Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Christ the King
"Of Sheep and Goats"
Matthew 25:34-40

November 23, 2014

Today's Gospel reading is interesting.  Why?  You can't scare people any more.  This is exactly what the Lord is intending for those who aren't concerned about judgment.  In today's society it's hard to threaten punishment because there is no follow through.  There is no respect.  Even the church waters down the Gospel. The lament that men don't identify with church is true especially when Jesus is portrayed as an effeminate, do-gooder who only seems interested in boosting self-esteem.  This is all so wrong.  Consider our Lord's warning to the unrepentant, unconcerned and un-frightened among us in the last part of the Gospel reading.

Read Matt. 25:31-33, 41-46. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  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.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

"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.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  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.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Here everyone is called to account. There are rewards and punishments.  The reward is heaven. The punishment is hell. The reward is eternity with life as it was intended to be in Eden.  The punishment is torment.  The trouble is, while most people believe in heaven, hardly anyone believes in hell. If there is a hell, they think it is the suffering we endure here on earth.  What they don't get is that pain and suffering are part of life.

When those who don't believe in hell are asked why they think they'll go to heaven, they will plead "goodness." They will protest they've tried to be good and do right.  Yet, they cannot be brought to understand that no one is as good as they want everyone to think they are. Besides, what is "good enough"?  If goodness is in the eye of the beholder then everyone has a shot at heaven. Here's the irony. Hell isn't just for the "bad" people. It will be filled with all kinds of "good" people who will be surprised that they have been judged as not good enough. Goodness without faith in Christ will land you on the left with the rest of the goats.

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.  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,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'  And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

The Lord invites the blessed to "come, take your inheritance."  He explains why this inheritance is ours. We will be surprised by our good works. The blessed ones will scratch their heads in wonder. None of those things were on their lists.  "We don't remember doing any of those things."  When did we do that?  It's time to tear up the "nice things" list. In the end the good works that the Lord remembers are the ones we've forgotten.

Why are the faithful surprised by the good works that are credited to them?  None of the things they were ready to take credit for mattered.  It seems to me that the good works we do that the Lord takes note of are ones we have never taken note of.  The key to understanding this is generosity and a giving heart.

In the same way we can ask why those on the left are surprised that they didn't do the "right" good works. They had their "nice things" list ready, too.  In the same way, none of the things they were ready to take credit for mattered either.  "But, but, but; if we would have known, we surely would have done them!" They won't understand why their nice lists, which may be as long or even longer that the lists of the blessed, don't count. None of this makes sense to human reason.

Two Scriptures come to mind.  The first is from the prophet Isaiah when the Lord God says, "for my thoughts are higher than your thoughts and my ways higher than yours."  The second is from Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, "for it is by grace that you have been saved by faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast, for we are His workman-ship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

How do good works flow so naturally from a living faith.  Perhaps the best word to describe this is "spontaneous."  The faithful sheep spontaneously served their Lord by serving those insignificant ones that belonged to Him. A faith that does not do so is dead or dying. St. Paul reminded the Philippians, "It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philip. 2:12-13). When we draw life from the grace of Christ through the Word and the Sacraments, He enlivens our faith and then works through us to help even the least of His brothers.

We have been, are and will continue to be surprised by grace.  God's grace, His unconditional, unmerited, unearned love, comes to us through faith.  We are surprised when we realize that the Lord God loves us not because but in spite of who we are.

We are surprised to realize that Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to die on the cross for our sins.

We are surprised that we are made God's children in something as simple as baptism.

We are surprised to hear that our sins are forgiven with something as simple as confession and absolution.

All through our lives, we are continually surprised by God's grace.

In the end, we will be surprised again. Our good works are not the things we've taken note of as "important" but in the things we have done as a spontaneous "reflex reaction" to faith. Our good works are nothing more that our response to God's grace through faith.  On the great and glorious day of the Lord, we're going to be surprised to find out what they really are.

In the meantime, we live as God's people, redeemed and forgiven. We go about daily simply living the vocations God has given us, continuing to do the things He has called us to do.  Yes, the great and dreadful day of the Judgment will come. As faithful people, we have nothing to be afraid of. We live as humble sinners surprised and continually being surprised by God's grace. Go in His peace.  Amen.


September
09/24/2017
09/17/2017
09/10/2017
09/03/2017
August
08/27/2017
08/20/2017
08/13/2017
08/06/2017
July
07/30/2017
07/23/2017
07/16/2017
07/09/2017
June
06/25/2017
06/18/2017
06/11/2017
06/04/2017
May
05/21/2017
05/14/2017
05/07/2017
April
04/23/2017
04/16/2017
04/09/2017
04/02/2017
March
03/26/2017
03/19/2017
03/12/2017
03/05/2017
February
02/26/2017
02/05/2017
January
01/29/2017
01/22/2017
01/15/2017
01/08/2017
01/01/2017

December
12/25/2016
12/18/2016
12/11/2016
12/04/2016
November
11/27/2016
11/20/2016
11/13/2016
11/06/2016
October
10/30/2016
10/23/2016
10/16/2016
10/09/2016
10/02/2016
September
09/25/2016
09/18/2016
09/11/2016
09/04/2016
August
08/28/2016
08/21/2016
July
07/31/2016
07/24/2016
07/17/2016
07/03/2016
June
06/26/2016
06/19/2016
06/05/2016
May
05/29/2016
05/22/2016
05/15/2016
05/08/2016
05/01/2016
April
04/17/2016
04/10/2016
04/03/2016
March
03/27/2016
03/20/2016
03/13/2016
03/06/2016
February
02/28/2016
02/21/2016
02/17/2016
02/14/2016
02/07/2016
January
01/31/2016
01/24/2016
01/03/2016
01/01/2016

December
12/27/2015
12/20/2015
12/13/2015
12/06/2015
November
11/22/2015
11/15/2015
11/08/2015
11/01/2015
October
10/25/2015
10/18/2015
10/11/2015
10/04/2015
September
09/27/2015
09/20/2015
09/13/2015
09/06/2015
August
08/30/2015
08/23/2015
08/16/2015
08/09/2015
08/02/2015
July
07/26/2015
07/19/2015
07/12/2015
07/05/2015
June
06/28/2015
06/21/2015
06/14/2015
06/07/2015
May
05/31/2015
05/24/2015
05/17/2015
05/10/2015
April
04/19/2015
04/12/2015
04/12/2015
04/05/2015
March
03/29/2015
03/22/2015
03/15/2015
03/08/2015
February
02/15/2015
02/15/2015
02/08/2015
02/01/2015
January
01/25/2015
01/25/2015
01/18/2015
01/11/2015
01/04/2015

December
12/28/2014
12/21/2014
12/14/2014
12/07/2014
November
11/23/2014
11/16/2014
11/09/2014
11/02/2014
October
10/12/2014
10/05/2014
September
09/28/2014
09/21/2014
09/14/2014
09/07/2014
August
08/31/2014
08/24/2014
08/17/2014
08/10/2014
08/03/2014
July
07/27/2014
07/20/2014
07/13/2014
07/06/2014
June
06/29/2014
06/22/2014
06/15/2014
06/08/2014
06/01/2014
May
05/11/2014
April
04/27/2014
04/20/2014
04/13/2014
04/06/2014
March
03/30/2014
03/23/2014
03/16/2014
03/02/2014
February
02/02/2014
January
01/26/2014
01/19/2014
01/12/2014
01/05/2014