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Matthew 25:31-46

Reign of Christ, November 22, 2020

St. Martin North Vancouver

 

“Who You Gonna Call?”

God of many names, we call out to you in our need and you answer.  Help us to hear your voice and see your face as you move among us to bring about the kingdom.  We ask this through Christ our King.  Amen.

The movie Ghostbusters has a simple plot:  a trio of fringe scientists start a business catching ghosts and end up saving the world from evil spirits.  They are unlikely experts.  This was a surprise comedy hit in 1984, and the theme song became part of popular culture. 

If there's something strange in your neighborhood
Who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters)

If there's something weird and it don't look too good
Who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters)

If you're seeing things running through your head
Who can you call? (Ghostbusters)

An invisible man sleeping in your bed, oh
Who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters)

-       I ain't afraid of no ghost

If you're all alone pick up the phone
and call Ghostbusters.

When things go wrong, who you gonna call?  If it’s a leaky pipe, probably a plumber.  If you are unwell, consulting a doctor is crucial.  If you are lonely, phone a friend.  We need those who can help out with their wisdom and expertise.  Today we’re also dealing with larger problems in our world and although there are many experts, it feels as though no government or organization has all the answers. We have to go higher up for assistance.  I have a coffee mug at home.  It has a photo on the side of the earth from space.  The caption reads, “If it’s not running right, why not speak to the original owner?”  

Our faith affirms that God is the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer of all that is.  But our minds and hearts struggle with why there is so much suffering in the world if God is really in charge.  Today is the feast of Christ the King, or the Reign of Christ.  In the face of all that is wrong, we say Jesus Christ is ruler.  Yet, why doesn’t this heavenly king use power and judgment to put things right now?  Why is it taking so long?  Maybe part of our difficulty is that God doesn’t seem to behave like an earthly ruler.  He doesn’t use legislation or force or fear to get His way.  Instead, His ask is for our love of each other.

In our holy scriptures, we use many titles to describe God.  One of them is King.  Some are uncomfortable with thinking of God as King because of human experience with hierarchies and positions of power.  But if you put that title together with other images- like Shepherd, Father, and Judge- we build up a picture of how God acts differently in creation than the rulers that humans have come up with.  It’s like a mosaic or a jigsaw puzzle.  All the little pieces carry a bit of information and colour.  Putting them together, we gain a better understanding of the larger picture and purpose.  Through them, we can begin to see God’s face.

One of the passages in the gospels that can be helpful is Matthew chapter 25.  Jesus tells a story about sheep and goats.  Most of us get all hung up on who is a sheep and who is a goat; who is going to heaven and who is going to be left out of the kingdom.  That’s natural, because we are struggling to understand how to act rightly.  What is even more important is why and who.   Why do we want to help, and who are we helping? In this parable, Jesus is pointing out that those who are motivated to compassionate love for others will enter the kingdom.  And they will see the King in the process.

Matthew 25 verses 31-46 contains three aspects of what makes Christ King.  Firstly, Jesus calls himself the Son of Man.  This literally means the human one.  Jesus is telling us that he identifies with all other human beings.  He lives and breathes, feels pain and loss, anger and love, just like you and me.  God as the heavenly king has come down among the “commoners” to share all that we experience and know our needs.  Secondly, by using the Son of Man as a title, Jesus is also calling upon Jewish imagery of the Glorious One from Hebrew Scripture.  This Son of Man is given authority by God the King to save and judge the nations at the end of the age.  What we do in the time we are given to live is important now and in the future.  Thirdly, Jesus takes on the role and the face of those he speaks of in the parable.  He is one of “the least of these who are members of my family”.  To serve the king, his servants must serve each other with the same joy and commitment they would show their ruler.  In each other, we glimpse Christ as our KIng.

It’s not easy sometimes to see that the kingdom is breaking in.  Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is that people go deep to discover the reality of God’s power and rule, even in the midst of our current struggles.  He writes, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19).  People of the kingdom are those who are helping now to receive Christ in each other.  They hear and respond to the voice of the Shepherd, and so find their way in.

In God’s flock, there is no room for hatred or exclusion.  Those who reject God’s love and forgiveness are the ones who find themselves outside the gates of the fold.  Turning away from those in need is a failure to hear the call of the King.  One of the pieces of the kingdom puzzle is that God is likely to use the vulnerable and the hurting and the outsider to teach us about the meaning of love. So it is good to pay attention to those unlikely messengers of the King who come into our lives.  Perhaps they arrive in response to our call for help, even if we can’t see how God could be working through them.  

In our prayers, we call upon the Lord to be saved.  What we usually mean is saved from the fears and troubles of life.  It would be amazing if instantly all our hurts would be healed, our sorrows gone, and our troubles over.  It takes faith to hold on to hope that God is active in the world.  It is happening.  The kingdom is coming in bit by bit through the people around us: in the love we extend to each other.  None of us is an expert at it.  But we can see the King come among us in disguise, in every little encounter of generosity and kindness.  And we can help bring Christ the King to others through compassion and attention.  When we call upon Christ, Christ comes in power and glory. God’s got this.  Just not the way we expect.  Who you gonna call?  Pick up the phone and make a connection.  Somehow, you too will find Christ on the other end of the line.  Amen.