Sheep and goats

Matthew 25:31-46; Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

The parable of the sheep and the goats is one that is familiar to us. Read today with Ezekiel today it makes us question, or at least we did in bible study. The question was if the USA is so prosperous compared to other countries and we are the fat sheep, does that mean we will be sent away as a whole and not allowed into the kingdom? Too often we like tension resolved and today I'm going to ask us to live into the tension of this question because I believe this is a life long tension we hold here.

Where ever we fall in this line of questioning I don't want us to lose sight of the build up that has been happening in Matthew which leads us to this parable. First there has been the past three weeks of parables in which Jesus has started off by saying "the kingdom of heaven is like..." this statement puts off the coming of Jesus it is all about being prepared, watching, waiting for his return. Today is different, "when the Son of Man comes..." means its happening now. No mire waiting, no more time to prepare and this is part of the surprise of the parable, getting caught off guard. Secondly Matthew's gospel has been building to this, think of all that has happened before. Starting with the calling of Matthew and the banquet, which is condemned and Jesus' response is to say he has come for the sick not the well, or Simon's house and the encounter with that woman. She cries and anoints Jesus and they cannot believe he doesn't know this woman's reputation. Jesus forgives her and lets her anointing become a blessing of the gospel.

The point of each of these is that in Matthew's gospel the religious authorities struggle with reaching outside of the law, the walls that have bound Judaism for centuries and they can't quite believe that in doing so any good will come of it. This is where we are brought to today. This unease of have we done enough, have we met the challenge of reaching outside our own walls. Bishop Smith talked about some of this in a talk about community at convention on Friday. A couple of things have stuck with me. One is in reaching beyond our walls to the community around us and meeting the stranger where they are at, and the stranger the better. Sometimes we meet Christ in the most difficult of places and people and unless we push outside our doors or comfort zones and meet Christ in the people who surround us.

This is what Jesus has done throughout his ministry in Matthew, reached out to the unclean, the questionable, the uneducated, the crowds, and those who would be considered to have sinned because of their sickness. Jesus pushes us out with each story in order to question ourselves and what we have traditionally believed. We are not to live with the comfort of the gospel, but to be lead to the stories that challenge us to reach beyond our comfort zones. This is why I believe it is important for us to live with the question that we originally had in adult study. Are we really assured of our place in the kingdom or are we too fat, too comfortable, too sure of our place or are we ready to live in the question?