The final Sunday in the church year contains one of my favorite passages of Scripture. When did we see God? When we saw a person in need. How did we show love to God? By meeting the person’s need. Matthew 25:31-46 is one of the most straightforward instructions for faithful living that we find in Scripture.
My problem with this Sunday is its name. What does being hungry or imprisoned have to do with Jesus as king? Why do we even celebrate the kingship of Jesus in this day and age? Most remaining royal families around the world have become symbolic figureheads with no real power, or function as dictators. And does Jesus have to do with those images of king-ship? How might our culture change if, instead of “Christ the King,” we celebrated “Christ the Prisoner” this Sunday?
Additionally, the words of judgment are difficult for many modern audiences. When we believe that God loves without condition, we find it hard to believe in the existence of eternal punishment (where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth). Doesn’t grace stipulate that we can receive God’s blessing regardless of our works? Where is the grace in the reading from Matthew?
As always, the Revised Common Lectionary gives us many options for preaching. The shepherding image from Ezekiel has lots of possibilities for interpretation and application. The words of thanksgiving from Ephesians take on additional meaning for those communities that have just celebrated a holiday by that name. Perhaps it’s stewardship time for you, or a special celebration in the life of your congregation. Anyone observing Advent 1 this weekend in order to get all four Sundays of Advent in before Christmas Eve?
Please share your thoughts or insights below. Happy sermon prep!
Katya Ouchakof is co-pastor at Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She is passionate about social justice, paddlesports, and Star Wars.
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