The Compassion Driven Life
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 ; Psalm 100 or 95:1-7a; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46
November 20, 2005
In a few weeks as the commercial world kicks into high gear for their biggest sales month of the year every one of us will at one time or another hear those familiar lines from Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," "King of kings and Lord of Lords." Just the mention of this makes me think of timpani and trumpets.
As Americans we have a peculiar problem with kings. Our most recent historical memory of a king is over two centuries old and the stories of that experience do not portray a very good image of a king. We have a government that is diametrically opposite that of monarchial rule. For those of you coming on Thanksgiving to the Eucharist, you will see as we use the text of a 1549 Anglican service that our English church predecessor prayed for Elisabeth our queen mother. Americans just don't know what to make of kings and queens.
Some of our own presidents have taken an official policy against ruling monarchs, toppling the worst of them so that somewhere in the back of our heads we must have a notion that kings are bad and democracy is good. We approach today's Gospel with a built in bias that can take us in the wrong direction.
The king in today's Gospel cannot be put into a box of good king or bad king. He comes in glory at the end of the age accompanied by angels. He comes as a judge to judge all the peoples of the earth. This is a vision of Judgment Day. The criterion for judgment is surprisingly simple: Those who will inherit the kingdom must have fed the king, given the king something to drink, welcomed the king, clothed the king, cared for the king or visited the king in prison. Even Americans with our limited experience of royalty will understand that people do not normally think of kings as needing to be fed, clothed, welcomed, visited, etc.
So you can imagine the surprise of the audience. ...
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