Sermon: The King
This sermon was delivered at Cobleskill United Methodist Church on November 22, 2020
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 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, 36 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.’ 37 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? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 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,[a] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Good morning. Sadness about not being with you this morning.
I am a late arriving fan to Lin Manual Miranda’s Broadway hit “Hamilton,” but I am nonetheless hooked by the music and the storyline. In one song called “Yorktown” which marks the final battle of the Revolutionary War there is a refrain at the end of the song that goes, “til the world is turned upside down.” Alexander Hamilton and the rest of the revolutionary new Americans are singing about a world in which everything they have known about freedom and justice is turned upside down. A world they have dreamt about for a long time. A world they fought to turn upside-down because that’s what they knew they had to do. They need a world turned upside and released from the rule of the king.
Today is what we call Christ the King Sunday. And so we’re going to talk about kingship. “The king” is often a title of a powerful man. And not just the British king, King George, in the 18th century, but really any king, anywhere. It’s kind of the nature of the office. Power and authority, royalty and dominion are all part of what we typically think of makes a king a king.
Now I want to show you an image now. Without telling you much about it, I will lead us through a silent reflection with a few questions.
· How do you feel looking at the image?
· If you had to describe the image in a sentence or two silently to yourself, what would you say?
· If you were in the image, where would you place yourself?
· Do you get a glimpse of the sacred from this image? Is God speaking to you in this image?
· Does a name for God arise for you from this image? In silence, sit with what you have received.
· If you choose, share aloud a word or phrase to express your experience of the image.
What we’ve just done together is called visio divinia, a form of divine seeing in which we invite God to speak to us as we gaze at an image. This bronze sculpture is titled “Homeless Jesus” and was created by artist Timothy Schmalz, a Catholic man from Canada. It’s a representation of Jesus in which Jesus’ whole body is covered by a thin blanket and he’s huddled as if cold on a bench. The only way it’s recognizable as Jesus is because of the crucifixion wounds visible on his exposed feet. Schmalz, the artist who made this image of Jesus, describes it as a “visual representation of Matthew 25.” Matthew 25 is the scripture we read this morning.
You see, Matthew 25 is about a king but it’s also about a world turned upside down. It’s about a king who identifies and even correlates himself not with powerful dominion or pompous royalty but with the least of humanity: the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner. He is the king whose power comes not from dominating nations but from comforting the afflicted. He has replaced kingly pageantry with humble companionship. Instead of wielding authority over others, he steps into their shoes and embodies their pain.
We live in a world right now where we feel ourselves being both in need of Jesus’ companionship and also in need of Jesus’ reminder to be compassionate. We are filled with despair for what was hoped for and is not. Lament for what has been lost and the reality that so many, including ourselves, are living through a time of great anguish. Yet these are the realities Jesus speaks to; the realities Jesus knows we are dealing with; the realities Jesus invites us to see and understand in new ways... the realities Jesus enters into to offer comfort and peace where there is neither.
Jesus invites us to imagine a kingship turned upside down and by extension, a kingdom, a world, turned upside down. To recognize that our obedience and faithfulness to God will be measured not by our recitation of creeds or confessions of faith, but by how we treat the least among us; how we responded to the difficult realities in which we find ourselves and act in the hope of Christ. Being ruled by a King Jesus doesn’t mean our problems and the problems of the world go away. It means we have a king who bends down to our level and the level of those even lower, and becomes one of us.
Hear these words once more:
‘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’ (Matthew 25: 35-36).
Let us Pray
Adapted from Sibyl Dana Reynolds
Please guide us in our desire to live as Your faithful servant. May our eyes be Your eyes, to recognize the depths of human suffering and the ecstasies of divine beauty. May my ears be Your ears, to hear the hidden truths within the hearts of those who bring their stories to our door. May our hands be Your hands, so Your healing love may gently fall on each fevered brow we touch and each task that we perform. May our words be Your words. Inspire my tongue to utter Your guidance, and encourage me to rest in silence, when silence is needed. O Blessed One, keep our hearts forever open to fully feel life’s pain and delight. Help us to not turn away from those things that are difficult to witness, and strengthen us through Your presence within us. Make us brave and guide our every action. Bless our work to Your glory. Amen.