On from Young, 2011

The Lamb at the stockyards

Tanakh: Ezekiel 34 Read the whole Chapter
Gospel: 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 the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for 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, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then 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? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then 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.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

Midrash:

A great silence settled over the stockyards. Many among the sheep had expected to go to the other place. They had, after all, not lived well. But some small mercy on their part had them standing here kingdom bound. A few shifted uneasily. Some of that charity had only been to shut up and get rid of beggars on the street.

In the other yard, people who had worked long and hard, and sacrificed much for God gazed dully at the ground. It was so obvious now− how could they have not seen that doing the right thing while leaving someone unloved was an absolute contradiction of the kingdom?

A small lamb squeezed its way between the fence rails and limped into the middle of the goats. The king rumbled, "You! Lamb! What are you doing there?"

The lamb quavered before the roar of the king.

"You said you would draw all people to yourself." (John 12:32)

The Great King said nothing.

The lamb paled. "Blessed Paul said, 'One man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.'" (Romans 5:18)

Still the King was silent.

"He said, 'For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.' (Romans 11:32) And he said, 'all will be made alive in Christ.' (1 Corinthians 15:22) And he said− "

"Enough!" said the King. "What do you propose to do, little lamb?"

"I… I think I will stay with the goats, sir. They need someone to care for them."

And the King laughed a laugh of great joy. "Someone has understood! Someone has really loved! They have seen. The only judgement is love."

And the King was gone, and all that remained was a Lamb standing among the people, goats and all.

So how will Christ reign, if there is no judgement except the judgement of love? How can this be?

I don't know how things will end up on earth. Anyone who says they know is wrong. We can only guess. We can only pray that the old hope of Israel is correct, that things will one day be so filled with the love of God and the compassion of Christ that the wolf shall live with the lamb and the nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp... because they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11)

In the meantime− and when it all ends− here is what counts…

What will count has nothing to do with church-going.
What will count has nothing to do with how successful you have been.
What will count has nothing to do with being a good citizen.
What is really important has nothing to do with believing the right doctrine.
What is really important has nothing to do with being in the right race, or the right religion
or with saying the right religious words to be converted.

What will count is this:

 Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for 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,36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.  (Matthew 25:34-35)

Were you compassionate? Did you love your neighbour as yourself, regardless of whether they were
the same race,
the same religion
nice, socially acceptable, clean, good citizens
"deserving," and "responsible"
or likely to repent or sober up
or likely to spend your charity on more drugs?

Did you help them?

Did you help them,
did you have compassion,

or

did you walk around them, ignore them, pretend not to see them, cross the street…
or give them a lecture on right living, demand they come to church, tell them to come back when they were sober....?

The only question of the Judge is, "Did you have compassion? Did you love them?"
If you did, you had compassion on Jesus himself. If you did not, you rejected Christ.

Here is the scary verse:  “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.” You  rejected  Me.  None of us fully measure up. We are all dependent on the grace of God.

In the meantime and when it all ends−  

The reign of Christ is when we feed someone on Friday night at Cafe.
The reign of Christ is when we help the African lady who is struggling with Aussie currency at the check-out.
The reign of Christ is when we stop watching the cricket and, instead, listen to our grandkids... or our children.

The reign of Christ is when we have pity on the poor person in the street
when we visit someone in hospital, even though the place gives us the willies
when we listen to the same story from some lonely person on Friday night or Thursday afternoon, even though we've heard it 500 times before... because it's the only story they have to tell, and we are the only person who will listen.
It's when we bail out someone who's overspent their budget... again
when we are gentle with the grumpy
patient with the slow
tolerant of the difficult
and present to the dying.

Then we minister to the Christ
and the Christ is made present to the world
and rises among us
and the world may see, if it should choose,
that there is a love which is greater than anything.  Amen

Note: For a sermon on taking the best of the christian gospel out of Matthew, read The Sermon Draft: Getting God into a suitcase - Matthew 25:1-13

Andrew Prior
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!


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