MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on the disposition necessary to make to heaven. Whose good works count? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for Christ the King Sunday. Please read Matthew 25:31-46. For Audio, “read more” below. #GreatChristianPreaching #Sermons #SecondComingPrep
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For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 11/23/2014 Christ the King Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read Ezekiel 34:11-16 and Matthew 25:31-46.
“The Bible scares me to death!” said a co-worker who was not a Christian. He said that all the talk of kings, shepherds, sheep, and all the murdering, etc., it all scared him to death. If human kingship were the model then I think we would be in trouble and he would have a case. Take, for instance, the case of Marie Antoinette who is charged with saying “let them eat cake,” when told the store houses were out of bread for the people.
One of the things that the 2006 movie Marie Antoinette showed was that there is usually a big disconnect between those who are privileged and the masses. I have posted the trailer for the movie because I think that it shows best that while the people were starving and paying taxes, the young Queen, unaware of that in which she was participating, was lost in her own world of delightful excess.
All we in Chicago have to do is drive down lower Wacker Drive to investigate the difference between the haves and the have-nots. It is sobering to make that drive and realize that I am the one in the warm and toasty automobile as I look at the cold homeless. How different are we than Marie Antoinette? How different are we in our purchases of goods, giving of our time, than Marie and her candy: material, human and edible.
The Kingship of God, who made you and me, could not possibly be like all of the injustice that class, economies that favor the rich, power structures that favor the powerful, create. In light of Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate example of sacrificial and servant leadership; the one who was born our birth, walked our walk, lived our life, died our death, a despicable death, an unjust death, an innocent death, a death at the hands of the monied, a death at the hands of the powerful, a death into which we are going to be plunged in the Gospel of Matthew after this passage, there has got to be justice somewhere at some time. The whole spectacle of the death of Jesus Christ, I would hope, would mean that the Kingship of God would be different than the kingship of humans.
In fact, the passage we hear from Ezekiel for Christ the King Sunday shows that God is not satisfied with human kingship. God is not satisfied with kings and queens who isolate themselves in their luxuries and privileges only to let others stand outside the gate having to demand their bread. St. Augustine said that “sin is the turning in upon the self” and the kind of Queenship of Marie Antoinette is St. Augustine’s quote writ large.
There is a danger in this passage that needs to be pointed out for those of us who would want to do good deeds to protect ourselves from the final judgment. The whole scenario is not about making our lists and checking them twice, making sure we are not naughty, but nice. The point is not about counting our deeds, but having such a relationship with God, character within ourselves and a kindness that is pervasive that makes us unaware that we are being nice at all.
There are three things that mark this passage from St. Matthew.
First, the basis of the final judgment is the response to human need. Jesus stands and says, “you fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and those in prison.” Secondly, both the people who tended to human need and those who did not were surprised by the judgment they received. Third, service to others is service to Christ. When we take care of those who are on the outside looking in, we are anointing the feet of the Savior of the World and wiping them with our tears and our hair.
Today I want us to notice the surprise. There is no one who is more deceived by our lies than ourselves. We seem the most easily convinced when we have to say a little something here to get noticed, reframe a story to be proclaimed innocent. In fact, think of some of the most unjust things that have happened in your life: the perpetrator is usually oblivious about guilt, except for the guilt they ascribe to their victim.
One time the most sweet, kind woman of the church called her pastor to apologize for what she felt she had done to slight him. The context was the organizing of Thanksgiving baskets for which no one else in the small congregation would step forward. It was a small church that did nothing for the community and wondered why it was that no one wanted to come to their church. The woman had stepped in front of the pastor on the way out of the fellowship hall after he and she had finally cleaned up the final mess. Here was this woman, so concerned about the welfare and kindness expressed to others, who was oblivious to the amount of goodness she was giving to those who had so little. Here is the attitude of “otherliness”.
Contrast this to the now famous story I tell over and over again about the strip club owner who yelled at us as we protested his latest outpost by saying, “Why are you all bothering me? I give away 100 Turkeys every Thanksgiving to feed the homeless.” The strip club owner has an attitude of self-justification. I can do bad things because I did one good thing. “When did I not feed the hungry? When did I exploit other human beings for my own material gain?”
At first glance, we could say that we are going to be judged by our good deeds. It is what each commentary I read for this reflection pointed out. I am going to go out on a limb here and disagree. I do not believe that the final judgment is about a counting of the deeds we do. I believe that we will be judged on the quality of the person we are. Are we the kind of person who thinks of others in our family? Do we think of others in our community? Do we think of others in our nation? Do we think of others in the world?
Central to this is the disposition of recognition that all belongs to God and we as his children are responsible for the welfare of other human beings no matter where they live. We are responsible for the welfare of other human beings no matter if they deserve to be in jail or not. We are responsible for the welfare of other human beings no matter what color of skin they have. We are responsible for the welfare of other human beings even if we don’t like them. This is central to “love your enemies.”
The sheep on the left are different in that their disposition is a failure of recognition. They fail to recognize that God owns everything. They fail to recognize that other human beings are God’s children, too. They fail to recognize our obligation for the welfare of others. It is a disposition of selfishness. It is a disposition that places other human beings against us fighting over resources that we deem scarce.
The surest way to fight against a disposition of selfishness is to recognize that there is a God and we are not him. In fact, we recognize that we are accountable to him to be just, kind, loving, caring, compassionate, and self-sacrificing. We, who claim the name “Christ-ians”, also claim the desire to sacrifice ourselves in even the most unjust of circumstances, knowing there will be a judgment. We do believe that there will be a judgment. We say it in the Creed every Sunday.
We believe that there will be justice. For those who are focused on the welfare of others, this, too can be a mixed thought. We could be satisfied that those who did us wrong got what they deserved. On the other hand, if we are the quality of person we want to be, then we would probably want the people who hurt us to repent and be saved that judgment.
So, in the end the question remains, what kind of person are we? What or who is the center of our lives? What kind of witness can we bear to the rest of humanity so that they would not be afraid of the kingship of our Lord? Amen? Amen.
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