Sunday, March 26, 2023

Posted on Mar 25 2023


Bible Background: In Matthew’s gospel, the idea of judgement day is strong. This story acts as a “bookend” to Jesus’ teachings which started back in chapter 5 with the Beatitudes. Those words of surprising blessing seem to fit here with the ‘sheep’ who are surprised to find themselves blessed. The outcome seems to suggest the sheep are rewarded for their ‘good works’. But read carefully: their blessings is an “inheritance”, a gift, that comes from belonging to Christ.

Digging Deeper: It’s interesting that both groups are surprised in this scene. Neither realized they were in the presence of Jesus in all those ordinary encounters of life!

1. Trying hard to make sure we’re among the ‘sheep’ rather than the ‘goats’ isn’t the answer. At times, we could be in either camp. Certainly how we relate to the poor and treat the ‘least of these’ does reflect on our understanding of who Jesus was and is.

2. The ‘sheep’ have been doing compassionate and good acts without even noticing; without any hope of reward; simply out of the goodness of their hearts. The ‘goats’ would have done so-but then they would have been calculating “what’s in it for me?” How can we cultivate a heart for others, knowing that Christ has a heart for all of us?

3. We tend to be wary of strangers. We teach our children to be wary. As people of faith, how can we be more open to and less fearful of strangers? Or more open to and less fearful of needy persons?

4. In the green hymnal we confess that we have sinned “by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” Can this parable transform us so that we leave fewer things “undone”, at least in regards to the poor, who seem to rank very high on Jesus’ priorities?

Matthew 25 inspired The Story of the Christmas Guest, which you can find online, about a couple who unknowingly-but wonderfully paid attention to opportunities to serve Christ by welcoming strangers. You might watch or read this one with kids/grandkids!

Our Greater Milwaukee Synod’s “Outreach for Hope” ministries in 19 congregations, work to encourage and accompany the poor. So does our ELCA Hunger Appeal. “Bread for the World” is also one of our partners in Washington DC which advocates before Congress and agencies with the goal of reducing hunger. It was started by one of our Lutheran pastors 48 years ago!

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. We’ll read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, and crucifixion. Read it starting in Matthew 26, between now and then!