Remember all those weeks ago, when the Season of Pentecost began, when I said, this is the season where we learn to be disciples? Well, here we are on the last day of the season, and boy, what a harsh sounding gospel we have. The advent themes of waiting and expectation are there as well, but I want to deal with discipleship today.
If you do not know what is expected of us as Christians, here is : 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, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’… Jesus continues: 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.’ There it is friends. This is the commandment to love God and love our neighbor spelled out, just in case we still had questions. Jesus is pretty serious here, so much so, that in Matthew’s gospel, those who do not do these things are cast out.
I think we sometimes get so caught up in the promises of the after life and Jesus’ second coming that we (I), sometimes forget that Jesus is still here, in this place, surrounding us everywhere we go. It’s easy to see Jesus in the beauty of the world; but like the disciples that fled the scene when he was crucified, it is harder to see him in those places where there doesn’t seem to be any beauty. Places like sick beds,prisons, soup kitchens, the streets, with the lonely… Places where people are in pain and are suffering. There is no beauty there; it is hard to find Jesus in those places…
In our calendar of Feast Days, today is the Feast of Christ the King which is always celebrated on the last Sunday before we begin Advent. It is the day where we celebrate the resurrected Christ who has defeated death and darkness once for all… and even though that is true, and it is where our hopes lie, it is only part of the ending of the story. When we talk about God’s kingdom it is not just some far off reward for good behavior. The kingdom of God on earth began with the birth of Jesus and continues to be built and to bear fruit here and now in this place. While grace is certainly free and unable to be earned, there is still work to be done in the kingdom that we do because of the gift of love and grace in Jesus. Knowing that Jesus died for us should make us want to share that love and that grace with others. How do we do that? By our actions towards others, especially those that society has forgotten or who have been locked away either physically or metaphorically.
Jesus’ kingship looks nothing like human kings; there is no jewel encrusted throne, no golden crown. The throne of this king is a wooden cross and a crown of thorns; it is a kingship filled with brokenness. That is something for us to carry in our hearts; our brokenness and that of this world are the pathways into the kingdom of God. It is in our own brokenness that we can give our ourselves to others, much like Jesus has done and continues to do through us. We break open bread here at the altar to symbolize that is it in the breaking of the bread that our earthly hope lies; we cannot share in the bread which is his body without breaking it. It is the same with us; we cannot share of ourselves without being broken open by the love of Jesus. And where is it that we are to become broken and share of ourselves? In those places where we know Christ the King can be found; with the lonely, the imprisoned, the hungry, the outcast… If we want to begin to understand Jesus on the cross, we have to take the risk of following him to it; to those places where we cannot find beauty, where hope is lacking, where Jesus’ family is living on the margins.
Jesus said, ‘Come, you that 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then 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? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And 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.’