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Proper 29 A RCL—Christ the King—November 23, 2014

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Today is Christ the King Sunday. The season after Pentecost comes to a close. Next Sunday we will begin Advent. This is also the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a time when we think of all the many gifts God has given us. We gather with family and friends to give thanks. After our service, we will go to Frank and Priscillas to share our harvest dinner.

Our opening reading this morning comes from the time of the Exile in Babylon. At the point of our reading for today, the Babylonian Empire has conquered Jerusalem, the people have been deported to Babylon, and they have been living in exile for about ten years. Ezekiel has just learned that the Babylonians have destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, and more refugees will be coming to Babylon.

 The people are devastated. They have been praying and keeping the faith and studying the scriptures, but now, they feel that they have lost everything. In todays lesson, God is speaking to the people. through the prophet and priest Ezekiel. God is going to search for the sheep and rescue them, and gather them, and bring them into their own land and feed them with good pasture. God is going to search for the lost and strayed and is going to bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. God is going to gather the people and lead them home to Jerusalem.

God is going to destroy the fat and the strong,that is, the rich and powerful leaders who had gained even more power and wealth at the expense of the ordinary people. Those who abused the weak are now going to face the consequences of their actions. God is going to protect the flock. This passage from Ezekiel reminds us that God has always had special concern for the weak and those at the margins.

The people have always thought that God dwelled in the temple in Jerusalem. Now that the temple has been destroyed, they wonder where God is. We are not living in literal exile, but we are living in a time when darkness and chaos and violence are all too apparent. We may ask ourselves, Where is God in all of this?This reading from 2,500 years ago reminds us that God is right in the midst of us, leading us through the darkness to the light. This is a message of profound hope.

In our epistle, Paul tells us that our Lord has risen from the dead and is with us now; he has conquered the forces of darkness and he is the head of his living Body, the Church. Christs kingdom is growing even now, growing inexorably in the face of the darkness and brokenness that we see in the world around us. And his kingdom, his shalom of peace and harmony, will be realized when he comes again.

In our gospel, Jesus describes kingdom people. They feed the hungry; they give water to the thirsty; they welcome the stranger; they clothe the naked; they care for the sick; and they visit those who are in prison. They take care of other people, especially those who are vulnerable. And Jesus tells them, Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me.

In a profound sense, whether we are kingdom people or not comes down to how we treat folks who are weak, folks who have no power, no money, no say in how things get done. We know this, not only from this gospel story, but also from the life and ministry of our Lord. He was constantly criticized because he associated with the wrong peopletax collectors, prostitutes, people who were considered beyond the pale. He valued women and children, who had no status in his society. He touched lepers and healed them. His love for every one of his children is our example.

As we think about this gospel, we look forward to Advent, when we prepare for Jesuscoming again and we also look back to his first coming. When he came among us, he was not born in a castle. He was born to a carpenter and his wife in a little out of the way place. They were not rich or powerful. They were what Jesus in todays gospel calls, the least of these, my family.Very early in his life, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had to become refugees and flee to Egypt to get away from King Herod, who was killing baby boys.

This is how the king of creation came to be among us. Jesus knows what it is like to live on the margins of society, to be beyond the pale, to be despised. He is asking us to think about how that feels to folks and to treat our brothers and sisters with respect.

We have been given so much. He is simply calling us to share his many gifts with others. For the next two Sundays, we will be doing our U T O ingathering, and next month, we will be making our offering to Episcopal Relief and Development. We will also be making our pledges to Grace Church in thanksgiving to God.

Christ is our King, but he is a very different kind of King. He is the King of Compassion. He has a special place in his heart for those who are most vulnerable.

Next Sunday, we will begin the season of Advent, and we will once again plumb the mystery of our God, who created the galaxies and the planets in their courses,yet came among us just the way we came into the world, as a tiny baby.

This week, we celebrate Thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for: loving families, our faith community here at Grace, the abundance of our lives, both spiritual and material, and the presence of our loving God among us, leading us and guiding us and showering us with gifts to be shared. Amen.

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