Homily – Matthew 25: 31-46

Matthew 25: 31-46

The Sheep and the Goats

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

 

As Matthew 25 makes clear,

the Christians should see everyone as   “Christ” in the flesh.

-scholars argue that in the New Testament, “stranger” and “neighbor” are in fact synonymous.

 

“love your neighbor as yourself,” refers not just to people whom you know –   your “neighbors”  down the street

but also to people whom you do not know.

 

Paul makes this clear when he writes

that in Christ,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female.”

 

Scripture is very CLEAR —

Welcome the stranger –                we are all of one body

But….for some scripture is not so clear —

________

The Bible has once again been MIS-used for political reasons…

Attny General Jeff Sessions –

UMC The group claimed in a June 18 statement that Sessions, a member of a Mobile, Alabama, church, violated Paragraph 2702.3 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

Later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders summed up the same idea:

“It is very biblical to enforce the law.”

 

 

Once again – cherry picking scripture to support the argument…

 

Romans 13 New International Version (NIV)

13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

BUT if SESSIONS had continued quoting Romans 13 he would have undermined his argument…  VERSE 8  – Paul says…

 

VERSE 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor.

Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
PLUS-

Anyone claiming to walk the Christian walk should KNOW that Jesus NEVER put secular law above the welfare of the person.

 

As usual, trying to apply BIBLICAL principles to COMTEMPORARY matters of POLICY is too ambiguous …

 

Christians have taken opposing sides of the immigration/undocumented works and refugees – yet READ THE SAME Bible…

The filters through which scripture is interpreted  makes for a wide range of understanding—

__________

BUT –

The Bible is CRYSTAL clear on the principles of

WELCOMING THE STRANGER

There is NOTHING ambiguous about

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

_

Like the expert in the law – seeking the proverbial LOOPHOLE –

A way to be selective in who we are to love, welcome and care for…

 

This lawyer wanted to nail down the definition of NEIGHBOR –

So he asked Jesus

So, who is my neighbor?

Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan…

Rarely is Leviticus  a source of inspiration,

We find one of the clearest statements in the Bible about extravagant welcome.

Listen

Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV)

33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

The argument of immigration is not new…

It has existed since time began….

____________

Today it is about Mexican people seeking a safe place to live and raise their children…

I do not believe for one SECOND that they risk their lives in the back of semi-trailers in suffocating heat –

The people who migrate from and to Mexico, crossing 25 miles in a 114 degree desert to get to this country, risk their lives to get here not because they want to take away from you or from me. They come because they too love their families and are trying to survive.

 

___

By the way –

What American is out of work and hungry because an immigrant took the job

Of roofing houses in 100+ temperatures

Or hand plow and harvest vegetables from   the ground..

Or work tobacco fields in the heat…                  absorbing the nicotine toxins

I f you asked a farmer… they don’t ALL hire immigrants because they are cheap labor… but because they are LABOR

____

In 2013   NY TIMES ran an article by Adam Davidson Journalist focusing on Business and Economics and co-founder of NPRs Planet Money

Do Illegal Immigrants Actually Hurt the U.S. Economy?

In a very simplistic summary of the article….

He reports that because immigrants take the basic low level jobs – it actually helps the economy…

Because they take on the unskilled labor that comes along with skilled work, it frees the skilled workers to move onto do more skilled work… rather than be paid SKILLED wages for unskilled cleanup work.

_________

Economists agree that there are downsides to undocumented immigrants, but that the upsides outnumber them. Economy actually improves.

But, what is the difference… whether their doing the scutt work helps the economy or not?

_______

We are to welcome the stranger –

Even when it is inconvenient…

The Hospital has to have interpreters    available to assist patients and families in receiving good health     care…                                        whether these aliens are   undocumented,

or just new to the country…           and have not learned the                   language yet.

This is another reason

We cannot believe immigrants are        coming here to take stuff away    from us…

HOSPITAL

Trauma – hurt on the job

Fell off roof –                                    unable to speak language

Time to get interpreter can                        cause loss of life

Unable to comfort patient – effectively

Explain medical issues –               get important medical information –

Allergies

History

Even with interpreter – there is a gap   between the patient and       doctors./nurses

Coming here legally or not, is RISKY

Isolating

Dangerous

Scary

__________

My Master’s Thesis in 2009

Address scenario about

Immigrant family / cultural differences

Welcoming the stranger and their               beliefs

 

 

++++

  • Immigrants appear throughout Scripture:
    • Abraham left his homeland for the land God would show him, promising to bless him and all other peoples through him.
    • Joseph was a victim of human trafficking, sold as a slave.
    • Naomi was forced to flee her homeland because of famine, and Ruth returned with her when God provided food again.
    • Mary and Joseph brought their baby, Jesus, across several borders to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderous intentions.
  • Immigrants are created in God’s image.
  • God tells the people of Israel, time and time again, to “welcome the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.”
  • Hospitality, particularly to the stranger, is a theme in both the Old and New Testaments, and it’s a central theme of Jesus’ ministry.
  • The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, meaning “love of the other.”
  • The treatment of immigrants in our midst is a relevant application for numerous biblical themes—
  • stewardship, grace, biblical justice, evangelism, fellowship, unity, hospitality, the role of government, reconciliation, power

 

Remember Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt

— A family is forced to flee their homeland for fear of persecution—REFUGEES   IMMIGRANTS

This is the classic modern-day definition of a refugee. In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines that group of people as follows:

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Jesus began his life as an immigrant fleeing the land in which he was born to escape Herod’s Wrath

Welcome the Stranger –

Let us pray:

 

Immigration Prayer

Creator God,
open our eyes so we can see you in the eyes of our immigrant brothers and sisters,

eyes downcast for having lived so long in the shadows,
eyes challenging us to join them in the streets or picket lines,
eyes lifted looking for the Christ light in us.

Compassionate God, who has come to dwell among us,
open our ears to hear the cries of your children,

children being separated from their parents,
rounded up in raids,
led to detention centers,
silently giving up dreams.

God of Justice, who crosses all boundaries,
give us courage to resist, to say NO

to unfair labor practices,
to unjust laws like SB 1070,
287g contracts.

Give us the strength to stand with and for

your inclusive love,
faith to believe,
another world is necessary and possible.

Let it begin with us.

 

 

Communion Meditation

Next month is the 54th anniversary of the Desegregation of LUNCH counters…

WE reserve the right to refuse service to…

Up until that time – only WHITE people could sit at the counter. No one else was welcome or served.

54 years is not really all that long ago…

Even Churches refused to allow certain people to be served communion…

Because of color

Location of church membership

Lack of baptism

________

I can’t help but shake my head at the irony of a Christian refusing to share communion with someone…

Welcome the stranger/love your neighbor

Share the meal…