Sunday, November 26, 2017
Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Reign of Christ Sunday
"Bringing Forth the City of God"
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
Thanksgiving, Black Friday and tomorrow’s Cyber Monday may have some believing that the significance of this time of year is the advent of another epic shopping season - the promise of a time filled with merriment and happiness. Many will join the crush of shoppers dazzled by the collective sight, sound and scent of the holiday season.
Advent will be upon us very soon. But what will be on our minds will not be the frenzy of consumerism but the quietude of contemplation. Advent will be a time for us to consider what the Christian calendar refers to as the festival of Christ the King and to know there a difference between the happiness of acquiring gifts and the joy of giving.
The festival comes at the close of the season of Pentecost and precedes Advent. Our reading from The Gospel According to Matthew concludes Jesus’ public ministry. It is not a parable but “an apocalyptic vision of the last judgment” (Preaching Through the Christian Year A, Craddock, Hayes, Holladay & Tucker, Trinity International Press, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1992, page 519). It is a vision of what is to come following the birth, life, death, resurrection and the return of Jesus.
“The purpose of the vision is not speculation about the end [of the world] or for the fascination of the community” (Op. cit.). Instead, the heart of the vision is the coming of Jesus as the Son of Humankind.
His coming will not be to earth, but to a throne in heavenly glory. He will be installed as King and Judge (Matthew 25:31, 34, 40). He will come as sudden as the lightning (Matthew 25:27), upon clouds of glory and with great power (Matthew 24:3031); the day and the hour are unknown (Matthew 34:36-42); it will be like a burglar entering at night (Matthew 24:43); it will be a time of reckoning and woe to those who are unprepared (Matthew 24:45-51). The vision here is the full vision, glorious in appearance, cosmic in scope, and yet personal in that every life must appear before the judgment seat (Op. cit.).
In his account, Matthew draws from Jewish thought by employing two common terms that were familiar to both Jews and Gentiles. “Right” and “left” (Matthew 25:33) were terms in both Jewish and Gentile culture for “the favored” and “unfavored” position.
Just last week someone cleverly shared his point of view with me about the “right” and the “left” – and he meant it politically, though I think it does have religious value. “If you look to the right,” he said, “chances are those on the right are never right and if you look to the left, there’s no one left. You can quote me on that,” he added. Ah, but I digress.
The phrase “inherit the kingdom” (Matthew 25:43) comes from Israel’s tradition about the promised land. The phrase that immediately follows, “from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34) draws on the view that all that was essential for God’s eternal purpose was created before the world was made.
Three elements in the vision draw our attention. First, the basis for God’s final judgment on humankind is our response to human need (Matthew 25:35-46). The needs are not unusual. In fact, they are ordinary needs that we know all too well – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick and visit those in prison.
Second, those on the right and those on the left are surprised because they realize that they have either served or failed to serve Christ through others (Matthew 25:37-39). At the risk of embarrassing some of you, it is important for us to acknowledge how many of you continue to live your life in service to others.
Auntie Edie Kapiko, through the work of our Board of Mission & Outreach, recently established a formal relationship and partnership for our congregation with the Maui Food Bank. The partnership will make it possible for the church to access food more readily for those in need. Alex Butler, one of our deacons, continues to volunteer at Feed My Sheep, a ministry to the homeless.
Kahu Bob Nelson continues to coordinate the drivers for Hale Kau Kau, a program out of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church that provides daily meals at the church not only for those who are homeless but for those who are shut-ins. Brenda Albright, a member of our church, currently serves as the President of the Hale Kau Kau Advisory Board.
Through the work of our Outreach Committee we continue to support for A Cup of Cold Water. A Cup of Cold Water is a ministry of the Episcopal Churches of Maui and other ecumenical and interfaith partners that provides water, clothing, footwear and toiletries for the homeless of Maui.
A major part of the work of our Outreach Coordinator, John Rowehl, is with men and women who have been incarcerated and who are now going through drug and alcohol recovery. More recently, some have become involved in the Maui Coming Home program, an ecumenical and interfaith effort to assist women who have been previously incarcerated make the transition back into our communities. Others are now looking at developing a similar program for men who also making the transition from prison back into our communities.
Anne Rowehl, Cindy Mead and Auntie Edie coordinate our Hui Aloha O Keawalaʻi – our care giving group that seeks to meet short-term needs such as meals, home and hospital visits, and transportation. Several of you have served as traveling companions to accompany those who must occasionally go to Honolulu for medical procedures.
Other members and friends of the church have also served as volunteer caregivers at Hospice Maui, the Maui AIDS Foundation, Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon. Over the years many of you have participated in the Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society in Central and South Maui as well as other community fundraising events.
Those of you who know Pam Norris know that she has made a lifelong commitment to the development of Ice Buddy. Ice Buddy is a compact device designed to keep cold medicines that require refrigeration. The device will be especially critical for those who are affected by natural disasters where the electrical power grid is destroyed.
Earlene Cummings and Kate Acks have done monthly visits taking Communion to those who are in assisted living facilities in Kīhei as well as Kahului and Wailuku. And for over two decades, the ʻŌlelo Mikiona or Mission Statement of the church has been an ongoing part of our time of worship. At its core is the commitment we have “to welcome all, love all and accept all into our ʻohana” – the stranger, the immigrant, the kamaʻāina and the malihini.
The element of surprise in Matthew’s vision describes those, in Matthew’s community, who were “busily religious in attention-getting ways but who bypassed the scenes of human anguish.” (Op. cit.) We run the risk of doing the same – of coming to church and leaving and coming back again – presuming that that is enough. But what could be more religious than attending church and attending to those in need of care?
In the end, our service to others is our service to Christ. The following lyrics are from a song that was written during what was called the Jesus Movement back in the 1970s that is apropos to our reading this morning: “Have you seen Jesus my Lord? He’s here in plain view. Take a look, open your eyes. He’ll show it to you. Have you ever looked at the sunset with the sky mellowing red? Seen the face of Christ on your brother [or sister]? Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.”
It will be through a life of service to others that we will be able bring forth the city of God. It will be through a life of service to others that the reign of Christ and the kingdom of God will come on earth.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, when did we see you hungry? When did we see you thirsty? When did we welcome you and clothe you, or took care of you, or visited you? Have we ignored your claim upon our time, our attention, our resources? Open our eyes; soften our hearts; enlighten our understanding. Let us see you in the world as we welcome you through others. Let us serve you with the family you acknowledge as your own: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, the prisoner. Amen.