“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me.” (NIV) Today is the last Sunday of the church year. We are looking forward towards Christ’s coming and as his people representing him on earth, we ask…how shall we live as we wait his return? Matthew 25: 35-40 focuses on the parable Jesus told about the separation of the sheep and the goats on Judgement Day. This parable refers to Jesus's prophecy in the New Testament (Matthew 25:32) that the sheep (the compassionate) will sit on God's right hand (and find salvation), and the goats (the hard-hearted) will sit on the left (and be condemned.) Justice will be served. But is this the point of the story Jesus told? What message was Jesus trying to tell us in this dramatic parable?
Pam Martin (Lay Reader) at the 8.30am Worship Service
Bishop Andrew Brook (Guest Preacher) at the 10.00am Worship Service (Confirmation)
Apology: there is no audio recording available of these sermons
Jesus’ parable today clearly is directed at Christian disciples for the way they are responding between the time Jesus ascended into heaven and when he comes again on the last day. Thus it sounds very harsh for the case of the one servant who finally gets cast into outer darkness. This servant had misjudged the nature of his master when he was unwilling to take any risk to perform his master’s business. For this he was judged as worthless. He lost even what he had.
On the other hand, those who accepted their responsibilities and were risk-takers are finally rewarded and invited into the joy of the master. It would be easy to dwell on and even wallow in the guilt and negativity the conduct and fate of the last servant engenders. However, there is primarily and especially the encouragement which needs to be taken from the servants who were risk-takers and the joy of the master they entered into for their faithfulness. While we note the worthlessness of doing nothing, we are much better served taking encouragement from those who faithfully and joyfully did their duty.
Jesus knew this when he told his disciples the parable of the 10 bridesmaids, waiting to go into the wedding feast. Jesus would soon be crucified, the disciples would be persecuted, and Jesus could be a long time in returning to overcome evil once and for all, and restore creation to the way God intended it in the beginning.
To us, 2000 years on, it might seem that Jesus is running late. That his return is taking forever. It is easy to be dispirited on the one hand, and complacent on the other. Jesus’ return will be in God’s time and therefore will be the right time. In the meantime, God has given us everything we need to be ready.
All Saints Day. ALL the saints? Can you even begin to imagine such a large number of people? How is it possible to comprehend how they can all be there together and relating to one another? Maybe today gives us the opportunity to catch just a glimmer of the wonder of what it means to be placed by God among those saints - and the interact with them.
What is the hardest thing for you to do or not to do as a Christian? Maybe it is to love your enemies, or to be my witnesses, or to pray without ceasing, or to be quick to listen. Let me suggest that the hardest thing might be to be still. On this Reformation Sunday we are reminded that the very centre of our faith is to be still. Be still and know that I am God … Come and see what the Lord has done. To help us to do this we will unpack these four points.
1. Don’t look at Yourself.
2. Look at the Lord and get to know the Lord.
3. Look at the Lord and what the Lord has done for you.
4. Look at the Lord and “Thank, Praise, Serve and Obey Him.”
Tax can be a tricky issue. And debates around tax have been going for millennia. In Jesus’ day, the big question was around whether or not the Tribute tax to Caesar should be paid. In today’s message, we hear how two groups who are diametrically opposed to each other join forces to attempt to trap Jesus on this issue. And with the crowds gathering around him to hear how he responds, we come to see how Jesus is masterful under pressure. His response is not only one that knocks away his opponents but is full of instructions for how we are to live out our faith today and pay tribute to the only person who can give us all we need.
Today’s gospel is based on the story Jesus told in the Temple in the presence of the Pharisees and the Chief Priests. It was not long after he had entered Jerusalem in humble triumph on a donkey before upturning the tables of the money changers and traders in the temple court. Then he told stories. In our Gospel readings for the past month we’ve listened to a number of these provocative parables - the disrespectful older son, the entitled workers in the vineyard, the murderous tenants. The stories hit home. Matthew points out that Jesus knew the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were looking for a way to arrest him. Today we reflect on the story of the Wedding Feast. It’s a well-known and well-loved story. We delight in being invited to a wedding. However, Jesus finished his storytelling with a hint at its deeper intent by saying somewhat mysteriously “For many are invited, but few are chosen” Maybe things are not as simple as they seem.
Today we hear the Apostle Paul say –‘I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. Paul mentions previously that if anyone had reason for placing confidence in the flesh he had more and he lists an impressive list of attributes such as his family origins, ethnic status, religious order (he was a Pharisee) and his good works. Yet he now considers them worthless in comparison to knowing Jesus.
In the business of our lives, there are many things that vie for our attention and these can become more of a focus than our spiritual life. It is also possible for these things to be where we place our confidence. Jesus said in John 10.10 that he came that we might have life and have life more abundantly. That is here and now. By taking the time to ask where we place our confidence and refocussing our lives, this could lead to having a closer relationship with God and a more abundant life.
Unfortunately due to a technical issue, there is no audio recording of this sermon.
Today we hear the parable of the Two Sons. One shirked his father’s request to do chores, but later changed his mind and did the work. The other, keen to be seen to please his father on the outside by his response, but secretly despising his father’s request, later skulked away without doing the work. Jesus finishes the story with a question: Which of the two did as his father wanted? Clearly the answer to Jesus’ question points to the son who eventually changed his mind and went to work. His initial refusal would have been a great offence, maybe even a slap in the face of a father who was the son’s provider. But deep down he had a change of heart and mind. The family of God is made up of all kinds of people. Its easy to think the scallywags among us don’t belong to a communion of saints. Jesus broke down this common perception. He demonstrated in word and deed the broad and radical extent of God’s love for all. If anything can create a change of heart and mind in us, it is divine love.