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11/26/23 Sermon

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Psalm 100 - NRSVUE

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; come into Their presence with singing.

3 Know that the Lord is God. It is God who made us, and we are Theirs; we are God’s people and the sheep of Their pasture.

4 Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and Their courts with praise. Give thanks to God; bless Their name.

5 For the Lord is good; Their steadfast love endures forever and Their faithfulness to all generations.

Matthew 25:31-46 - NRSVUE

31 “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. 32 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, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, 35 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, 36 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.’ 37 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? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You who are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 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.’ 44 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?’ 45 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.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.”

Making the House Ready for the Lord

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but still nothing is as shining as it should be for you. Under the sink, for example, is an uproar of mice — it is the season of their many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves and through the walls the squirrels have gnawed their ragged entrances — but it is the season when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow; what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox, the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am speaking to you whenever I say, as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

Mary Oliver

Beginning with Psalm 100, I invite us all this morning to share the word or thought that sparked interest when hearing each reading. What is the heart of each reading…

Psalm 100 I heard… Serve the Lord with gladness

The congregation heard… Thanksgiving. A joyful noise. Singing. Come into God’s presence with singing. Praise. Thanks. Steadfast love endures…

Matt 25 I heard… Truly I tell you, if you did / did not do for others, you did / did not do for me. (How we treat others every day in routine interactions = our true character)

The congregation heard… Truly I tell you. Welcome strangers. Least of these. Jesus comes with angels. How our work is cut out for us. Pay attention; eyes wide open. Don’t be a goat.

M. Oliver I heard… Come in, Come in.

The congregation heard… Come in, The least of these were the critters.

… and what is the theme that ties them together?

What came through loud and clear for me in all three readings were generosity of spirit and compassion for others.

This morning we have an opportunity to problem-solve together. And to acknowledge where we are making a difference in the world – and where the world needs us to show up.

Examples of Serving the Lord with gladness… I said…

Knowing who we are and what we are called to be and do with gladness

(Doing work that we love.)

Appreciating natural beauty around us and caring for the world

Giving thanks and praise for all the good in the world

Examples of everyday interactions where we come face to face with God…

What do we see already happening to address needs – and what else can be done?

I said. Feeding the hungry – Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, HGS Backpack program

I said. Thirsty – safe, clean drinking water for all

A different kind of thirst – encouraging and sponsoring AA meetings

The congregation said… there are many types of thirst… thirst for knowledge, thirst for beauty, thirst for love, thirst for spiritual connection…

I said. Strangers welcomed – Hancock NST (Neighborhood Support Team)

Ukraine refugee families

I said. Naked clothed – Rummage Sale & Give-Away

I said. Sick – Hospice Ministry – paid and volunteer opportunities

The congregation said providing rides and access to medical appointments, praying for those that are ill, awareness of need for healthcare / long-term living facilities.

I said. In prison –in-person visits or letter writing campaigns

The congregation said some are prisoners in their own homes and need our visits.

Examples of widening the welcome… Come in, Come in…

When we invite any, we invite the One Great Spirit

the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned

the mice, squirrels, raccoons, dog, cat, fox, sparrow, sea-goose

I am going to bring our focus back to the parable from Matthew’s Gospel. Why does the parable employ sheep and goats? According to my Feasting on the Word Commentary, “In those days, shepherds routinely had mixed flocks. At night, they separated the sheep from the goats. Sheep enjoyed the open air of the pasture, while goats had to be protected from the cold. Because sheep had more commercial value they were preferred over goats.” As shepherd in this parable, Jesus separated the sheep to his right and goats to his left.

According to the scripture the sheep are blessed, the goats are cursed. The sheep have done God’s will, the goats have not.

God is our judge, but in the parable, Jesus is the judge. One thing should be clear… we are not to be the judge of others. Often we are not even good judges of ourselves.

How many times a week do we pass by someone in need and do nothing? You don’t need to answer right now. For myself, even one time is more than I care to admit.

How do we judge who is worthy of our time, our money? And when we make that judgement, are we mentally separating the sheep from the goats? More to the heart of the matter, when we ignore the plight of one in need, who are we separating and to where? When we judge others unworthy of our attention, our time, our resources – we are mentally sorting them into the goat enclosure. The sad fact is, when we judge others in this way, we are in effect separating ourselves into the goat pen, taking our place beside those who saw the needs of others but did nothing. Those in need, those with not enough, are more likely to share what they do have with others. Blessed they are. Pure in heart. Doing for others as God desires of us. That’s right, Jesus will shepherd them to his right, into the sheepfold.

We are to treat everyone as if… to treat everyone as if they were the most important person in the world, in our town, in our family. When we meet the person on the street asking for money because they are hungry, asking for clothing or shelter because they are cold, the very least that we can do is look them in the eye and truly see them. After seeing them for who they are, after seeing God in their eyes, then we may be ready to offer something of ourselves. Maybe it is our money. Maybe it is our jacket. Maybe it is our compassionate words, or with consent, a hug.

We all know that our actions and inactions impact others. This week I encourage us all to examine our own hearts. Where we may be lacking, may we find a way to serve the Lord with gladness… where we may be hesitant, may we invite those we meet to Come in, Come in.

In to our hearts… in to our lives.

Today is a good day to begin anew. May it be so, for all of us.


Rev. TJ Mack – November 26, 2023

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