Fr. Dave’s Sermon for “Christ the King”

Christ the King…Series A

Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (November 26th, 2017)

 

Text: Matthew 25:31-46.

Title: Christ…the INVISIBLE KING!!

On this final Sunday of the Church year…I would like to share three simple stories…stories which I believe communicate something of the central truth…the surprising truth…the somewhat disturbing truth of Jesus’ parable of the Final Judgment from the 25th chapter of Matthew…our Gospel for this Feast of Christ the King.

The first story is the story of Saint Martin (the 4th century Bishop of Tours in France, whose feast day we celebrate on Nov. 11th-Veterans Day).  According to an old legend, while Martin-a military man-was a catechumen and preparing for Baptism, he was approached by a poor man who asked him for alms in the name of Jesus.  Martin drew his sword and cut his military cloak in half and gave half of his cloak to the beggar.  The following night Jesus appeared to Martin in a dream, and he was wearing half of Martin’s military cloak, and Jesus said, “Martin…you covered me with your garment…YOU COVERED ME WITH YOUR GARMENT”.  (pause)

“Just as you did it to one of the least of these members of my family, you did it to me”

The second story is about Mother Teresa of Calcutta. One day Mother Teresa observed one of her young novices in the Sisters of Charity using tweezers to pluck maggots from the leg of a man dying of leprosy.  The young novice held the tweezers at arm’s length and cringed as she performed this objectionable task.  Mother Teresa gently corrected the young novice.  Taking the tweezers and putting her face quite near the leg of the man with leprosy, she whispered to the novice, “you don’t understand my dear…this is the leg of Christ our Lord, and what you do for this man, you do to Christ himself”…WHAT YOU DO FOR THIS MAN…YOU DO FOR CHRIST HIMSELF!!

“Just as you did it to one of the least of these members of my family, you did it to me”

The final story is a personal story. I entered seminary to begin my preparation for ministry in September of 1980…but my theological education began on the streets of New Orleans, LA in June of 1982.  I was attending the annual Southern Baptist Convention which was being held that year in the Superdome.  While walking the six blocks from my hotel to the Superdome on the first day of the convention I noticed (out of the corner of my eye) a man sitting alone on a park bench about six feet from where I was walking.  It is not an exaggeration when I say that this man was, without a doubt, the most pitiful human being I had ever seen…he wore a heavy wool overcoat (in spite of the blistering New Orleans humidity)…his hair and beard were matted and snarled…and the odor which emanated from his filthy body was absolutely nauseating.  There he sat, head in hands, alone on the park bench, a look of absolute despair and hopelessness etched on his filthy face.  I paused when I saw him and thought about stopping…but I was running late for the first session at the Superdome, so I walked on.  I was somewhat relieved when I walked back to my hotel at the end of the day  to find the park bench which, that morning had been occupied, was now empty.  But the next morning he was back again, looking just as hopeless as he had the day before.  Again, I paused and thought about stopping, but, I thought, “what could I possibly do to help this poor soul”…unable to come up with a satisfying answer, I hurried off to do God’s business in the Superdome.  When I returned that evening the man was still there and this time, I had no choice…something deep inside compelled me to stop.  I sat next to the man in absolute silence…not knowing what to say.  That’s when I noticed the man’s feet.  He had shoes on his feet, but the shoes had no soles and his feet were obviously infected and swollen twice the size of normal human feet. When I saw those feet, tears came to my eyes as I thought about Jesus washing the filthy feet of his beloved disciples on the night before his passion.  After a few minutes sitting next to him in awkward silence,  I put a five dollar bill in his hand and told him I would return the next morning.  The next morning I brought coffee and doughnuts and we sat together and talked for an hour.  I learned that his name was John and he was from Baltimore.  I was surprised to learn that he was a college graduate from a prestigious eastern university.  Although he looked to be in his late 60’s he told me he was just barely 40.  He told me about his life long battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol and how he had made some very bad choices…choices which had left him destitute and homeless. The rest of the week, I saw him every day, and we established a relationship…a bond of friendship. The last day of the convention I stopped by to say goodbye and I tried to persuade him to allow me to take him to the hospital for medical treatment for his wounded feet, but he refused..  Before I left, I asked him if anyone else had stopped to offer aid or friendship during the past week.  “No, John said, “Only you”.  I was stunned…I didn’t stop thinking about that for months…during that week in June more than 20,000 followers of Christ (most of them ministers of the Gospel) had (twice a day for five straight days) passed within six feet of this man…this person of infinite value and dignity and worth…this person for whom Christ died…and only one (a second year seminary student) had taken the time to acknowledge his existence and show even the smallest concern for his well being!  

“Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these members of my family, you did not do it to me”

 

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry with the Sermon on the Mount (recorded in chapters 5-7) and he ends his public ministry here (in chapter 25) with the parable of the Final Judgment…the parable of the Sheep and Goats. Thus the beginning meets the end and the end meets the beginning in the words of Christ the King…and in both places Jesus reaches out and embraces the whole world (not just His own people but ALL people), and in both places (the beginning in the Sermon on the Mount and the end in the parable of the Final Judgment) Christ the King…Christ the invisible King…Christ the Compassionate King promises to all who are poor in SPIRIT and to all who are rich in MERCY…the inexpressible gift…the incomparable gift…the matchless gift of God’s eternal and glorious Kingdom… Amen!!fr

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