So what do you make of today’s gospel (Matthew 25: 31-46)? Is Jesus separating the good from the bad? Is Jesus saying some are welcome and included in the kingdom but others are rejected and excluded? Is Jesus keeping score of what we’ve done and left undone and then handing out rewards and punishment? And if he is, are you in or out, a sheep or a goat? I wonder if we’ve misunderstood what’s happening when Jesus separates. Maybe the separation Jesus makes doesn’t look a thing like the separations we usually make. Maybe the purpose of the separation Jesus makes is the exact opposite of the purpose for which we often make separations.
We've known times in our lives when we felt unprepared for what we were facing. We looked down the road at what was coming and we didn't like what we saw. We wanted to cry out, "No. This isn't happening. This cannot be. This must not be." Haven't there been times when you felt scared, unprepared for, or overwhelmed by life? Haven't there been times when you just didn't want to face what life was bringing you? Haven't there been times when you just didn't know whether your faith was up to the demands of life? Love my enemy? Forgive not once, not seven times, but seventy times seven? Turn the other cheek when the first one is still red and stinging?
Over the last few days I thought a lot about my Nazareths; the people, places, and situations that I had no right to judge, question, or label but I did, and sometimes still do. I’ve wondered about the ways I’ve belittled, demeaned, and rejected the Nazareths in my life. I am sure I lost more by their absence from my life than they would have gained by my presence in theirs. And I wonder how many times I have missed the Messiah’s presence because I refused to look toward Nazareth.
The year end reviews and assessments are underway. You can read them in the op eds and on social media. You can hear them in the conversations we share with one another and in the silence of our own hearts.…
Last week I was on the way home from running some errands. I stopped for the light at the square and a young man walked across the street in front of me. I recognized him as one of "the least of these." I recognized him as the guy who came by my office just few days before. I recognized him as the same guy who had come by the office five or six times in the last week and a half. I recognized him as the one to whom I said, "I will not help you and you need to leave."
Everything about Jesus, his life, his words, his actions, are a judgment on our lives and world. That judgment offers us the chance to see as he sees, to live as he lives, and to be as he is. His judgment, however, is not an adjudication for the purpose of punishment. Rather, it is a diagnosis for the purpose of healing and life. Jesus always casts his judgment with an eye toward change and transformation. Its purpose is to show us the way, the truth, and the life.
“Where, then, did these weeds come from?” (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, Parable of the Weeds, Proper 11A) Who has not at some point asked that question? You may not have used those same words and you may not have spoken it…