Year A Proper 10 WEDNESDAY, 15 July 2020
Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, Virginia
Collect: O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “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 to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “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?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
I enjoyed my time teaching. Every year I would start with the same lesson. We looked at maps. Lots of maps. Political, Globes, Topographic, Projection, Cartesian, all sorts. As the kids looked at the maps, I asked them which one of the maps is real. Now if you think about it, most of the maps were real, in that they shared real information. And all of them were false, in that they were representations of what was real. And no map can share what it is like to stand atop a mountain, or beside the Grand Canyon. There is a difference between information and knowledge. And there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. (Wisdom is knowing what to do with the other two.)
After we figured out that most of what we see on a map, however accurate, is not (entirely) real, we then focused on political maps. And as we looked at the lines that were drawn onto the other representations, it started to dawn on the kids that what we fight about and what we care so much about is an arbitrary concept. We fight and bicker over something that is not real. Now it is “real” in the sense that we fight and bicker over what we have declared, but apart from someone telling you, when you step into another country you would never know it. It is a mental construct.
Many of the kids' minds were blown.
Jesus drew a line in today’s Gospel. He created a construct for his followers. Jesus is saying “Yeah God!” is not enough. He clearly makes a construct for those of us who follow him, that lip service will not cut it.
Faith in the Roman Empire was mostly that. Declare Caesar is Lord, pay your tax, and that was enough. Most religion was societal formalities, or polite constructs if you would rather. For the Jews, including Jesus and his followers, this was anathema. And Jesus takes it a step further. Saying you believe and doing nothing about it is as bad as not even acknowledging God.
When we did not care for the Least of These, we rejected God who we say we believe in. And that is a very clear line.
There are certain verses that I have found are pillars of my theology, I have found in this pandemic. I am “my Brother’s Keeper.” I need to “Love my Enemy.” And I have the responsibility to care for “the Least of These.” These are the signs of True Faith.
And think on how this will play out. With the protests after the death of George Floyd, our societal inequities are even more stark. The lines of difference have become more clear. We have set up systems that do not care for the Least of These. We are on the wrong side of the line Jesus has drawn. It is clear. It is obvious. We as the people of God who say we believe and follow what Jesus has said need to be out front leading and guiding to form that more perfect union we say that we are about.
God, guide our steps. God, forgive our missteps. God, help us as we do what you demand of us, to your honor and glory. Amen