The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:
s067g11   Sunday 34 Christ the King  20/11/2011

'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?   Matthew 25.37

It is interesting, as I reflect on these three parables of judgement, how the common issue is one of knowledge.   In the first, the parable of the five wise and the five foolish bridesmaids, the foolish are turned away with the words ‘I never knew you’.   In the second, the parable of the talents, the person condemned was incorrect in his knowledge that the master was a harsh person.   And in this, today’s parable, both the righteous and the unrighteous realise that they have never met the King, neither of them recognise the ruler.

So the bridegroom rejects ‘christians’ who have kept their anointing to themselves, the master rejects the person who is given something but doesn’t use it for the good of society in general and the King rejects those whose spiritual journey really was about being blind to the needs of those around them.

I work as a chaplain in a hospital and it is here that people are welcomed into the establishment, they are accepted albeit they are strangers, they are fed and given drink, usually they are provided with a theatre gown for their stay, and the best efforts of the doctors and nurses are directed towards healing.   And at the end of the process, people are discharged back into the community.   The illness that might have imprisoned and restricted a person’s full enjoyment of life is cured, and they are released from their bed, ward and hospital; from what sometimes seems like a prison.

So for me, it doesn’t matter if the doctors and staff are ‘christian’ or atheists, they receive the commendation of the King for what they are doing, and as such are already enjoying the kingdom prepared for all from the foundation of the world.

So ‘christian’ education is all about knowing that we are free to share the anointing, that our work during the week is God’s work, and that our charity is more important than the intricacies of our faith.   Christian education is being a blessing to others, it is all about using our talents for the benefit of society and it is all about being aware of the needs of those around us.   And we enter into the kingdom by doing these things, not by learning the details of the theological disputes of the 4th, 16th or 20th centuries CE.

In her book: ‘The New Puritans’ by Dr Muriel Porter, she says: ‘(Dr Kevin) Giles’s comments suggest that, to understand Sydney’s intransigence (over the subordination of women) we perhaps need to understand more fully the particular inner ‘world’ in which these particular interpreters live.   Possible psychological causes have been noted in passing, as has the ongoing tendency in Sydney religion, for historical reasons, to be separatist and indeed and even artificially counter-cultural as a means of self-preservation.   Is there a deep concern about the power of women (and all aspects of the feminine) to erode manliness at work here?’ (p110)  I am sure that this extends well beyond the ‘Anglican’ Diocese of Sydney (Sorry about the ‘’ marks :-)   It seems fear, ‘separateness’, ‘counter-cultural’, ‘self-preservation’ and lack of faith are intertwined in all this.  These seem the fruit for those who claim such a rigid and inflexible dependence on the words of scripture and the real question is – ‘do they bring it on themselves?’   It is such a joyless existence, and does nothing to bring joy to others, like women and gay and lesbian persons seeking recognition and affirmation.

There is a gnosis, a knowledge, but it is a gnosis about the love of God that devotion and orthodoxy can mask.  It is intimately related to the sanctification of life as we know it now.   It is a gnosis that is available to all, a gnosis that banishes fear, is incarnational, secular, global and filled with faith.

And those in our parable today who are commended, who do not know the King but are charitable, are brought into relationship with the King.    If our supposed knowledge is simply personal it is quite wrong.

God has done everything possible to get this message of love for us and for others to humanity, yet the devout and the orthodox rejected it and can reject it still.   It is this mystery that John ponders when he writes: ‘The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.   He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.   He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.   But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’  (John 1.9-14)

The Cross therefore does not force an angry Father to forgive my sins because Jesus was prepared to die for me - the Cross is the ultimate demonstration of the reality of the antagonism of the devout and the orthodox to the real nature of God, who cares for people other than themselves.   ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family’, marginalising women, alienating gay and lesbian persons, condemning the less than orthodox and devout, ‘you did it to me.’

And this doctrine of the Cross forcing an angry Father to forgive my sins because Jesus was prepared to die for me is the ultimate snare when it results in a personal religion and supposed personal relationship and I guess the only possible response is ‘I never knew you and you never knew me’.

But I also have realised that these parables of judgement have a particular relevance to the events of today.   We are witnessing the Occupy Wall St, Occupy London, Occupy Christchurch as well as many others around the world.   It is clear that many of the people involved in these movements are neither ‘christians’ or people of particular faith.   But they are seeking the reduction of the gap between rich and poor, and so are acting in the spirit of our gospel story for today, and so their movement is part of the kingdom.    But last week’s parable about the use of the talents commends the capitalist system, the use of our time, talents and money, to make money and to contribute to the society around us.  Again this is commended, so entrepreneurial activity is also part of the kingdom.    The hospital where I work was built and paid for by wealthy Anglicans and other philanthropists.    The hospital was not built by giving money to the poor and needy.   This shows me that we are all so dependent on one another.

What then is the message for us, as followers of Jesus?   It can only be to immerse ourselves in the society in which we live, anointing others, people of other faiths and none, whose efforts contribute to the ongoing community and who seek the welfare of the poor and needy.

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, and we celebrate our part in the anointing of humanity, the human quest, the bettering of life for all people, where all generations are able to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.   Anything less seems pretty much a waste of time really :-)

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