Mother Anne-Marie’s turn to preach, sermon number four.
Reading: Colossians 3.1-4, Matthew 25.31-40
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
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 foundations 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.’
So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone him
Each others needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving
Perhaps before we learn how to serve we need to learn how to enthrone Jesus in our lives. We all know people who live for something. “He just lives for his work”, “She lives for dancing”, “Cricket is his life”, “Those dogs are her life you know.”
Although we try each year to enter into how the first Good Friday must have been, to think what it was like for those first disciples, for Jesus’ mother, to see him die on the cross; we can never really imagine it because we know the end of the story. We know he will rise, that his disciples will see him again. We know that he will ascend into heaven and that we will declare him to be sitting at the right hand of God. He won the victory on the cross and reigns as King in heaven. I am not someone who finds the crucifix particularly helpful. The tortured figure on the cross is not something I can dwell on. I prefer a cross that is empty or one where Christ is shown as King on the cross, with a crown and royal robes. That reminds that he was victorious and that he reigns now as King in Heaven.
The Graham Kendrick hymn reminds me that Jesus must not just reign as King in Heaven, but needs to reign in me. Be King of me. Be enthroned, made the king of my life. If you’re not keen on modern hymns there is a much older one that says the same thing. Lines from “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow”:
“In your hearts enthrone Him; there let Him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true;
Crown Him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let His will enfold you in its light and power.”
It is easy to sing about enthroning Jesus in our lives but not so easy to actually let Jesus have that rule in our lives. There are many who call themselves Christians who can’t even enthrone Jesus on a Sunday morning. He doesn’t rule enough in their lives to get them to church every week. If we can’t enthrone him on a Sunday what chance has Jesus got of ruling our lives Monday to Saturday? Enthroning Jesus as King of our lives is difficult. It means you can’t live for your job, for cricket or dancing. You can’t even live for your husband, wife, partner or family. You can only live for Christ Jesus, our Lord, our Master, our King. In everything you do He has to reign supreme, to lead your life and your lifestyle and the decisions you make about where to live, what to do with your money, how to spend your leisure and who your friends are. And there isn’t one of us here who achieves this, who has got it right. It is a lifetime’s work to try to enthrone Jesus as Lord of our lives, and one that will only be fully achieved beyond the grave. But I hope we try.
And if we are at least trying to enthrone Jesus, to make him central in all we do and Lord of our decisions, then perhaps serving will come naturally. If we have handed over our lives to Jesus and try to do what he wants us to do, the learning how to serve will be as much part of our lives as learning how to make Jesus Lord of our lives. They are inseparable. You cannot say that Jesus is Lord and turn your back on your neighbour in need.
But serving our neighbour isn’t easy. We may get it wrong. We’ve all tried to help someone and been rebuffed. We have to learn sensitivity. And sometimes we have to overcome our deepest instincts of revulsion. It can be hard to help in a shelter for the homeless when those who come smell and are abusive to us. It can be hard to visit those in prison when we know the crimes they have committed. Perhaps some of us are thinking now “but I couldn’t do that, I know I couldn’t be a prison visitor”. Well we are not all called to do that, but perhaps we need to be aware of our weakness, be aware that there are things we feel we couldn’t do for Jesus.
The parable of the sheep and the goats tells us that Jesus is in everyone; that when we help someone we are helping Jesus, but when we turn our back on someone in need we are turning our back on Jesus. But is not just that in effect, everyone is Jesus; but also that we are Jesus now – he is in us too and when we help it is Jesus who cares and heals and restores. We have to be Jesus now to those we meet – he has no hands but ours now. Jesus enthroned in us means we have to do his work now. We are the ones who have to serve and bring about his Kingdom here on earth.
The Church of Christ the King in San Diego has a statue in its grounds of Christ the King with his arms outstretched. In the 1980’s it was attacked by vandals and the hands of Christ were knocked off. Instead of getting the hands repaired the church decided to put a plaque at the base of the statue which says “No tengo mas manos que las tuyas.” I have no hands but yours.
Prayer of Saint Teresa of Avila
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth,
yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.