Matthew 25:31–46

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

  • There are two types of students
    1. There are those students who jump for joy when they hear The Rev. Suzanne Trump, Associate Pastor of Formation and Compassionthe words “take home final”
    2. And there are those students who are not thrilled with joy but filled with dread when they hear the words “take home final.”
  • I will admit that throughout my academic career I tended to reside in the latter group
  1. At first blush is seems a no-brainer.
  2. Who wouldn’t prefer a take home exam?
  3. There is no time crunch
  • There is unlimited access to resources for checking facts and figures
  • There is the ability to modify, or even completely change responses after thinking about them for a while
  1. But students, like me, who dread the take home final know there is a down side to all those benefits
  2. With all that extra time and unlimited information and fluid flexibility
  3. There come greater expectations
  • With a take home final there is never a firm answer to how much more the instructor expects
  • Instead of a quick couple of paragraphs, obviously a longer, more extensive, more exhaustive presentation is rightly required
  • With access to unlimited resources who is to say how many examples are “enough” to prove your point?
  1. An exam given in a closed class room for an hour or two puts all students at the same advantages and disadvantages
  • It’s a level playing field
  • A “take home final” by definition will be “taken” at a different “home” by each student
  • A “take home final” forces students to take their exam in their individual real worlds- whatever those worlds might be like
  • Why is it that we are always warned “don’t take your work home with you”?
  1. That caution is not about teachers correcting papers on the living room couch or real estate agents updating their listings online while watching Sunday night football
  • “Don’t take your work home with you” is our attempt to draw a line between who we are in one part of life versus who we are in another part of our lives
  • Don’t take you work home with you tries to disconnect what we do from 9 to 5 from who we are from 5-9
  1. For Jesus’ disciples that is impossible
    1. In today’s gospel text Jesus makes it clear that Christian life comes with a “take home final.”
    2. There can be no dividing wall between what we do for a living and whom we live to serve
  • There is not distinction between our Monday to Friday work and our “Sunday selves”
  1. That is because in today’s text Jesus reveals that he is “at home” with us wherever we go and whomever we encounter
  2. Jesus declares that divine judgment will be based upon how we respond to the Lord, the King, the Son of Man, when he is in our midst
  3. Ironically on this “Reign of Christ” Sunday, the lectionary texts are chosen to demonstrate the lordship of Christ
  • The first lines in today’s gospel reading DO describe the Son of Man coming in “his glory’ and sitting on his “throne of glory.”
  • From that lofty perch Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God, is empowered to judge all the nations of the world
  1. But it is within this glorious moment that Jesus dethrones himself
  2. It is not how obediently we stand in awe and worship of Christ the King that will determine our accountability before the throne
  3. Instead Christ chooses this very moment when his power and majesty are fully revealed to redefine his presence
  • Christ is not some all-powerful despot
  • Christ is the one person we encounter in our life who is hungry
  • Who is thirsty
  1. Who is alone
  • Who is alien
  • Who is naked
  • Who is sick
  • Who is imprisoned
  1. Christ is found in all those who are walking embodiments of human frailty and even human failure
  • In other words, Christ is found in each and every one of us
  • It is said that you can measure a society by how well the society reaches out to the most vulnerable members
    1. Vulnerable people can be young children or frail elderly
    2. Unemployed or homeless
  • Those living in poverty and fear
  1. This is what the “least of these” means
  2. You and I are called not to ignore and overlook but to look into a human face and to see there the face of Jesus Christ
  3. Jesus’ statement that what you do to the least of these, you do to me
  • Leaves us with three profound ideas of God
    1. First is a statement about God
      1. God is here, now, in this very building
      2. in our very community
      3. in the faces of those in need around us
    2. Second is a radical statement about the practice of religion
      1. The only description about the last judgment is in Matthew
      2. This is not a passage about theology or creeds
      3. There is only one criterion here and that is: whether or not you saw Jesus Christ in the face of the needy and whether or not you gave yourself away in love in his name
    3. the third important component is personal
      1. God not only wants a world modeled on the values of Jesus
      2. God wants us, each and every one of us
      3. God wants to save our souls and redeem us and give us the gift of life- true, deep, authentic human life
      4. God wants to save us by touching our hearts with love
      5. God wants to save us by persuading us to forget about ourselves and worry about others
      6. That is God’s favorite project- to teach you and me the fundamental lesson, the secret, the truth- that to love is to live.
      7. To love is to live
  • I believe that so many of the issues with the institutional church is that we forgotten the call to discipleship
  1. The call to truly see that we are to care for one another, to care for the vulnerable
  2. For so long we have been more concerned about what people wear to church
  3. We have been more concerned about paying the bills to keep the building open and going
  • We have set the bar so low for church membership
  • Show up once in awhile, give a few bucks once in a while and you are a full member of the church
  • But none of that speaks to what Christ is teaching us today
  1. We have set the bar so low that there essentially is no bar
  • And no one has anything to shot for, no goal
  • Christ sets the bar high
  • And God calls us to pay attention to those in need
  • No I would say it is more that a call, it is a demand, God demands of us to care for those in need
  1. Not just at the holidays
  • Not just when it is convenient for us
  • I am not saying it is easy, it is hard
  • So here is the “take home exam” of our commitment to the demands of discipleship
  • Like all take home finals, there is no time limit
  • We have all of our life resources to draw upon
  • We can edit and re-do our responses throughout our lifetimes
  • We are to “take home” this final wherever our “home” might be
  • Whatever circumstances we may be living in
  • But we are always to take this mission, this message, of Christ’s presence in “the least ones” home with us
  • In the course of our lives, as we progress through our “take home final” we will see Christ more and more clearly in the lives of those we encounter everywhere, everyday, every way
  • Christ is King because his presence infiltrates every part of our lives
  • Christ is no King if his reign is only for a few hours on Sunday morning
  • Jesus’ reign is not observing formalities
  • Jesus’ reign is about taking things personally
  • It is after all our, yours and mine, our “take home final”
  • Ready, set, go!
  • Amen