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Last Sunday after Pentecost

Readings: Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100, Ephesians 1: 15-23; Matthew 25: 31-46

Imagine – traveling to ancient Jerusalem and standing on the mount at the entrance of the temple.  There you are greeted by a temple acolyte.  With him you and the others gathered from around the known world begin the entrance rite. 

First, you are instructed to face away from the temple as far as the eye could see, and to recite

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;

“All you lands” includes the Egyptians who generations before enslaved you.  They include the Mesopotamians (think Iran and Iraq), the pagans to the East.  They include the cruel Edomites to the South.  They include the warlike Syrians to the North-east.  You are guided by the acolyte to declare that all are to be joyful and all are to serve God with gladness, and all are to come before God’s presence with a song.  All, there are no exceptions.

Next, the acolyte instructs the group on the temple mount to turn and face one another, and to recite the following:

Know this: the Lord himself is God;                                        he himself has made us and we are his;                                     we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Edomites, Syrians, all are made by God, all are God’s people, and all are the “sheep of his pasture”.  All, there are no exceptions, which makes those gathered to be sisters and brothers.

Now the acolyte instructs the group of pilgrims to face the temple entryway:

Enter [God’s] gates with thanksgiving;                                       go into [God’s] courts with praise;                                         give thanks to [God] and call upon his Name.

The nations are God’s; the people are God’s; and the temple is God’s.

The final verse of Psalm 100 then defines who this God is:

The Lord God is good; the [Lord God’s] mercy is everlasting;                and the [Lord God’s] faithfulness endures from age to age.

WOW.  This Psalm is pure Gospel, it is good news to all.  It is good news for those ancient pilgrims, and it is good news for us today.  We are to live, as varied as we maybe, as sisters and brothers—joyfully serving and singing.  The Psalmist is saying to us today, this is the norm; this is sanity; this is how we are to live every day, even in the midst of a world gone insane, joyful, serving and singing. 

It is in that Spirit that St. Paul wrote to the small congregation in Ephesus in the midst of the Roman Empire, “I do not cease to give thanks for you”.

In that Spirit St. Matthew wrote how the people of God can serve, simple tasks:

Providing food for the hungry,                                               water for the thirsty,                                                       welcome for the stranger,                                                    clothing for the naked,                                                     care for the sick, and                                             companionship for the imprisoned.

St. Matthew reminded the people of his own day that these simple acts of kindness can be done by anyone, and in so doing we are serving Jesus himself. 

As for the second section of St. Matthew’s scripture reading for today, I OBJECT!  When we fail in these simple acts of service, when we neglect to provide food, water, welcome, clothing, care and companionship the condemnation declared by St. Matthew ignored what the Psalmist proclaimed in Psalm 100, v.4:

…the Lord is good;                                                                                                                          [the Lord’s] mercy is everlasting; and                                                                                        [the Lord’s] faithfulness endures from age to age.

While we may from time to time fail to do these acts of simple service, the Lord God does not abandon us.  When we are not faithful, the Lord God’s faithfulness endures.  When we error and stray like lost sheep, the Lord God’s mercy is everlasting. The Good Shepherd does not abandon us.  God is not done with us now or ever!

There will always be more time to be joyful.                            There will always be more opportunities to serve with gladness.          There will always be more occasions to sing.                                 They will be in this life and in the life to come. 

Amen

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