Sunday 22nd November 2020, Christ the King
May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Do good people go to heaven? Do bad people go to heaven? Do good non-Christians go to heaven or bad non-Christians go to heaven? Who decides who is good and who is bad?
These questions dominate the Gospel set for today. It appears in the parable from Matthew that those of the right of God, the sheep, will inherit the kingdom of Heaven and those on the left, the goats, are condemned to hell, with the devil and his angels. And, so it seems, that this is decided by those who do good works while they are alive. In other words, does working for our salvation pay off when it comes to our eternity? But what do we do with texts such as Ephesians 2 then? “For it is by grace you have been saved, not through works, so no one can boast”
Does our work give us our ticket into the next life? Is it as simple as that?
Today the church celebrates the feast of Christ the King. It is a great festival within the church. It marks the end of our liturgical year and next week we start all over again, with the beginning of Advent as we walk the path to Christ’s birth at Bethlehem. But we stop today and we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is King, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
We recognise that he is not only majestic, but that he intercedes for us and we reminded from Matthew, that he is also our judge. Christ’s kingship is vastly different to our understanding of monarchy that we read about in our history books and see around the world. Christ the King, came to serve and to redeems us from our sins and to bring us to God. Christ the Kings has made it possible for us to speak to God himself in an intimate and personal way through prayer and by his intercession. Christ the King is, as the reading from Ezekiel reminds us, the Shepherd who seeks us out, who rescues us, who feeds us, who binds up our injuries and who saves us. He saves us from the sin of the world and he saves us from ourselves, from our natural inclinations of selfishness and greed.
He saves us because he loves us. And we in turn, share this with other people by loving and helping them. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did for me.”
Often, we Christians fall into one of two camps. It is the Mary or the Martha syndrome. We either work hard, serving others, helping others or we sit at the feet of God in contemplation. This Gospel reminds us to do and to be both. To allow ourselves that space and time to simply sit at the feet of Christ, who is Lord and King. (What better time to do this, then in a lockdown!) And then to serve and love others as we recognise the love of God in us. St Augustine understood this when he wrote “We need to work as if all depends on us and pray as if it all depends on God.
Who goes to heaven or who goes to hell isn’t for us to answer (thank goodness) That is up to God and it is his decision. We are simply called to love each other, to support each other and to care for each other out of the deep love we ourselves have received from God as a response to Jesus who is indeed Christ the King.