Gotta serve someone…

Christ the King a – Sunday 20th November 2011
Matthew 25: 31-46

Tower HeistSometimes 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…

Happy days

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About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Lectionary and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Gotta serve someone…

  1. Charis Varnadore says:

    WE separate ourselves; We indict ourselves with our own JUDGEMENT. The Kingdom of God IS one we enter into when we care for the least of these, but in our FEAR and Complacency we refuse not only to enter, but also refuse to get up and answer the continuous knocking at our door. And the Church, far from being judgmental, pompous, and pious, re-enforces and encourages our FEAR and Complacency. We have a great deal to answer for with our two-car garages that house our expensive SUVs and the junk we store there that we probably did not need in the first place. A trip to the Philippines a decade ago, when I lived in a poor neighborhood instead of a tourist hotel changed my perception and my life. When I returned to the states, I vowed that I would do everything I could to continue the work with the poor that I did there. Within a year, I was confronted with my vow when a homeless alcoholic I had met in the ER called me and wanted to stay with me until he got straight. To my surprise, when I went to pick him up, he had his buddy with him and wanted to bring him as well. The time, and it was nearly six months, that these men spent with me helped and blessed me far more than I helped them. This Kingdom of God is “at hand.” and it is present with these, the least of these. Again, we make our own judgement, our own choice as to whether we shall live within this kingdom, or go our own fearful and complacent way. Peace

  2. Charis Varnadore says:

    Thank you for the unwarranted compliment, unwarranted because my academic background is in English literature. However, I have been driven to God since I was a child. All I know is from my years attempting, somewhat undisciplined, ten years to live as a hermit-monk – sans order. By the way, I did not know that you were English until today. I am an Anglophile from way back; in fact, Morse, Inspector Frost, Cracker, Rumpole, et al are my constant companions. We do not produce TV programs like that in America. Again, thanks for the compliment, and I do enjoy our weekly dialog.

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