Have you ever invited someone to church and they responded that if they ever entered a church the walls would come crashing down? Usually they say that because they believe that their way of life is more than God or the church can tolerate. In the world people have often thought the same believing the world is going end because of certain things happening. I heard more than a few times that if Same Sex Marriage comes in it will be the end of society. We’ve heard many times in our own church that if the Ordination of Women comes in that our church will end. When we look at issues in these ways we can begin to believe that the world and the church depends on us rather than God. That doesn’t mean that things don’t harm the world and the church but we need to remember that God is almighty – and hence, we name today, the last day of the church year, Christ the King Sunday.
The world and the church don’t depend on us – they depend on Christ. In last week’s Gospel reading we heard about the King’s Servant who thought that it was up to him to preserve his master’s kingdom. His master was going on a long trip so he entrusted his Kingdom to his servants. Two of the servants took risks and were rewarded. The third servant didn’t want to lose his master’s investment so he hid the money and on his master’s return proudly gave him back his property intact which angered his master. His master could have done that himself before he left on his journey – but that wouldn’t have grown his kingdom. In fact it diminishes his kingdom if we take into account inflation. If I put money in the bank at 1% but inflation is 3% I’m actually losing money every day I keep it there.
Our world is a progressive world and things are going to change. Whether you see that as a good thing or a bad thing we must not lose faith in God and we must not lose focus of what our call and mission is. To love the Lord our God with all our heart and to love our neighbour as ourselves. That’s what Jesus said is the greatest commandment and all the laws and prophets hang on these 2. And following on from the greatest commandment Jesus gave us the great commission:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Notice who has the authority – Jesus. And the commission was not to go and clean up the world but to go and make disciples and teach them. So we are not to bury our love but keep working it to grow God’s kingdom. So whether we agree or disagree with how things are going in the world our calling and responsibility is to love and teach – not judge and condemn. That, as we hear from our Gospel reading belongs to God.
So when the account before God comes on that final day we hear what Jesus says about what our responsibility has been. “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.’ What we see here is love active in the world. Or as our Church’s theme has been – “Where love comes to life”.
And that love is widespread – to the needy – to the stranger – to the outcast. One might not agree with same sex relationships but there is the call to love unconditionally. One might not agree with asylum seekers but that does not give the right to treat them inhumanely. A person may be deserving of their prison sentence but we should never take joy in their suffering. A person may be irresponsible in how they live their life contributing to their homelessness or poverty but we cannot ignore them or their needs. When we look at Jesus’ ministry, he went out to the marginalised and those with whom he disagreed. The Samaritan woman at the well – the Samaritan leper – both doubly marginalised by their nationality and status. It was his love for Zacchaeus – another outcast – that saw him turn from his ways more than what any judgment would have achieved.
I can understand those who have conscientious objections to certain things but withholding love is not part of that objection as we remember that for God – God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). What is interesting about the love shown to the marginalised in our bible reading is that those who were showing love had no idea they were doing anything different. It was so natural for them that they questioned the King – Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? But sadly those who were not extending love had no idea they were doing anything wrong:
‘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?’ And that’s the danger we face. We think we are doing things to uphold God’s kingdom when in fact we are hurting others by the words and actions we do. It can be a cliché but it is true in how Jesus lived out his ministry – loving the sinner while hating the sin. To the woman caught in adultery Jesus separated the sin from the sinner – refusing to condemn her like the religious leaders wanted to do but telling her to go and sin no more.
As VCE students are nervously awaiting the results of the exams they have just completed it will be a daunting time for them wondering if they have passed or not. As Christians we are thankful to God that our final examination is already secured through Jesus’ death for our sins. But there are so many who have not heard or experienced God’s love. There are so many who continue to equate God, the church and Christians as condemning and judgmental. It’s not about accepting sin but it is about leading people to God and allowing God’s Holy Spirit to do his work. Satan is very good at distracting Christians and the Church from the true mission of God. We must remember that we are not the ones in control.
As St Paul so majestically put it in our 2nd reading: God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
It’s okay to be concerned about things happening in the world but let that concern lead us to prayer and to love of our neighbour in need so that the church and us truly become a place where Love Comes to Life.