Sunday, November 23, 2008

Church-going angst

I sat through church today thinking about how very, very, very differently I would have preached the sermon.
The double-weird aspect is that it was a guest preacher with whom i have zero relationship, and so I didn't feel like bringing up my issues with her. If it was My Pastor sure I would have just started discussing after.
Instead, I sat around bitter and thought about it.

The TEXT in QUESTION: Matthew 25: 31-46
The Theme: be a sheep, not a goat.
My Objection: Christians aren't the ones being judged here. We know we should be sheep. That's obvious - painfully obvious -- plain and simple. This text (and it's an apocalypse, not a parable) has more to say than "you need to be a better person, in all ways, at all times."
The Christians in this text are not the sheep, nor the goats. Those animals come from the "nations" (Gentiles) which in the holy gospel of St. Matthew get an identity that is distinct from the Christian community. The nations are, to summarize the matthean view crudely, the foreigners to whom the disciples ultimately will preach.

Where are the Christians in this text?
The Christians are the "least of these my brothers" (see 10:42).
They are the disciples, the missionaries sent out without bag or staff or sandals, who will be "hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison" I.E. THE ONES IN NEED! They are Christ's representatives who are cared for or rejected as Christ himself was welcomed, or rejected, in different places.
So the question here, in the original context as I imagine it, is "In the end, what happens to the people we encounter, who are not converted to Christianity?" which might be quite an important issue to a traveling missionary encountering disappointment as far as conversion goes.

How sad is it -- then --
if you're with me thus far --
how sad is it that we have taken a text that was about judging the non-Christian nations of the world,
and we Christians have become so complacent
that we have to direct it at ourselves?
We stopped being the "least of these, Christ's brothers [and sisters]" and over 2000 years transmuted to idly hoping we'll be sheep rather than goats.
WE COULD BE EVEN BETTER THAN THAT!
we could be Christ to others. Not the generous benefactor of the poor -- we could be the poor!

Maybe it's just me... but "try harder! be nicer! be a sheep!" just isn't attractive. it hurts. stop stabbing me with obvious commands. I know I need to be better.
while on the other hand... "you represent Christ to the world -- especially in your weakness" is FULL OF LIFE!

3 comments:

  1. Bummer, but a good exercise in being in worship as a preacher and pastor, one of the most difficult things to do. Still, surely you were not at MBCC because the good Rev. Leslie Veen rawked that passage ;-)

    http://www.leslieveen.com/sermons/dont_be_such_a_goat.html

    Hope you are well and that paper is getting written.

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  2. AMEN SISTER! "especially in your weakness" is the key!

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