Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Sheep and Subjects

November 23:

Call:       Ezekiel 34: 11-16
Read:   W&S #158
Text:       Matthew 25: 31-40;  Ezekiel 20-24
Close:  Ephesians 1: 15-23

                Sheep and Subjects

Every year on this Sunday
    I remind you or I inform you
 that next Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent
        And therefore, the 1st Sunday of the new Christian year
    I also follow that up by making sure that you are aware
        That that makes this Sunday
the last Sunday of the present Christian year
            and that it is known as "Christ The King" Sunday

And then having built up
your curiosity and your enthusiasm
your fascination with what I am telling you
and your panting-like thirst        for more information
I point out that the reason this Sunday     is called "CTK" Sunday.
        Is oh, so simple - even obvious

For since we begin the Christian or liturgical year
Praying for     and preparing for
God to send a messiah king
It is only appropriate for us to close the year
celebrating that God has sent the king
    remembering what that king has done for us.
And     giving God our thanks for the king.

I am always amazed that.having brought my dissertation to a such a crescendo,
    No one has ever stood up, applauded,
and said, "Thank you, brother."

But since everyone here knows all that information
this year I am not going to repeat it to you

Instead, we are going to observe CTK Sunday
    By taking a look at what is expected of us as subjects
Of the king God sent.

As I set out to do that
I discovered that the scriptures proposed for today
Do not use the word king
    Instead referring to Christ as a shepherd.

In the passage from Ezekiel that called us to worship
we heard references to the shepherd
    seeking his flocks
    feeding his sheep
    providing them with a secure fold
        tending to the sheep with kindness and justice.

"It is not  Christ the Shepherd Sunday!"
I stated indignantly, but silently and to no one in particular

But then I paused and reflected.

As I did so, I began to see that kings and shepherds
    Are far more similar than I had realized.

Both the king and the shepherd promise to protect,
    The king to protect his subjects
The shepherd to protect his sheep.
And both the king and the shepherd expect the same things
    The king expects the subjects to obey and to trust.
    The shepherd expects the sheep to obey and to trust.

There are two kinds of kings
    One rules       by force, might, power, and fear
    The other rules     by kindness, justice, love and compassion.

The former is the military king
    Who was really what the Jews expected of the messiah
The latter is the shepherd king
    Who was really what the Jews received in the messiah.

Our text from Matthew 25, sticks with the shepherd image.
[Matthew 25: 31-33]

But, in introducing us to the "Human One" or "Son of Man"
By comparing him to a shepherd
Uses words like "throne" and "majesty"
    And talks of him "judging nations."

Those are "king-type" words

And the text proceeds by setting out
some of what the king expects from his subjects
and what the shepherd expects from his sheep
[Matthew 25: 34-40]

Note:       the kindness and compassion
The giving and the caring
Note too:   the interaction with outcasts
on the lower level of the socio-economic spectrum.

Those less fortunate are Christ the Shepherd's sheep.
Those less fortunate are Christ the king's subjects.
And if ever a congregation has had the opportunity
    To see what it is like to be Christ's sheep and subjects
It is this one.

For we have just spent about three months
    Looking at his first sheep and his first subjects.

The expectations for how we are to live
as subjects of the one we call our king
the one for whom we pray that God will send
at the beginning of each year
are set out in the lessons of the early church

We must take them seriously
    and     we must allow them to become a part of our character.

Those expectations began with the general and proceeded to the more specific

The theme was set out in Christ's Great Commission
    Christ expects us to be his subjects on this earth
    Christ expects us to be his witnesses
and to make more disciples for him

And Christ expectations are possible
Because of the Holy Spirit being made available to us.

And now to the more specific:

Christ expects us to serve in a community - not just as indivduals
a community brought together by his love.
    A community in which we share
    the gifts God has given to us or allowed us to obtain

Christ our king expects us to use our gifts to help each other
and to - together - help others.

All of us who are sheep and subjects of Jesus Christ
    Have something to give the king's community
And all of us are expected to use those gifts
for the king    and for the community

Of course,    we can always choose to keep those gifts for ourselves
    And simply pretend to others
that we have given our all for our king's community
    Ananias and Sopphira made that choice

Christ expects his subjects to live up to his expectations
    Even when it causes us physical and emotional pain
    Even when it isn't popular with some important people

Our king expects us to stubbornly share his story
    So that we feel and live the response that Peter and John
    Gave to the council when it ordered them
to stop talking about Jesus Christ,

"As for us" they said,
"we can't stop speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Our king expects us
to adjust and adapt to new situations

which, of course, requires us
    To talk with and listen to each other and to Christ
In order to find solutions to any problems we have

This was the approach of those early subjects when the Greek speaking widows were not getting their allotment
Those subjects found a solution in the seven deacons.
We are expected to be willing to pay a price for our king.
    Stephen did and he did so w/o complaint
    In fact he begged his king to forgive those who stoned him.

Hand in hand with this is the expectation that we understand
that not everything will be rosy for the subjects of our king

Paul knew this, but his position was that
    "If we are to enter [and I would add, "remain" in] God's kingdom, we must pass through many troubles."

Can't you almost hear Jesus singing,
    Lynn Anderson's     "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden."

And speaking of paying prices and things not being rosy
we must never forget the price our king paid for us.

We are expected to understand that Christ's kingdom
    Is inclusive and not exclusive.

We are expected to share the story and glory of our king with others
    Including others who may not seem to be like us
    That's what Peter, Philip and Paul did

And we are expected to welcome others with open arms

The Ananias we meet after Saul's conversion
And the Barnabas we meet when Saul arrived in Jerusalem
welcomed their former persecutor
    when most of Christ's followers were afraid

In fact Ananias and probably Barnabas were afraid too
    But their trust for their king trumped that fear
We are expected to recognize that the king is in charge.

We may want to do something or go somewhere
    But that may not be what the king wants us to do or where the king wants us to go.
        We may want to go into Asia or Bithynia
        The king may insist that we go to Macedonia instead.

We may think that we are going to spend our life in the court room
    The king may insist that we spend it in the pulpit.

We may want that flat screen TV or that Caribbean cruise
    But the king may insist that we support ministry and mission

And so as this Christian or liturgical year ends we ask ourselves
    Do we really want to be Christ's subjects and sheep

If our answer is "No!"
Let's skip Advent and Christmas

Why would we want to, and how in good conscience, could we
celebrate the birth of a king
whose expectations we don't want to fulfill?

But most of us will answer with an informed "Yes!"

And if we do,
We can be sure that during our remaining days on this earth
Christ will give us many, many more opportunities
    To meet the varied expectations of our shepherd king.

Today, being Stewardship Sunday
    Is one of those opportunities.