Proper 29A 2005 Matthew 25:31-46
Here we are again with another gospel passage about the sheep and the goats. As I was thinking about what I was to say this
morning I sat reading the AARP Bulletin for November 2005. And I came across this short item – I did NOT make this
“When a pair of would-be burglars knocked 93-year old Soja Popova to the floor of her home in Klaipedia, Lithuania,
she grabbed one of them by his family jewels and squeezed so hard that his shrieks alerted neighbors who called the police.
Popova attributes her viselike grip to years of milking goats.” (1)
Certainly appears that there was some connection here between just judgement and goats, a propos of our gospel lesson, although
the would-be burglar may have thought differently.
There’s a story about a little town in the American Southwest with only four streets. The three widest and busiest
streets are named "This Way," "That Way," and "Any Way”...
Then there is the road which runs past the local Church named "His Way." That's the road less traveled. (2) That way was
too hard to take for most folks, too hard to take the time out of their busy and important lives to go that way.
Peter, James and John saw a glorious, but mysterious vision of the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration. The light cast by
this vision was intense -- "Dazzling as the sun," the gospels tell us. But that's all we know about the event. There are
no photographs, no eyewitness drawings. Artists' conceptions on canvas and spiritual writers' books are strictly out of their
own imaginations. So we'll never know what it was really like up on that hill when Jesus was transfigured in the presence
of the Apostles Peter, James and John. But we can sense what a spiritual high it was, that mountain top AHA! experience.
We do know that Jesus and those three disciples didn't stay up there on high, despite Peter's desire to do just that. We
know that Jesus denied Peter's request and led the disciples back down the mountainside, back to the city and to the people,
because there was a work to be done. Work to be done his way, on the street of life called “His Way, the street that
lies in the valleys where life is lived, where God’s people are mostly to be found, where God’s work always awaits
to be done.
Today's Gospel Lesson, the Parable of the Last Judgment, teaches us that when all is said and done, when we've come to the
end of our earthly journey, all that really matters is, did we obey Jesus' command to love one another as He has loved us?
"Did we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, comfort the prisoner,
and so on?" Were we a people of compassion?
In today's Parable, Jesus speaks these words: "In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you
did it to me". Do we see Christ in the least of our brothers in this way? That will be the big question we must answer.
It was interesting doing the research for today to note that many commentators tended to dismiss the importance of doing these
seemingly ordinary and mundane acts of kindness. They seemed to think that what was demanded was the great gift, the mighty
act, the heroic sacrifice. But is it not true that it is the little kindnesses that make daily life in the valley just as
One of the stops we made on our cruise to the Caribbean the past several weeks was on our return voyage when we stopped at
the island of Saint Kitts. Saint Kitts is a former British possession and we found there, as on other former British Caribbean
islands, an Anglican Church, Saint George’s. We walked up the street and hill from where the Maasdam was docked to
As we were in sight of Saint George’s Church just beyond a cross street, I noticed a very old lady, toothless, I think,
sitting in a doorway. Just as we walked past she held out her hand for money, not saying a word. Not saying a word until
we were just past her and I not realizing that she was begging. I looked back and saw her making an angry face and shooting
me the bird sign we have come to know around here as the Hawaiian Good Luck sign. That custom seems to reached other island
When we left Saint George’s on our way back down the hill, I made sure that I had some bills out of my wallet and in
my pocket to give her. She did not know that and as we approached her closely again she started cursing us – which
stopped immediately when I pressed the money into her hand. Not a word of thanks, though – and I didn’t expect
it. It was enough for us to have had the experience. It was one of those very human moments full of bathos and pathos, a
valley moment that I will always remember.
But it reminded me that we love our neighbors, we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, give drink to the thirsty, clothe
the naked, visit the sick, comfort the prisoner, and so on, without expecting to be appreciated or thanked for it. For example,
when duPont Funds that are given to us to distribute are included, we have given away just in moneys alone about one million
dollars just in the past twelve years. That doesn’t count our individual acts of charity only some of which I know
about. Neither does it count the value of the uncountable hours of volunteer time we give beyond this small parish.
What had been remarkable in my experience with this is how like this larger picture is to my encounter in microcosm with the
poor old toothless lady sitting in the doorway begging from passersby. Of the sums I have given away from our discretionary
funds over the years, less than a dozen people have written thank you notes. My heart goes out to those of our neighbors
whose lives are filled with such hardship, such quiet desperation, that they don’t have the time to be thankful. And
perhaps I am wrong about this. It is not for me to judge. It’s the way of human nature.
There is the story of the successful young businessman who was well on his way to quickly reaching the top of the corporate
ladder. He had all the right degrees and several letters after his name. He had a good position and he treated his coworkers
fairly and with respect.
Add to all of that his beautiful and smart fiancée; his great downtown apartment; his trim, good-looking appearance; and
his positive outlook ... and he seemed to “have it all.”
But one thing troubled him. As he walked to work each day he passed by many of the city’s homeless. They asked for
money. They looked bad and smelled just as bad. They annoyed him.
He tried several different routes to work and even called a cab from time to time, but they were always there. Finally,
when he had all he could stand, he stopped and talked to some of the people whom he detested. He heard stories that made
his heart ache. He saw human misery and realized he had a choice to make: ignore the problem or do something about it. He
chose the latter.
Some wanted nothing he offered, but a few each year accepted his offer of help in finding a job or assistance in getting
the aid they desperately needed. He did what he could and got many of his co-workers involved as well.
For all of his efforts he occasionally got recognition or an occasional “thanks.” But most of all he began to
understand what it means to love both God and neighbor. (3) And that is our task and our work.
1. AARP Bulletin, November 2005, p. 4.
2. Adapted from Sunday Sermon for 20 November 2005, Voicings Publications
3. Emphasis for 20 November 2005