Just occasionally I will publish a sermon here which I have written and preached. On the two passages in this morning's readings, Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25:31-46, I used the following as my text. Some aspects of it will only make sense to Kiwis who have followed the news re our forthcoming election and our post-quake struggles in Christchurch.
From Ezekiel, let me re read a few words: v. 16 “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”
And from Matthew I want to re read a few words: v. 35 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me ... Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers you did it to me.”
What is at the heart of God’s message to us? What is God’s will for the world?
Justice, could be one word to sum it up. Justice and mercy, would be three words to put it in a phrase.
The gospel, the good message is that justice is possible. It can happen in life, not just in our dreams.
First, God shows mercy to us in Jesus Christ and forgives all our debts to God.
Secondly, God creates us to be a new people of justice.
Christians carry with them the story of God from Ezekiel: our God is merciful and works for justice.
Our hearts beat with the simple challenge of Jesus: someone is hungry, we feed them, thirsty we give them a drink, strange we welcome them, naked clothe them, sick we visit and in prison we go to them. The least significant is Christ in our midst.
Or that’s the way things should be.
Justice is a hot subject. Work for justice in the church and people are liable to look sideways at you; wonder if you are one of those left-wing types, or, these days, a greenie. Yet no one says we have no business with justice, that we should have nothing to do with works of mercy.
Mike Coleman is one of our priests. He is trying to give voice to the folk in the red zone. Their quest is for justice and for mercy from our government.
Jolyon White is one of our deacons. This week he has been in the news. Quite a few people, as far as I can tell, are mad with him.
His particular protest has been referred to the police by the Electoral Commission. Whatever we feel about what has happened, Jolyon’s heart beats for justice, his protest asks whether a brighter future for New Zealand is a just future or not.
In less than a week we vote in our election. It feels like a strange election to me.
A cup of tea seems to have dominated it.
Winston Peters might prove that resurrection can happen in this life.
But these are distractions.
Our votes are choices we make as Christians.
With today’s passages in mind dare we cast them in the interest of ourselves?
Dare we cast them in order to make sure our lives are better?
Of course not.
We can only vote for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison.
We can only vote for those who will work with the grain of God’s shepherd heart
A heart which seeks the lost, the strayed, the injured and the weak.
who is the prime minister,
what are the policies which will make our country strong in order to support the weak,
which will make our country healthy so we can bind up the injured,
which will make our country a safe haven for the lost?
That is our question this week.
If we are not ‘stirred up’ on this ‘stir up Sunday’ we should be stirred up.
Stirred up knowing that when Christ comes again he comes as judge,
yet right now he is in our midst
as the one who is hungry (200000 children below the poverty line),
who is thirsty (we have issues about the quality of our water),
who is alien (we have refugees struggling to settle here),
who is naked (well we had a naked rugby star in the news this week but what a lost young man he seems to be),
who is sick (we will know many).
and who is in prison (still many there though we can be thankful the numbers are falling).
This Saturday let’s vote for Christ!
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