What follows is an adaptation of my sermon for November 4, 2018. It’s based on Matthew 25:31-46.
“Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Can I get an amen?
That is the proclamation of the Church, and has been from the very earliest post-resurrection gatherings of Jesus’ disciples. Every time we proclaim the lordship of Christ we connect ourselves to the over 2000 years of church history and, in our theology, to the thousands of years of history of our Jewish cousins before that 1. This is a good thing.
And in the First Century it was considered treason. Because people running around saying “Jesus Christ is Lord” were also saying, “Caesar is not.” The Romans didn’t take to kindly to that, which is why we have stories of Christians being fed to lions, set on fire, and subjected to other “fun” ways of dying. Proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord was a dangerous act. And we owe the great cloud of witnesses a debt of gratitude for the suffering they endured so the faith could be passed on to us.
My question is this, “What is Jesus Christ Lord of?”
Well, in the Great Commission Jesus tells us, “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me.”
So Jesus is lord of everything. Can I get an amen?
And that means Jesus is lord of more than “respectable people.” Jesus is also the lord of the marginalized, the broken, the worthless, the undesirable. In fact, in the parable we read from Matthew 25 this morning, Jesus shows a particular interest in the plight of those on the fringes in his own world – the hungry, the thirsty, the alien, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. These are people “respectable” society kept at arms length – lest it become infected with the plight of the marginalized. And they are the very people about which the king in Jesus’ parable says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it for me.” The king in that parable, by the way, is Jesus.
In this parable those who feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, offer hospitality to the alien, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, and visit the imprisoned are welcomed into the King’s kingdom. They are the sheep.
And, in the same parable, those who refuse to do these things are thrown into the lake of fire meant for the Devil and his angels. They are the goats, which to me is a bit of a bad rap for goats because they are adorable.
It is important for us to understand the political, not partisan, ramifications of the statement “Jesus Christ is Lord” in our own context. If Jesus Christ is Lord with all authority in Heaven and on Earth, then any human power or authority cannot be. That doesn’t mean we drop out of society or become obstinate jerks toward whatever government we are under. Rather, we follow the path forged by our sisters and brothers in Christ throughout history and our Lord during his earthly ministry. We pay our taxes, pray for those in power, and work for the common good of the world around us. In fact, doing those things is part of how we declare “Jesus Christ is Lord.” But, at the same time, when the powers of this society encourage us act contrary to Jesus’ teaching 2 – then we must say, “No. You aren’t Lord.”
And right now is one of those times.
There are currently an estimated 3500 refugees moving up through Mexico on the way to the US border. The caravan began with about 7000 people, moving on foot, but many have dropped out along the way. At present this group is months away and, if previous treks like this one are any indication, it will dwindle even further before they get anywhere near the US-Mexico border.
These people are fleeing violence, poverty, and hunger. They fear for their very lives and are willing to risk everything to reach what they hope will be a safe haven where they can live and not die.
They are not an invasion. They are not, as one talking head intimated, carrying small pox 3. They are not gang members. They are not terrorists bent on our destruction. They are not going to rush the border and demand that we ignore our immigration laws – they are seeking asylum in an act of desperation, which is acceptable under US immigration policy.
And even if seeking asylum wasn’t acceptable US immigration policy, I have to ask us, “Who is Lord?” [wait] Jesus Christ, right. And those folks are exactly the type of “stranger” 4 Jesus says the sheep will welcome with hospitality.
And, look. I understand there are people of many political stripes in this congregation. And, I think for a vast majority of political issues folks can disagree on both political theory and policy and still be working to serve “the least of these.” You want to vote Democrat because you think they have the interests of the weakest in society in mind, fine. People may disagree with that but at least you can have a reasonable discussion about it. If you want to vote Republican because you think it’s better for businesses, which winds up creating jobs and empowers more people, fine. People might disagree with that, but at least you can have a reasonable conversation about it. And we can, and should, have honest discussions about border security – because there are issues at our southern border with smuggling and trafficking which need to be addressed.
But folks – whatever political stripe we may paint ourselves with – fear, fury, and the desire for dominance must never be the motivations from which we take our cues in this world. Instead, we are to take our cues from the living lord of Heaven and Earth, Jesus Christ. He is the one who conquered sin and death. He is the one who declares a new creation. He is the one who has gifted us with eternal life. We may paint ourselves with certain political stripes, but we belong to Jesus. And, according the very parable we read today, when we see a migration of hungry and thirsty strangers in desperate need of hospitality this living Lord says, “I’m with them.” Are we? Amen.
- Our Jewish cousins disagree. They remain cousins and neighbors to whom the world owes a great debt. ↩
- Remember, Jesus is our rabbi – we are meant to read the Bible through his lens ↩
- Which hasn’t had a reported case in the world since 1977). ↩
- Literally “alien,” it’s the same root from which we get the word “xenophobia” ↩