Jesus the Christ is All Around You

This sermon was preached on November 26, 2017, Christ the King Sunday, by the Rev. Bob Wohlfort.  Sunday’s readings and gospel were Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 95:1-7a, Ephesians 1:15-23, and Matthew 25:31-46

In 1925 Pope Pius XI declared that the last Sunday of the liturgical year will be known as The Feast of Christ the King. The trauma and horrors of WWI were still swirling around Europe and the globe. The Pope was alarmed and saddened what the secular powers had unleashed with the war and how these powers continued to dominate. The Pope was also alarmed by the rise of fascism in his own country of Italy as well as Germany.

He wished for the Church to declare with authority who is The Authority; Who is in charge; Who is to be followed.

This year I think that God is making mischief in our lives at the time of this celebration…making mischief in the form of another Pope…the current Pope…Francis. You who have been around for a while and have heard other sermons of mine know that I have a deep respect and fondness for the current Bishop of Rome. God has given to us, the world, a prophet like unto Isaiah and Amos and Micah. I’ll say more in a few moments.

Perhaps you have joined me in puzzlement from time to time concerning what one reading on a Sunday morning relates to the other readings. There seems to be neither continuity or flow or an obvious theme. Not so today

The readings transport us literally to the heavens and the heavenly realm of The King and then bring us back down to earth and hit us up side the head of what it means to be numbered in the flock of the Shepherd.

The readings carry us to the Cosmic and the Transcendent realms of The Christ; ground us in the love and protection of Christ our Shepherd; and then spring upon us the challenge and surprise of a lifetime…the stunning revelation of where our Lord shows up in our world.

It was only after the order of this service was planned and our service bulletins were printed that I realized today’s celebration should have begun with the Psalm 95 reading. Better yet all of us should have read it together with loud voices. It is an entrance into the Temple Psalm. It is a liturgy of procession It was done with great joy and eagerness to come together to worship the Creator King.

The closing verses of the portion for today declares, “We are the people of his pasture, the sheep of his hand.” We are led directly into Ezekiel. The imagery is lush, caring, full of abundance as the Shepherd makes bedding for the flock and provides pasture, water and safety…in Israel. The exile is about to be over. The flock is going home!

Judgment will occur…a foreshadowing of the Gospel reading.

Ephesians takes us, again on a cosmic and transcendent journey and reminds us of the power of the empty cross and the miracle of the resurrection. The reading closes with these words that appropriately will send us headlong to Matthew 25: “And he [God] has put all things under his [Jesus’] feet and has made [Jesus] the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Then it is on to Matthew 25…a parable that we have encountered many times…perhaps so often that we are no longer gobsmacked by its astounding core revelation.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory…” Son of Man: a Hebrew Scripture term that first shows up in Daniel. Son of Man…an apocalyptic figure who comes at the end of times; Son of Man, the Messiah, the Savior of humankind.

“All the nations will be gathered before him…” All the nations! All of humankind. So we have this image…as far as the eye can see and beyond Jesus, the Messiah/the Son of Man sitting upon the throne of glory (an incredible mystical and transcendent image!)…such majesty!

I can imagine there are some in the crowd who are whispering to one another-

“Perhaps the Son of Man will regale us with impressive rhetoric.”

“Perhaps the Son of Man will ask us to recite a creed of faith.”

“Perhaps there is a Mormon Tabernacle size choir that will enrapture us with a composition produced just for this occasion.”

“Shoosh! The King is about to speak.”

Then Jesus speaks and all these nations are seized with a surprising shock… a shock of incredible simplicity.

When I was hungry…; When I was thirsty…; When I was a stranger…; When I was naked…; When I was sick; When I was in prison…

WHAT!?!? What’s with this notion of The Messiah, The Son off Man, Jesus the Christ…being hungry, thirsty, a stranger; naked, sick and imprisoned??

We Christians, taking our name from “Christ” are called to be Christ to those around…the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and imprisoned. We are to live as He lived…going to those in great need. Yes indeed!

And there is so much more. In this parable, in this apocalyptic story, the Christ reality lives in the children, women and men who are the poor: the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, imprisoned.

A week ago Pope Francis had this to say in his encyclical, his letter regarding the FIRST WORLD DAY OF THE POOR:

We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause, they ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life. Our prayer and our journey of discipleship and conversion find the confirmation of their evangelic authenticity in precisely such charity and sharing. This way of life gives rise to joy and peace of soul, because we touch with our own hands the flesh of Christ. If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the sacred liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers. Saint John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: “If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness.”

There you have it:

Good Neighborhood Health Clinic & Red Logan Dental Clinic: providing free medical and dental care to the poor.

United Valley Interfaith Project…standing with the undocumented in Manchester

Thursday Quilting here at make warm the refugees of the world

Students Fighting Hunger…here on Friday nights. To feed the food insecure in our community!

• OSLC’s pastoral care team; caring for the homebound and the hospitalized and the lonely

Spark!…ministry to those with special needs

• Being the hospice chaplain and nurse holding the hand of the dying

All of these places and all the people and so many more reaching out to the needy Christ; the Christ in poverty; the Christ addicted to opioids; the Christ with no health care insurance; the Christ of a different race and religion; the lonely Christ; the widowed Christ; the depressed Christ the Christ with special needs; the Christ who craves a dinner invitation.

Awaken your imagination. Jesus the Christ is all around you today; next to you today; across the dinner table today. That kind word; soft touch; goodnight kiss; “Hello. how are you?” phone call. More than a word, touch, kiss, “How are you?” for the person…”You are doing it to Me,” says Jesus.

“You are doing it to me!” To me…King, Lord, Royal Shepherd, Son of Man.

To me…the poor, hungry, naked, strangers, imprisoned, addicted, poor and sick, lonely, depressed, victim of sexual harassment and assault, physical abuse.

To me…your husband, your wife, your child, your mother, your father….and the list grows and grows…The Christ is “up there” and “down here.”

I close this celebratory message with a few more words…not from my lips. Rather from the voices and hearts of Peter, Paul and Mary as they give to us “Don’t Laugh at Me.”

Don’t Laugh at Me (Peter, Paul, and Mary)

I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call the geek
A little girl who never smiles
‘Cause I have got braces on my teeth
And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep
I’m that kid on every playground who’s always chosen last
A single teenage mother tryin’ to overcome my past
You don’t have to be my friend but is it too much to ask?
Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me
I’m the beggar on the corner you’ve passed me on the street
And I wouldn’t be out here beggin’ if I had enough to eat
And don’t think I don’t notice that our eyes never meet
Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me
I’m fat, I’m thin
I’m short, I’m tall
I’m deaf, I’m blind
Hey, aren’t we all?
Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me
Well I’m fat, I’m thin
I’m short, I’m tall
I’m deaf, I’m blind
In a way we’re all
I’m black, I’m white
And I am brown
I’m Jewish, I’m Christian
And I’m a Muslim
I’m gay, I’m lesbian
I’m American Indian
I’m very, very young
I’m quite aged
I’m quite well fed
I’m very, very poor
Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me
My country, ’tis of thee, oh, sweet land of liberty
It is of thee, that I sing

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