When we focus our hearts on Christ, we serve each other daily and bring forth the reign of Christ—and we do it together.
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
Reign of Christ, Lectionary 34 A
Texts: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25:31-46; Ephesians 1:15-23
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Have we done enough?
This is the question that many of us might ask after we read this parable from Matthew’s Gospel.
But what if this is the wrong question for us to ask today.
If this parable is meant to warn us of divisive judgment, shame and guilt us for what we did not do, or create an us vs. them mentality about who did enough and who didn’t do enough, I don’t want anything to do with it.
If we turn our focus towards debating what is enough in the eyes of Christ, we begin walking down a very unstable path filled with judgement, fear, and hypocrisy.
Asking the question, “have we done enough?” is not a question that comes from Christ. It is a question rooted in the oppressive “pull yourself up from your boot straps” language that we know too well.
When Christ gathers the nations together, Christ isn’t asking us to bring our laundry list of good works to prove that we have done enough. Christ is gathering us together to remind us where the Triune God will be found.
This year has been a hard year. There is no way around that. We are tired and weary. We have found ourselves dropping to our knees and asking, “God, are you with us or not?”
This is the question we ask God today and the question we have been asking God for months.
Today and every day, we celebrate the reign of Christ as we proclaim that the Triune God is leading us and working through us. That the reign of Christ is more powerful than any human institution that we have created. That everything that divides us becomes secondary to the fact that we are all God’s beloved children and redeemed by the one who lived and served among us. God, who in the form of Christ died on the cross and was resurrected into eternal life so that we may hope in a future of reconciliation. And hope that the reign of Christ will break into our midst so we can be the community that God calls us to be.
A community that keeps watch and stays awake for the reign of Christ. A community that uses the gift that we have been given through Christ to serve our neighbor.
There were times in this past year that we saw a deeper need and could only extend our hand so far. Times we wanted to gather as a community, to join our voices in song and protest. Times we questioned if bridging the divide and building a beloved community is even possible.
Out of our exhaustion, it can feel like we don’t know what our part is or what we should do next. We find ourself wondering with the first followers of Jesus:
Christ, when did we see you hungry? When did we see you thirsty? When did we see you see you as a stranger? Or naked? Or sick? Or in prison? And when did we provide for you?
To our surprise, we hear Christ saying to us, truly I tell you…
…just as you fed people in the parking lot and provided the essentials for a dignified life, you did it to me.
…just as you physically distanced and moved your worship into your homes to protect your neighbors, you did it to me.
…just as you provided financial assistance for rent and utilities and provided one man within one day all that he needed to transition into his home, you did it to me.
…just as you called to check in on a friend, brighten another person’s day with your kindness and compassion, you did it to me.
…just as you began the journey to become anti-racist and acted to learn how to remake a world in which all God’s beloved children can breathe safely and freely, you did it to me.
…just as you lamented and wept because of injustice and illness, oppression and suffering, you did it with me.
…just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. And you did it with me.
When we remember our Creator has entrusted us to care for the whole creation, everything we do is in service to Christ. When we root our bodies in the love of Jesus, everything we do is in service to Christ. When our hearts are filled with the fire of Spirit, everything we do is in service to Christ. And when we live into the truth that all God’s children are created in the image of the Triune God, everything we do is in service to Christ.
God is telling us that when our hearts break open from seeing the injustice and oppression that surrounds us, that is exactly where God will be. Because God has been with us and guiding us along our entire journey.
God, through the prophet Ezekiel, tells us that God will take the lead. God says:
I myself will search for you. I will seek you. I will rescue you, bring you together, feed you, and provide you rest.
I myself will be the shepherd. I will seek the lost, bring back the strayed, heal the injured and strengthen the weak.
I myself will gather you, I will find you again and again, and I will keep you.
The message in today’s parable of Christ showing up at the margins of society is not new for us. We know where to find Christ, we know that Christ is going to show up in unexpected places and at unexpected times.
Today marks the end of the church calendar, a bookmark of our year together while apart. Tomorrow, we enter into this new year, where we open up scriptures again and we hear the story of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We see it with new eyes and hear it with new hears because in the past year we have been transformed.
Transformed to value community in new ways, to live with great resiliency, to confront our world views, and to love without measure.
We have been transformed despite being apart. We are missing each other deeply and we need to encourage each other to keep looking for oil to keep our lamps burning.
We still need to be apart for now, but even in our separation we are together.
Together through our action, our words, and our prayers. Through the way we loved each other, the way we loved God, the way we served.
Together, side by side while still six feet apart, we bring forth Christ’s reign. And we get to do that again tomorrow, and again the next day, and the day after that.
Christ’s reign is happening around us all the time. It is happening when we vote and advocate, when we collect our resources and see that glimmer of abundance, when we offer our hand to work alongside our neighbor, when we house the unhoused, when our faith is embodied in our lives. We do it together. Again and again.
Before we grow weary again and turn back to the age-old question asking God, “are you with us or not,” we must not forget that our work now becomes to listen. Because in the next few weeks, we are going to hear about how Christ breaks into our world as an infant and promises to turn the world around.
There is always going to be work to do, but for today I echo Paul’s words to the Ephesians:
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.