The Reign of Christ/St. Andrew’s Day

Date: 26th November 2017
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Calendar Date: St Andrew’s Day
Lectionary Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 100, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46

Today being the last day of the church year we celebrate the Reign of Christ, but as you heard at the beginning of the service with John the piper, we are also remembering Andrew, patron saint of Scotland and Russia.

I am going to begin with speaking about the Gospel passage we have just heard, then look at what the prophet Ezekiel had to say, then a bit of St Andrew and a word from St Paul to the community in Ephesus and to us!   Let’s see if it can all hang together!

Judgement is not something we like to talk about and yet it seems to me when we are confronted about the way we behave, which we may or may not even be aware of, we are brought up quite smartly when someone says something to us or we read something that prods our egos!

Like the parable of the ten bridesmaids and the parable of the Talents, they help us to mature in our faith and grow as human beings in relationship with God known through Jesus the Christ and in relationship with each other.

The parable today about the sheep and the goats is another challenge. You may recall that both the sheep and the goats didn’t know they were looking after the ‘king’  ‘the shepherd’ ‘Jesus’.

“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?”

“The sheep did not see the King, the Son of Man. They just attended to the physical and social needs of hurting people without considering their status or their capacity to repay them, either with money or with favours.

The goats did not see the Son of Man either.  But if they had known it was he, you can be assured that they would have helped. The Son of Man has the resources, both money and influence, to repay. This would have been a good deed that would eventually do them well.  “If we had known it was you, O King, and not some miserable nobody, of course we would have helped.”  The sheep care without calculation and the goats care with calculation.” [i]

Tough to hear and yet it’s so entrenched I believe in our culture.

Back in Matthew chapter 5:42-46 it says something like if we give to those who will give back, and lend to those who will repay us, and do good to those who will do good to us, what grace is there in that?

For us Christians, we are to cultivate our relationship with God and therefore we find that we care more for our neighbour and ourselves.

The more we care for our neighbour and ourselves the more we are open to the presence and influence of the Spirit.

We care, first and foremost, because God cares.  We love because God loves.

So this passage today about the sheep and the goats, may make us wriggle in our seats, but if that is what is happening, then talk to God about why you feel uncomfortable and how can you through the help of the Spirit, be open to the enabling presence of the Spirit and become more Christ-like.

The Spirit will show you what you can do. Here are some examples which some of you may already be doing. So please hear this in the spirit of growing in our faith…mine and yours.

You may hear that a school or college needs volunteers to assist students with providing breakfasts or with learning English.  You may have heard of local street gatherings at Christmas and decide to offer your place to host an event. You may hear of those who buy a coffee and buy another for the discretion of the one taking the coffee orders, to give away a free coffee to someone who they feel would appreciate an act of kindness from a stranger. It may be to financially support various organisations in Australia and around the world who then provide care to those in need.  It might be to assist women to sew so they can be self-reliant and build up their confidence and their English language skills. It might be to hold someone or a country in your prayers.

There are so many ways and we don’t have to blow our trumpet about it… although our ego might want to!

Listen to what the Spirit is asking of you.  We can’t do it all and I know we can get compassion fatigue.  God is not a task master but someone who knows what you can or can’t take on.

Ezekiel the prophet tells of God’s intention to restore and renew the people. The heading in the NRSV bible for this section we are reading today says ‘God, the True Shepherd’.  It is God who looks out for us. It is God who judges us when we don’t follow the ways of loving care.

In verse 15 he says “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. (Reminiscent of psalm 23). I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.”[ii]

If you are fed with justice, then in my mind, the part of us that is ‘fat and strong’ will hopefully become humble and wise.

We all have a responsibility to assist in the restoration of the common good so that all members of the community, strong and weak, rich and poor, may live together in the bond of peace and goodwill.

Andrew the patron saint of Scotland and Russia, it seems to me was someone who was living a godly life. In the Gospel of John it states that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist who then followed Jesus. He recognised Jesus as the Messiah and introduced his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. From the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Andrew and Simon Peter were both called together to become disciples of Jesus.  Andrew was there at the feeding of the 5000. He was there at the Last Supper.

Church historians and Tradition have Andrew preaching in various places and some of his relics were brought to Scotland.

Andrew met Christ in people he talked with and listened to and they met Christ in him as well.

Being a Christian is very challenging.  It’s not meant to frighten us but to help us live life the way God meant us to live. It actually can be exciting to think we can change and have all the support of the Holy Trinity and our community of faith with us!

And so with the words of Paul to the community of faith in Ephesus, I say to you “I pray that the God our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…” [iii]

The Lord be with you.

[i] The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers by John Shea  page 327

[ii] Ezekiel 34:15-16

[iii] Ephesians 1:17-18a