Christ the King a – Sunday 20th November 2011
Matthew 25: 31-46
Sometimes weekends are not enough. There comes a point when you have to take a break midweek and relax and chill out. Last week was just one such week. To relieve the stress of a long week (and it was only Wednesday!) my wife and I went to see Tower Heist at the cinema. It was a no-brainer. You just had to sit there and laugh. And very funny it was too. Of course, if you ever want to do a Bible Study on a film, you could certainly use Tower Heist with its rich themes of right and wrong, injustice, friendship and sacrifice. But we went just for a laugh!
And it starred two of my favourite actors, Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. And they weren’t just my favourite actors too.
Just seated behind us were four young ladies who appeared to be Eddie Murphy’s No.1 fans. Every time he spoke they burst out in loud laughter. In fact, he didn’t have to say anything, he just had to appear on screen and they would be rolling in the aisles. I did want to turn round and ask them what it was they were laughing at, but I’m not sure they knew.
You know, it’s a little like when you ask a small child, ‘Do you know what you’ve done?’ Right or wrong they usually shake their heads.
And that’s exactly where the sheep and goats found themselves.
Hungry and we fed you, thirsty and we gave you a drink? When? Where?
Homeless and we gave you no bed, shivering and we gave you no clothes, sick and in prison, and we never visited? I don’t believe it! We would never have done that to you, Lord.
I’ve never liked this passage. Not because I find myself a goat more than a sheep. Not because of the sheer divisiveness of the parable. But because it makes the church sound so pompous and so pious. Because it makes Christianity look like it’s all about judgement. And a religion primarily concerned with judgement makes a whole heap of problems with guilt and fear for its believers.
I don’t want to serve God because I want to get into the Kingdom. I don’t want to serve God because the alternative destination looks none too pleasant.
I want to serve God because he has loved me with an everlasting and overwhelming love. A love that hauls me up from the pit of despair. A love that comforts and consoles me when life gets too much. A love that excites and electrifies me because it’s a free gift for all.
I don’t want to hear people pointing at the sheep and goats and saying, “You’re either with him, or you aren’t.” That’s not faith. That’s manipulation, that’s bullying.
Don’t forget that for every person who serves, there’s another person who is served. And those people that we serve – the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the sick, the prisoner – they often find it difficult to make the choice to serve or be served.
For me, what this parable speaks of is Kingdom life. We need to live and love as our first nature. We need to put our selfish desires to one side, to stop being so preoccupied with our quest for material gain. And forget about do’s and don’ts. If we continue to get hung up about all the things we’ve omitted to do then our faith will be a pale imitation of what it’s supposed to be. Real love shines through. Look at the following chapters of Matthew, of Jesus’ journey to the cross, with all its pain, suffering, hatred and sorrow, and see how the love of God shines so brightly.
So stop thinking about yourself and treating yourself to trips to the cinema, and start genuinely serving people … oh, wait a minute…