Sunday is the end of the church year. It is Christ the King Sunday, that Sunday of the year when we remember that the little baby we welcomed last December, the man whom we saw crucified and resurrected in April, is indeed the Lord of All Creation. Our gospel for Sunday will conclude a church year where the primary texts for our discussions have been from Matthew. Familiarly, it is known as the parable of the sheep and the goats.
This piece of Scripture (Matthew 25:31-46) is the Gospel I’ve selected for my funeral. In it is the question I ask myself every day: Am I a sheep or a goat? Sheep are obedient followers. Goats are more wily and will go anywhere to get what they want. Sheer cliffs? No problem. Can’t be done? No problem; I’ll do it.
Jesus gives a measuring stick to gauge the journey. He’s already told us that measure: “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and soul and mind. And love your neighbors as yourself. (Matthew 22: 37-39)” Today, we hear it presented in another way.
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
Sometimes I hit to mark. More often, I miss it completely. I am reminded of James’ admonition: “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only. (James 1:22)” When the love of God rules in my heart, soul, and mind, I have the capacity to love my neighbors by feeding them physically and spiritually. I have the capacity to make room for them in my life to meet other physical and spiritual needs.
Like Paul in Romans 7:19, “The good I would do, I do not. The evil I do not want to do, I keep doing.” Those are the very sins for which Jesus died to atone. So, I keep the measuring stick before me. I may judge myself unworthy. You may judge me unworthy. But in the end, only God through the love of Jesus Christ will judge me to be a sheep or a goat. While my deeds show forth the faith I have, it is only that faith upon which I can cling to be deemed a sheep, a member of God’s flock.
Baa, said the sheep and the goat. God knows.
Richard in the office
P.S. Thank you, Pastor Katie, for allowing me to write this week.