As we sang the year quickly hastens to its end. It is the last Sunday of the Church Year; next Sunday we will begin yet another joyful Season of Advent and thus a new Church Year. It is the last Sunday of November, and we sense that the year of 2017 is hasting to its end. It is the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it would only be becoming to color this Sunday in the colors of Thanksgiving: to remember our blessings and count them: to remember the simple acts of kindness that makes not only our day but our lives.
“Come, you who are blessed,” Jesus says;
“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,
was in prison and you visited me.”
Matthew 25: 34-36
This beautiful Gospel tells us about the simple acts of kindness that though simple truly are a blessing:
· to feed the hungry is to bless
· To give drink to those who thirst is to bless
· To welcome a stranger is to bless
· To give clothes to those who have none is to bless
· To care for the sick is to bless
· And to visit the prisoner is to bless.
We are indeed called to be a blessing through these simple acts of kindness.
But the Gospel is so much more than simple acts of kindness: The Gospel is about Grace and Gratitude.
These notions we have just celebrated at Thanksgiving: Grace, Gratitude, and contentment.
But they seem to be increasingly challenged by the notions of our time: numbers on scoreboard, credit scores and report, statistic sheets, sizes of salaries and benefits, - all of this seem to measure the value of a person.
These notions of our times are challenged with the Gospel of today, where those who shows compassion and grace to the most vulnerable are praised and saved; and even more Christ the King, Christ the Savior, Christ the center of our faith, shows himself and reveals himself hidden among disregarded humanity. And we are reminded that one of the flaws of humanity is that we as humans, are so bad at judging one another and we are also bad at judging ourselves. Neither the sheep not the goats of the Gospel did realize which they were. They did not know if they were Saints or Sinners – and thus it is said loud and clear: we better leave the judgment business altogether and leave it in God’s hand.
Like it or not, judgment is an unpleasant fact of our daily lives. That is true whiter we are talking about the histories of nations or the events of our own personal life. If we break the las, the society will judge us. If we live immorally: drink too much, eat too much or stress too much, our bodies will judge us. And even more the Social Media and the press will judge us. We live in a time and age where nothing remains hidden or a secret: all will be seen, heard, documented, and shown. All will be judged for better and for worse.
The #metoo movement has revealed a culture of sexual harassment and abuse that has been hidden and quietly accepted for decades. With Social Media and the constant focus on behavior, truth and honesty, our time is a time of judgment for better and worse. As a woman, I can only applaud that any abusive, harassing and disrespectful behavior is finally being called out and called what it is. But I am also aware of the importance of careful conduct, as we can ruin peoples lives on both sides: we are to believe the abused, but still give the accused the benefit of the doubt. I do not like the public shaming on Social Media, the public scapegoating; we should leave it to our judicial system and law enforcement to make these verdicts.
So, the thought of the Final Judgement Day, is not far from our current Judgment Days in our time of press, Social Media, documentation and …. We are judged by our actions and our words.
And how we ask – in the aftermath of our yearlong Lutheran Celebration – and how does this correspond with our Lutheran notion of Grace Alone and justification of grace alone and not our works? How do we build a bridge between the notion of righteous work and our faith in God’s grace alone?
Our works and deeds do matter. Our simple acts of kindness and care do matter. As Christ said: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one o the least of these, who are members of my family, you did to me.”
As the beautiful song “What if God was one of us” says:
“What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus. Trying' to make his way home?”
God is one of us. God is the stranger on the bus or the street. God is the lonely and cold, the hungry, the imprisoned and the sick. God is one of us. And thus, our work matters: as we treat others, we treat our God.
But what truly makes today Gospel a Gospel, is the fact that neither the Sheep nor the Goats realizes if they did the right thing.
The simple acts of kindness should be like the blood running in our veins. The simple acts of kindness should be like the air that we breathe. The simple acts of kindness should be deeply rooted in us – without any notion of judgment or reward, simply simple acts of kindness, because it is deeply embedded in us as humans and Christians.
In our faith, it is vital that we realize that God is one of us. That we do meet God in our neighbor. That what we do or do not do to one of the least of these who are all members of my family, we did to God.
We might think that some of our works and acts are small and insignificant. But leave it to God to judge.
We might think that all our works and acts are great and significant and righteous, but please leave it go God to judge.
The Gospel today on the last Sunday of November and on the last Sunday of the Church year 2017, reminds us that all our small, simple daily acts of kindness counts. But as the commercial for Nike says: Just do it! Don’t think about the reward or the judgment. Just do it! Because it is good, gracious, loving, caring, and deeply gratifying and satisfying too.
The 6 simple acts of kindness are so simple and easy that we all can do them. We can all visit the sick or the imprisoned, we can all give food to the hungry, we can all welcome a stranger. All that is required is a good heart.
As you have been fed, go to feed the hungry.
As you have been set free, go to set free the imprisoned.
As you have been received – give.
As you have heard – proclaim.
And the blessing which you have received
from the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit
be always with you. Amen.