I invite you to take a moment to consider our Gospel reading for this Saturday, Dec. 23rd:
"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. 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, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 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; 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.' 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; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 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.' 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?' 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.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Sometimes, perhaps often, God’s message to us about what it means to live faithfully can be presented in confusing ways. God speaks in parables that scholars and theologians take great care in dissecting and debating. But in our Gospel reading for today, Jesus provides a clear and simple laundry list of what is expected of his disciples:
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 cared for me
I was in prison and you visited me
This is one of the last things that Jesus says to his followers—this is the climax of Jesus’ Earthly ministry. We encounter him here talking about Salvation and using the examples of the Goats and the Sheep. His words are perfectly clear--my command is this: love each other as I have loved you. We show our love for Jesus and we live faithful lives by loving and serving other people. We live lives of faith by responding to others and the needs of our world in the way that Jesus would.
What matters, as Jesus so clearly illustrates for us, is not how loudly we boast our faith. What matters is not our status, not our achievements, not our tiles, and not our wealth. No, what matters is our continued willingness to let the life of God be lived through us and our interactions with others and the world.
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.
At Convention Bishop Douglas suggested that we are entering a “New Missional Age”—an age of renewal, a “new Reformation” in which God is inviting us to be the Jesus Movement. Well this—today’s Gospel—is at the core of what it means to be part of the Jesus movement. As disciples of Jesus are called to look at one another and see the face of God. We are called to love one another. And as today’s Gospel message makes perfectly clear: it is as simple and difficult as that.
As we await the coming of the Christ child, may we renew our commitment to living as disciples of Jesus as we share God’s love with the world.
Post and photo by Dana Capsso Stivers