Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

The King's Sheep Or Thankful Sheep

November 20th, 2011:

Call:   Ephesians 1: 15-23
Text:   Matthew 25: 31-46
Read:   Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24

The King's Sheep or Thankful Sheep

I am your king!

You are my subjects.

I have authority to judge over you.
I have the power
        To reward you
and I have the power
        To punish you.

I have every right to expect you to obey.
        And every right to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure you do.

For I am your king!

Can you imagine someone standing up here
        Or standing up in front of you anywhere
And seriously saying that to you

WOW!    I don't think that I would like to hear that
        From anyone
I think I would be inclined to want to rebel
Against any such proclamation.

For you and I respond as people who see our rulers
        As getting their power and authority from the consent of those of us who are to be governed.

Kings are a foreign breed to us.

And yet on this, the last day of this Christian year,
The Sunday we celebrate that Christ is          King - our king

We have to acknowledge
        That we are his subjects;
We have to acknowledge
        That he has authority to judge over us;
We have to acknowledge
        That he has the power   To reward us
and     that he has the power           To punish us.

And we have to acknowledge
That he has every right to expect us to obey.
        And every right to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure we do.

And on this Sunday we not only are expected to acknowledge,
But we are also expected to celebrate
That Christ is our king!

In 21st century America
        This is not easy
        This does not seem natural
        This is not entirely comfortable.

But     The image of Christ as a king judging his people
        Separating them
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats
is the image of our scripture.
And it is an image
that is a part of the Advent season
that we begin next week.
                The image of the coming of the promised great king
                        Is exactly what Advent is about.

In fact, it is an image
        That is also a part of our Holy Week celebration
                The triumphal entry into Jerusalem
                        With its hosannas and its cheers
                The allegation that that he is the king of the Jews
                        And thus a traitor to Caesar
                The plaque on the cross proclaiming just that.

And being our king is an image inherent in our calling him "Lord."

Oh, yes, the image of Christ as a king is a part of our Christian tradition
                A part that you and I, living where and when we do,
                        Often ignore or miss
                                Not always maliciously or selfishly
                                But because such an image goes against our
Grain, against our nature
And is not a part of our life experience

But Christ as king is not the only image of Christ in our scripture
        For Christ's own imagery in this passage
Includes the image of him as    a shepherd

The image of Christ as a shepherd
        Is easy and does seem natural
        Is entirely and satisfactorily comforting.

Just look at the window in the Good Shepherd Room
        Upstairs over the Fellowship Hall
For the last several weeks
I have been writing my sermons in that room

And each time I enter it
I see that window
        I see Christ carrying the little lamb
        I see five other sheep walking with him
                Almost crowding around to be close to him
                Looking honored and joyous to be doing so.

And I am comforted.

The shepherd looks out for              and protects    the flocks.

And you and I are the flocks
        Grateful for that care and protection.

The image of Christ as a shepherd
        Is also a part of the season ahead
        For the shepherds welcomed one of their own
                By telling others of his birth

The image of Christ as a shepherd
        Is a part of what the prophets had said when they indicated that he would be coming
                (we just read such a passage from Ezekiel.)

The image of Christ as a shepherd is also a part of the post Easter appearances
        Where Jesus asks Peter,         "Do you love me?"
And when Peter says "yes"
Christ instructs him to feed his sheep and his lambs.

The image of Christ as both shepherd and king
        - The twin images of this remarkable scripture -
Intertwine to inform us
   as we try to understand and strengthen our relationship with God.

We like the one image
        Because it is comforting        Oh, yeah!
We fear the other image
        Because it is intimidating.     Oh, yeah!"

Seeing Christ as a shepherd
can help us understand Christ as a king,
as a loving, just, and kind king

But seeing Christ as a king
        Can help us understand that Christ even as a shepherd
Has     power and authority over us
        and     has     certain expectations of us.

And this scripture makes it clear what those expectations are
By causing us to ask

"Lord, have we seen you hungry and given you food?
        Or      have we failed to?
Lord, have we seen you thirsty and given you something to drink?
        Or      have we failed to?
Lord, have we seen you as a stranger and welcomed you?
        Or      have we failed to?
Lord, have we seen you naked and given you clothing?
        Or      have we failed to?
Lord, have we seen you sick or imprisoned and visited you?"
                Or      have we failed to?

And I envision Christ answering,
        "have you done those to the least of my people?
        Have you?               If you have, you have done them to me."
        "Or have you been selfish and self centered?
        Have you?
If you have,    you have failed to do these to me."

We answer the questions ourselves.

Next week, on the first Sunday of Advent
we begin
another Christian year,
        another annual cycle of life and love
of learning and serving
We will do so by pleading for God to send a king to save us.

Today we complete this year, this cycle
        By giving thanks for the fact that God has indeed
                Heard and answered our prayers
                By sending that king.

It seems so appropriate that the Sunday we set aside
        To give thanks for that king
        Is always one of the two Sundays that bookend Thanksgiving

That may make it hard for people like me to decide which observance to highlight in sermon titles,

But it is oh so fitting.

And thus today, we celebrate and give thanks
        That we have the opportunity
to be the king's sheep.