Monday, November 27, 2017

What is Important to the King

Matt 25:31-46
November 26, 2017
Christ the King

King Midas is a story about a King who loves gold,
He was already rich beyond anyone else, but he wishes
that everything he touched would turn to gold.
He gets his wish, but he finds that this is not a good thing.
Everything he touched did turn to gold: flowers, furniture,
he couldn't sleep because his bed was gold,
he couldn't eat because his food turned to gold.
Then he touched his daughter and she turned into solid gold.
He got what he wanted, but he was miserable.

Salvator Mundi
Leonardo Da Vinci
Shakespeare’s Richard the Third
is the story about a King
who as a prince stopped at nothing to get to be King.
He puts his relatives in jail,
has some killed, and tells lies about others.
He finally becomes King,
but he is so frightened and suspicious because of
everything he did that he eventually
kills one of his brothers and his wife.
His kingdom rebels against him and
and on the night before a great battle,
the ghosts of everyone who
he has killed come to visit Richard.
They tell him that he will die.
And the next day, Richard is killed in a battle against his own brother.

King David was the great King of Israel,
the chosen one, the anointed one.
He has everything he wants,
wealth luxury, many wives,
many concubines, even the power of God behind him,
but one day he sees one of his subjects,
Bathsheba bathing on a roof top.
Even though she is married and he has eight wives of his own,
he decides that he wants her.  
She concedes, because you don’t refuse the king,
and she becomes pregnant with his child.
So David sends her husband into a dangerous battle and he is killed.
God is not pleased with David for this, and David’s relationships
with his children are cursed for the rest of his life.

These are just three stories about Kings
There are many more stories about Kings who have many things,
but choose to use their power for their own ends
to fill their own wants and egos.
And that story rings true even today.

The stories of sexual assault in the news
are stories of powerful and wealthy men who have
most everything they want,
but use their positions to intimidate and coerce
younger and less powerful people.

And it seems like many of our current world’s leaders
seem to want absolute loyalty from everyone
and will use intimidation and violence
against their own people to get it.

And our own leaders in this country spend their
and power and collateral just trying to make
corporations bigger, and ensure that banks have more money,
and making themselves more comfortable
at the expense of the average American.

And our own president’s main objective seems to be
to use his considerable power and air time
to just to build himself up and defend his ego.

The story seems to go that those who have the most power
want more of it and the only thing that satisfies them
is more than what they had the day before.

Today is Christ the King Sunday,
where we remember that Christ is our king,
our ultimate leader, and the real leader of the world.
And in the parable we hear, we see what Christ
uses his considerable power for.

So, today we hear Jesus last parable.
The final one before he is arrested and killed.
This is what he leaves his disciples with.

Jesus says that at the end, that the Son of Man
will come in glory, just as you would imagine
the king of the whole world coming:
On a throne with the angels surrounding him,
draped around in glory and splendor.

And at that moment, he judges all the nations of the world.
But what does he use his power for?
And what is the basis for his judgment?
It’s not how much money they provided for him,
or did they worship him or bow down to him
and make him feel good about himself
or did they honor him give him enough loyalty.

No, his question for them is
“How did you treat the least of those among you?”
This is what is important to the king.
This is what is important to Jesus. 

Did you give the hungry something to eat?
Did you give the thirsty something to drink?
Did you welcome the stranger? Clothe the naked?
Take care of the sick? Visit the prisoner?
This is the basis for the judgment of the world.
This is what is important to the king.
Not whether you bowed down before him
with the proper reverence and ceremonies,
not that you gave him what he wanted and made
his friends happy and rich.

What is most important is that you used your power to
take care of the  least powerful in your nation.
So the parable says at the time of this judgment
“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”

They translate that word there as people, but people is “laos”
or “anthropos” but the greek word that’s there is “autos” 
which is just the pronoun “them”
which more likely refers to the “nations”.
“All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them,
the nations, one from another.”
Most people who study this stuff believe
that the intent of the parable was that the nations
would be divided like sheep and goats.

This is not a parable about individuals, but about nations.
This is not a parable about our personal piety and mercy
This is parable about politics and empires.
That one little translation choice makes a big difference.
So how is the nation we live in doing?
What is important to our leaders?

Because in the end, we will not be judged on  stock market rates,
or the strength of our military,
the amount of fortune 500 companies we have,
or even our unemployment rates
all of which our leaders seem to be most interested in.

We will be judged on how we treated
the least powerful in our empire.
So have we fed the hungry?
17.4 million households in the US suffer from hunger.
And food stamps are being cut.
Have we given the thirsty something to drink?
After three years, the people of Flint, Michigan
still cannot drink their water and there is no movement to fix it.
Have we welcomed the stranger?
There is a rising fear and hatred of immigrants in our country.
And much of the country seems to be intent on
building a wall to separate us from our neighbors.
Are we taking care of the sick?
62 percent of bankruptcies in this country are due to
medical bills and healthcare for the poor is being cut.
Are we reaching out to the prisoner?
Because the US represents only 4.4 percent of the world’s population
but we have 22 percent of the world’s prison population.
This is just a short list.

How would our nation do?
Did the United States recognize Jesus in the least of these?
The richest most powerful nation in the world?
Would we be with the sheep or with the goats?

With 75 percent of Americans still identifying as Christian,
and with most of our leaders identifying as Christian,
we should be doing better, because this is what is important to Jesus.
This is what is important to God.
This is what is important to the king.

It’s not about saying “Merry Christmas”
it’s not about giving religious privileges to Christians.
It’s not about sexual morality or policing women’s healthcare
or whatever passes as Christian public policy these days.
What’s most important is how we treat the least of these.

Now this might seem like all bad news,
That we’ll all be cast into the eternal fire.
But we remember that this is a parable not an allegory. 
This parable is not here to make us feel guilty because
we personally didn’t do enough for one person.
This parable is here show us
what is the ultimate concern for our savior and ruler.
And to tell us that empires and nations who don’t care
for the least powerful, will not stand in the end.
So it might be bad news to those who love their wealth and power
and have no interest in sharing it.
But I assure you, this is good news for those of us
 who feel chewed up by the system, and unable
to sustain ourselves and keep our heads above water.
And this is good news to all of us who ache and hunger for justice.
And who see our brother and sister suffer and hurt for them.
Because they will not suffer in vein.

It might not look so good for us now,
It might look like we’ve failed the test
between the sheep and the goats.
But Christ is King and he wants to see all the  nations
care for all their people and if that’s what the king wants
that’s what the king will get.
It may look like we’re going in the wrong direction right now,
 but God is in process to create a world
where greed and apathy have no place.
Where violence and hatred are only memories.

We live in a world that God created
and in the end, the world will not sustain nations
who do not care for the least among them.
We will be changed, God’s way will be our way.

The good news of this parable is that we have a King who cares.
We have a savior who’s concern is for us all.
God doesn’t see people just as tools that the more
powerful can extract labor and resources from until we’re used up.
To Christ the king, we are not just subjects or peasants.

From the most powerful to the least,
we are all the King’s children.

1 comment:

  1. I never understood that parable that way. The understanding of that one word makes a huge difference. Thank you for this very timely message. I was blessed by it.