Sunday 22nd November
Link to David’s Sunday 22nd November Reflection video:
God’s not a ‘Goataphobe’, but he will take you personally! - Sunday before advent Address
Text - Matthew 25:31-46
Last week = pre advent Sunday’s = challenges-
Well the last Is the most challenging as it were -
And it’s basically the last major discourse from Jesus before his crucifixion, SO IT’S ARGUABLY THE THE THING HE MOST WANTED US TO HEAR BEFORE HE LEFT
- if you know you were about to leave this life soon you’d likely choose what you felt your loved ones most needed to hear.
I would. And I think Jesus did.
I said last week - I like to write a ‘nutshell’ sum up as I set it to write a talk, something to God the course of the sermon-
= ‘I take how you behave towards others personally’
It won’t be your church attendance or good behaviour the Jesus will take personally.
I CHALLENGE YOU TO FIND A MORE SOBERING STATEMENT OR TRUTH uttered by Jesus IN THE WHOLE OF SCRIPTURE -
(Repeat) - “I’ll take personally....
Think of the past week - Every interaction-
= Are you happy for Jesus to take them as though you were relating to him??
I used to study with a lad who, in a previous life, worked in a seaside ENTERTAINMENTS VENUE
= he was the man responsible for making sure ‘STAR NAMES’ (generally c-list celebrities) signed up to participate in CHARITY CONCERTS and SPECIAL EVENTS.
When i asked him who were the nicest or most generous stars
“Often the highest profile entertainers are not necessarily the nicest, they’re the ones who only agree to attend charity events if they get maximum publicity (like a photo with sick children afterwards or lots of coverage of them handing over a personal donation)
But the MOST GENEROUS – the ones who go the extra mile…………………………
do it away from the cameras,
And they ask me not to make it public that they waive their performance fee’
FINALLY – and somewhat cryptically,
…he finished by saying that the best ones are often the one’s you’d least expect.
…..and its not just what they give that makes them DECENT STARS
“the public see’s stars in one way, but I KNOW which ones treated my staff with respect.
Which ones are willing to lend a hand to a lackey,
…and which ones say thank you when they are handed a glass of water.”
the former VENUE MANAGER was more impressed by the LOW KEY/under the radar ACTIVITIES and the LITTLE ACTS of everyday KINDNESS than the overt gestures.
This anecdote came to mind while I was reading the opening line in one of my MATTHEW COMMENTARIES that,
….“greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven is measured by small acts of kindness to others”
and I suppose acts that are NOT accompanied by self-glorifying fanfares
SO – to the sheep and goats:
My children went through a phase of watching UTUBE GOAT VIDEOS A Few YEARS AGO.
Goats in trees – goats climbing cliffs – goats climbing dams even –
…and most disturbing of all = goats sounding weirdly human as they cried like babies
HOLLY once asked me what JESUS had against GOATS! = NOTHING.
And having preached on that passage a few weeks before,
…I was able to elaborate a bit!
I’m sure JESUS was not a GOATAPHOBE –
…but they lend themselves well to an illustration about the separation that is to come
Those who chose Christ (with more than just their mouths)
…..being separated from those who rejected him.
GOATS and SHEEP mingled together during the daytime in 1st cent’ ISRAEL
(just as we all rub shoulders together on this wonderful planet of ours)
Come NIGHT TIME = the shepherd separates the GOATS.
This isn’t ANIMAL APAHTHEID…I assured HOLLY,
……it’s because goats (unlike sheep) get cold very easily and like to be kept in close proximity to huddle together for warmth.
So JESUS TAKES THIS COMMON rural activity and applies symbolism in his parable.
The SHEEP are represented as the RIGHTEOUS – given the right hand (place of power and honor in Jewish thought)
And in the story – much to their surprise, JESUS greets them with great honour
1) in story: they provide others with simple acts of kindness,
the things he praises them for….
are NORMAL and EVERYDAY (not acts of heroism or bravery – and there are NO FANFARES)
A drink of water --- something to eat --- clothes to wear --- a visit
On the weekly theological pod-cast I listen to,
…a theologian called Matt Skinner tells the story of a retired American senator he knows
One of his colleagues got caught up in the WATER GATE SCANDAL that toppled president NIXON, and he went to prison.
