Text: Matthew 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
I never worry about what I will do if I win a battle, but I always know exactly what I will do if I lose one.
Napoleon, quoted in Bits & Pieces, August, 1989.
Winners and losers … we all know how it feels to be on both sides of the spectrum. Recently I was reading a story online about Tyler White, the first basemen of the Houston Astros, who after winning the World Series had much to celebrate. High school teacher James Yasko – a huge Astos fan – had much to celebrate too. His team had just won the World Series. His students however … were rooting for the Texas Rangers and had little to celebrate with Houston’s win. To give his students something to hope for, James offered to throw a Pizza Party for his students if the Astros won the series and in a turn of events Tyler White heard about it and offered to pay for the party - not only for the class in question but for all of James’ students in his other classes as well. The students who were losers … were now winners - in a real and personal way. But there was an interesting thing that I noticed that Tyler White said as I read the article, something that I guess I knew but really didn’t and don’t really think about.
Every team in baseball and I guess ever other sport as well ends their season with a loss and only one team ends their season and goes into the off season with a win.
They all begin hopeful and all but one end as losers.
In our text for today we have Jesus – Christ the King – coming in his glory to fulfill all that God has promised. He is accompanied by Angels and is seated on his glorious throne. The picture on the bulletin cover is joyful, wonderful, and filled with majesty.
Contrast this with the first coming of the Lord. In humility this baby Jesus comes, born in a manger and obedient unto death – he would live his life to accomplish this death – his death - for you, on a cross, for the sins of the whole world.
The reality of death is real. We see it and face it on TV, in the press, and in our lives. People die, dear friends die, strangers die, and our pets die. Death has an end and in this life we see them no more. Other things as well seem like death as well … divorce, job loss, moving, changing churches.
But in our reading for today death has a new beginning and a very different end.
33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
The sheep, those who have faith and our blessed of the Father, will inherit the kingdom. They didn’t earn it or deserve it but none the less they inherit it. It is theirs, it is a reality, and whether dead and in the grave or alive and in the world upon Christ’s return they, and we among them, will hear those wonderful words - inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. They will live for eternity with Christ the king! They won! They have finished the race! The prize is theirs!
In 2006 the Tigers made it to the World Series. It was wonderful to get there and it seemed like destiny was on their side. New coach and young players like Justin Verlander got them there along with the veterans like Kenny Rodgers who pitched with a rejuvenated purpose. But the reality ended in loss and if you’re like me, sadness and disappointment. A decade later I still think … what a missed opportunity.
I’m glad Verlander won the series this year … but … it was with Houston and it doesn’t do anything for me.
Loss is real. Take those on the left when Christ returns.
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Real loss is theirs. They will live for eternity without Christ the king! They’ve lost everything! The race is over and they will live forever in torment with no hope and the knowledge that they blew it! They won’t be traded and find success on another team. They are done.
It is interesting that the two groups, the sheep and goats – the winners and the losers - are both under the Lordship of the King who comes to judge and also they hear both similar but opposite statements.
Jesus tells the sheep:
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
Contrasted with what he tells the goats:
42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.
The gift of faith brings forth fruit. Motivated by God’s gifts to each one of us we move. For some it’s service and for others it’s giving. For some it’s praying and for others it’s doing. At time we have need and receive, and at other times we meet the needs of those less fortunate. What has God placed on your heart? Where does God desire you to serve and in what way? How can you meet the needs of those who have need? And how can we as God’s church here at Peace be focused outward in love and compassion?
Remember as the Lord says, when we do it or don’t do it to the least of these it is as we are doing it or not doing it unto the Lord.
Death is not a reality in the judgment. It is swallowed up in Christ’s victory. What remains is an eternity of joy or sorrow. One of life forever with Christ or separated from him for all eternity and a real knowledge that it will never end.
As the rich man called out in Luke 16:24
24 … ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
Our reality as sheep, blessed of the father, is gifted by faith in Jesus Christ his only begotten son but also with the knowledge the opportunity to be used to light the way in a dark world.
Both the sheep and the goats reply, “When did we see you and do this for you or not do this for you?” And you and I might ask the same question.
To this the Lord replies that when you did it, or did not do it, to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
The Spirit moves us to love and by faith we serve. Feeding, helping, welcoming, clothing or visiting in God’s way as we serve others we serve the Lord.
May the Lord of life bess you now and always as you serve where and when he calls.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in and through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior now and forever. Amen