St. Augustine of Hippo

Episcopal Church


“Not Any King”


The Rev. Nathanael Saint-Pierre

(Matthew 25:31-46)

November 22, 2020

Have you ever met a queen or a king? The President of a country? The chief of a government? How did you behave in her/his presence? How did that person behave or interact with you?

Today, as we celebrate Christ the King, the gospel reveals Jesus as the king of kings and the lord of lords. Not surprisingly for those who know the Matthean Jesus, he describes his kingship to be different from the kings of the world. For, what king of the world would be hungry and expect us to feed him? What king of the world would be thirsty and expect from us something to drink? Would be a stranger and expect us to welcome him? A naked king would either be crazy or drunk.

What is it then that Jesus wants us to learn from this gospel when he told us that “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.”?

When Jesus will come to reestablish God’s kingdom – which certain commentators call The Judgment of the Nations, verses 31-46, has also been called The Parable of the Sheep and Goats because of its parabolic twists and turns – Jesus seems to reveal himself as an eschatological judge and not as an active advocate. The Jesus of the first coming came emptied of his glory and power (he made a kenosis to let go of his godly nature) and was a servant. The Jesus of the second coming will be the Son of Man in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. In this passage, Jesus carries several titles. He is the Son of Man, the Shepherd, the King, and the Lord. Right hand and left hand that we’ve seen to be positions of power demanded by the mother of James and John, took different meaning in this story. Right becomes a position of favor for the blessed, whereas left became a position for the cursed, those who have not treated "the least of these" well.

A king of the world would never be hungry. Most of the time, kings have too much food to the point they are either gluttons or obese. They wouldn’t be thirsty; they own the well, the reservoir and the lakes of their territories are often named after them. They wear prestigious clothing, receive care from famous doctors or best equipped hospitals, and are not kings anymore should they go to prison. Maybe some do not want to let go of power because they risk being indicted.

But despite his glory, Jesus is not a king similar to the earthly kings because he compares himself to “the least of these.” Jesus is in our world today in the form of a hungry person, a thirsty person, someone with no class, no sophistication, and our future in the eternal kingdom depends on the loving kindness that we demonstrate and the way we interact with those considered least. How do we treat the powerless when we are powerful? How do we feed the hungry when we have something to eat? Do we wait until we have too much to start sharing? Do we care for the marginalized?

What is painful nowadays is the indifference we show to the needs of others. It is as if we never have enough, we never have too much. If the casket is not in front of our door, why should we care? I can remember a time when the pain of one was the pain of many. I can remember a time in my native land where food was cooked and sent to the neighbor's house, whether it was needed or not. My mother died in Canada after spending many years living with me. I don't think my next-door neighbor ever knew her. Our modern society is so individualistic that social distancing started before COVID 19. The world is becoming a place of systemic self-centeredness. If one is well why should one care if someone else is not? Martin Luther King taught us that until all are free, no one is free. BLM is not an antonym of ALM. All lives matter only when Black lives matter.

A pastor was selected by the board of a church to start working for them. Before he accepted the position, he decided to test the congregation. One Sunday, he wore very dirty clothing, put a very dirty dread wig on his head and sat on the stairs at the entrance of the church with a garbage bag on his shoulder. People who were walking in, members of the church, went and complained to the board and quickly they came and asked him to move. He left, then, in the middle of the service, came back, entered the church, went to the pulpit and started playing with the mic. People were upset that someone so dirty, so mentally disturbed could enter their church and disrupt their worship. Suddenly, this man that no one knew started singing and he had a beautiful voice. It was a Christian song. Then he started speaking and started preaching. A few people attempted to stop him. He calmly removed the wig and told them: "I am the Rev. Dr. So-and-So and the board of this church selected me to be your pastor. I am sorry to inform you so publicly that I don't want this position because what I want is to the pastor of a church with compassion, with people who believe in the restorative and redemptive power of Jesus Christ. A church with its doors open to all, no matter the way one is dressed, no matter the language one speaks, and no matter one's looks. We are church when we extend grace instead of condemnation, forgiveness instead of judgement.

Certain churches are more open to kings than they are open to the least of these. What kind of church are we? Certain Christians are more eager to praise people with name and prestige, but they mock foreigners, they judge the sinners and are indifferent to the suffering of the world. They push people down so that they can feel themselves high. What kind of Christians are we?

Today's gospel invites us to service: meaning, to go into the world and be not only the voice but also the arms and legs of Christ. We are Christian when we become the transformative force opposed to all kinds of alienation, injustices, and the cruelties of the world. We don't help those who can help us back. We don't provide help that asserts our control over others. We help to empower people to be the best that they can be. We don't welcome those who can invite us home and properly celebrate us. We invite those who have nowhere to go and no one to be with. The Jesus Movement is a movement that cares for the poor, the marginalized, the outsiders, the foreigners, the hungry, the needy, the thirsty, the prisoners, the sick, because any time we care for one of these, we show that we belong to Christ. We show that we are blessed to be on Jesus' right hand.   Jesus wants us to be agents/actors of redemption. Amen.