Here is the video for our worship service for November 22, 2020, Christ the King Sunday!
The bulletin can be found here.
The bulletin will have all the words of the liturgy, the order of service, and my full sermon (also found below). You’ll notice that we are using a different format again to save on my editing time, so please do let me know what you think and how it all works together.
If you would like to have the fullest at-home worship experience possible, please have a bowl of water, something small to eat and drink, and a lit candle in your space. These are all optional, but would enhance the tangible feel of worship in your home.
Thanks for being here!
O God, open the eyes of our hearts by the power of your Spirit, that we might know the hope to which we have been called in Jesus Christ our shepherd and guide. Amen.
So this past week our BC government has put out new restrictions due to the rising numbers around COVID in our province. In the past few weeks, we’ve broken records on how many have tested positive with the virus, how many active cases at any given time, how many are in the hospital because of this, and how many have died in a 24 hour period. And then we broke those records again. It’s pretty safe to say that we’re definitely in the second wave of this thing that many of the experts predicted in the summer and even earlier.
My mistake in this whole thing? I read the comments. I read an article on this whole thing because I wanted to see what the restrictions are and if I’d be allowed to get my haircut or not still, and against my better judgement I kept scrolling down and read the comments. You know many news sites these days have taken the comment section down because people like to, using the anonymity of the internet, to speak more harshly than they would in real life. This of course sparks emotions, and people on both sides of whatever argument get more riled up, and so they post more harsh comments, and the cycle continues.
And I went and read a bunch of this stuff.
I didn’t comment or anything, but man did I want to at some posts. People on both sides of these restrictions had some good points, and some of them had some not so good points. But two things were very clear throughout these comments that I spent way more time than I care to admit reading: First, no one’s mind is going to change from reading random comments, and none of these random comments were going to change the situation that we’re in.
The fact of the matter is, we are in a pandemic. There is a virus out there that we still don’t know enough about to make any real comparisons or predictions. People are dying from this virus, and many others affected negatively by it. No matter how much we deny these facts, that will not change that they are facts. No matter how much people posts about the statistics around who is affected and who dies from this thing, that doesn’t change the fact that people are being affected by it. And no matter how angry you might feel when reading those comments, that won’t change the minds of those who are just on the other side of that spectrum from you.
Sheep and goats. That is what Jesus talks about today in our gospel reading. He says he’ll separate the sheep and the goats, the sheep being the ones who are “good” and the goats being the ones who aren’t so much. The thing about this passage is that off the bat we all can identify the goats in our lives. Those are the ones in the comments who are spouting things that we don’t agree with. Those are the ones in our work places that we wonder how they got to where they are with their work ethic and faulty personality. Those are the ones that we honestly won’t be all that sad when we see them sent to the eternal fire and punishment that Jesus promises.
But then when Jesus explains the difference between the two, maybe our hearts sink a little. Jesus says how we treat the least among us is how we have been treating him. And suddenly we’re second guessing how we’ve been treating each other. We’re wondering if we’ve been caring and compassionate enough. We’re trying to recall the last time we fed the hungry or welcomed the stranger or visited the sick. Because we don’t want to be those goats. We don’t want to be excluded from God’s eternity. We don’t want to be cast into the eternal fire and punishment with all those people that we don’t like or don’t agree with.
And so that judgement doesn’t stop, does it? I mean, we were already judging those who we don’t like, we’re like “oh yeah, those are the goats in this passage for sure.” And we’re also judge ourselves, we’re all like, “are we the goats in the story…?” And that is just where we go most of the time when we read passages like this, we think it’s about us, that it is a warning for us to make sure that we’re doing what we should to get on God’s good side, and it gives us permission to point our fingers at others who aren’t doing what they should.
To be honest, I think deep down we’d like it if that was what this passage was about. We’d like to know exactly what we need to do to gain God’s salvation. We’d like to know exactly how our neighbour is doing something wrong so we can say we told them so. We’d like to draw that line ever so thick between the goats and sheep just so we know exactly where we stand. Just like we want to know exactly what we need to do to avoid this coronavirus, just like how we want to know how we can tell others how they aren’t wearing their mask properly or washing their hands enough, just like how we want to be on the right side of history with this thing, thinking that we somehow have the inside knowledge of what this really is or isn’t… we just want to know. We just want to do. We just want to be right in our assumptions, in our opinions, and in our judgements.
But… Jesus didn’t give us that burden of judge, did he? He didn’t say that the sheep can look down on the goats because they aren’t educated or can’t think critically. He didn’t say that this passage is about us.
Rather, I think Jesus is talking about what is. He is talking about is happening. He is talking about himself as judge, he is the one who decides, he is the one who seeks out us who are lost and lifts us up, joins us together, and redeems us with a grace and mercy that surpasses understanding. Him, not us. It isn’t our job to decide who is what, it isn’t our role to figure out what is sinful or not for others, it isn’t our responsibility to take Jesus’ role as judge away from him and put it on ourselves.
And, I believe that Jesus continues by promising us how he is here in the suffering of the world. He is here in the hurt, in the dysfunction, in the confrontations of communities and families. He is here with the lonely, the downcast, and the sick. He is here in the midst of this pandemic, reminding us that he is also present in others, and so maybe, perhaps, we can do whatever we can to show others care, compassion, and love.
See Jesus isn’t the one causing this pandemic, but he is present in our handling and coping with it. Jesus isn’t the one instigating the conflict and corruption in the world, but he is present in the aftermath of reconciliation and forgiveness. Jesus isn’t inflicting the suffering and pain, but he is present in the healing, the restoration, and the community-building that could come from it.
So it isn’t up to us to decide who are the sheep and who are the goats, that is for Jesus alone to determine. It isn’t up to us to figure out who is in and who is out, that is for Jesus to know. It isn’t even up to us to judge who deserves our care and compassion, for Jesus tells us that he will be there among all those in need whether we do anything about it or not, and we are free to just act as we are moved by God’s gracious and merciful love.
Today is Christ the King Sunday, and we are reminded of how Christ’s reign isn’t one of power, of militaristic might, or of fear. Rather, Christ’s reign is one of love, humble service, and community. In that Christ is present among the needy, Christ can be seen in the humble and penitent, Christ is found in all of us joining us together as his own body, empowering us in our ministry and service, and lifting us up as children of God.
So as we are here at the end of the church year, may we look back at this year of lessons and inspirations and be motivated to love as Christ loves, to serve as Christ serves, and to be free from judging or being judged by anyone but Christ himself who judges with grace and mercy. Thanks be to God. Amen.