead us to? That leads us back to Matthew 25. Who’s Jesus talking about? Our neighbor. How should we love our neighbor If they’re hungry, feed them. If thirsty, give them something to drink. If they’re sick go visit them, if they’re in prison, go see them. If they’re naked, give them clothing. That’s it. Jesus. That’s your picture of salvation. Where’s the altar call? Where are the weeping people? Where are the 212 verses of Just as I am without one plea? Where is it Jesus? It’s right here. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
The Samaritan saw the man in the ditch and felt compassion, mercy. He was a neighbor because he acted Mercifully, Matthew 25, does not tell us that we are to confront theological error and fix it. It does not tell us where to confront sin and seek repentance. It doesn’t tell us that we need to build big hospitals, or we need to lay hands on someone so they will be healed. It doesn’t tell us we need to start a fresh water program. It doesn’t it doesn’t tell us. We need to start a Ministry of Social justice. It doesn’t even tell us to do this. This protects your heart. Did you know that in church like this, Protect your heart. It’s a whole lot easier to open the wallet and give somebody some money and go away than it is to say to someone, Are you hungry? Let’s go someplace and share a meal together. Are you thirsty? I’ve got some Gatorade in my trunk. want some? Are you sick? Let me come sit with you. Are you in prison? I’ll come see you.
Trinity has such a great history of being so generous to people. We. We write big checks to a lot of people who are in lots of trouble and trauma. We do a lot of great things with our generosity. Keep doing it. But don’t let this keep you from touching a human being. Thursday night, we’re putting bicycles together. Some of you gave money to put bicycles to get Wednesday night. Why do I keep saying Thursday night? What is it about Thursday night? Used to be the night you would watch TV on NBC. That’s how old I am. Wednesday night. We’re putting bikes together from 5:00. 7:00. You don’t have to follow the instructions. Just come touch a bike. And the next time you see the people there at Walmart at the corner with their poster board begging for money, pull on into the Toyota dealership, park your car, get back out, walk and go see them, talk to them, see what they need. The next time you hear of your friend being sick, drive down the road. Go see them.
What’s Jesus telling us? That we need to be touching other people with the love of God in Christ? Jesus. That what matters is that we see in them Christ. That we see the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords in that beggar, that we see the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords in that person who cut you off in Wal-Mart right before you get the prime parking place. that we see the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords in the downtrodden and the outcast and the poor and the broken and the lonely, and that others see him and you and your compassion and your empathy and your acts of kindness and your act of dealing with the person One on one.
It’s so much easier just to write a check and be done with it. Jesus called us into ministry with our neighbor. So tonight, before you go to bed, as you’re praying your night prayers. Ask yourself this question: where have I recognize God today because he’s all around us, we see him and those with whom we have contact. Where have I recognized him? Where did I get it? Where did I see Him? and where has someone recognized God in me? and parents; That’s a great question to to ask your little ones before they they do their night prayers. Where have you seen God and where did somebody see God in you?
He made it so simple. Love the Lord your God with all you are. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. And how will we know if we love our neighbor? Are we showing mercy in the things we do and the words we say and the generosity we practice? Because in loving our neighbor, we’re loving our king. Would you stand and pray with me?
We thank you, O God for all the people in our lives, in our world. We thank you that they are our neighbor. Help us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and better help us to love our neighbors as we proclaim we love you. we pray in your name. Amen.