The senator decided to visit the colleague (still a senator then)
The imprisoned politician was shocked to see a serving politician visit him –
“All my colleagues have washed their hands of me –
Afraid that being associated with me will ruin their careers –
….why have you come to visit me then?”
The senator quoted our text from MATT 25: and then said - that’s why.
The imprisoned politician was called CHUCK COLSON,
…he became a Christian in the wake of that visit,
…..and committed his life POST-PRISON to setting p and running,
……the CHUCK COLSON FOUNDATION that arranges prison visits to people who have no other visitors in America
…JESUS shows that the righteous (the sheep),
…..are being kind in simple, everyday ways
2) JESUS shows that the righteous use their RESOURCES as a blessing
In his book,
The pastor - STUART BRISCOE tells of his visit to ST MARTINS CHURCH in SWITZERLAND
He found out about the life story of the man,
….whom the CHURCH IS NAMED AFTER,
……..MARTIN OF TOURS
MARTIN was a Roman soldier with a CHRISTIAN FAITH
One cold winter night, a beggar stopped him and asked for alms
He had no money on him, but took off his cloak – CUT IT IN HALF,
…………then gave the beggar the other half to use as a blanket.
That night – MISSING HIS LOST HALF OF A CLOAK
….he had a dream of heaven
In the dream JESUS was wearing half a soldiers cloak
An ANGEL asked him –
“master, why are you wearing that battered old cloak?”
“my servant Martin gave it to me”
MARTIN was surprised by the dream (GOD – noticed THAT small thing?)
…which is interesting,
……because the people in Jesus’ story (SHEEP PEOPLE)
…………are also surprised to be praised…
“when did I give you a drink, feed you, clothe you etc…”
…shows that they WERE being generous with their resources,
…….but they WERE’NT buying a stairways to heaven as it were
Buying a TICKET to heaven…
Bribing GOD to let them in
Ticking the OLD CHARITY BOX
The generosity that impresses GOD here isn’t the VALUE of the resource
(otherwise millionaires have an unfair advantage over the rest of us!)
….it’s the LOVE behind the sharing.
But the ones PRAISED,
…weren’t the only ones to SHOW SURPRISE in the story
The ones who displeased Jesus (the GOAT people),
…asked in a tone of shocked innocence,
“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, or a stranger naked or sick in prison and did not minister to you?”
Our kindness pleases God
How we use our resources pleases God
Sticking with the GOATS for now –
….they’re not exactly depicted as an EVIL, VILLANOUS lot…
Its not DOING WRONG that displeases God here,
…but DOING NOTHING (or more precisely – failing to DO good)
As the theologians put it:
…they’re guilty of the SIN OF OMMISION
We see the same problem with the BRIDSMAIDS in another Matthew parable
They weren’t NAUGHTY bridesmaids…
(a gang of delinquent, thuggish rampaging girls in pretty pink dresses!)
They just didn’t care enough to PREPARE themselves for the wedding
…stock up on the lamp oil.
In last weeks PARABLE OF THE TALENTS story,
….I suggested that the servant – likewise,
…….didn’t DO anything bad,
………the problem was that he didn’t do ANYTHING GOOD either…
He represented the OPPORTUNITIES that GOD gives us (to express love)
….and he WASTED HIS OPPORTUNITY
The people on the left (the GOATS in todays story)
= didn’t take their opportunities to show kindness, to share…
And JESUS surprised them, when he said that he takes their INDIFFERENCE personally
SO – CONCLUSION:
Doing GOOD stuff can’t get us into Heaven,
…but having faith in God (without doing good) will not please God either.
The moral here is simple –
JESUS TAKES US PERSONALLY
…so treat everyone as you would treat Christ.
Well yes –
….he knew we couldn’t manage it alone,
…….so he lay down his life for us,
……….so that our failures CAN BE FORGIVEN
If you genuinely regret those times you have failed to treat others as you would Jesus,
The ASK the LAMB OF GOD,
……..to SHAPE US INTO THE SHEEP OF HIS PASTURE