Sunday, November 26, 2017

Measuring shalom

Matthew 25:31-46

Needed: a ruler, a compass (for drawing circles), a compass (for finding north), and a protractor; a ladder or step ladder and a volunteer, and the video

A word of warning … today’s sermon is interactive. I have some objects to examine, a need for a volunteer, and a video to watch and discuss.

Matthew’s story of Jesus often focuses on the end times – in the belief that Jesus will be coming again soon, any day now. He also has a focus on judgment. If we hear only this focus, this judgment, we would be right to be worried about where we will end up. Will we be assigned to eternal life … or eternal punishment? It’s as if we need to measure up.

I have a few things with me this morning: a ruler, a compass (for drawing circles), a compass (for finding north), and a protractor. How are these items used? …
If we were doing math or a diagram, these items would help us measure up and stay straight. They would help us plot a course through the woods, or from here to the best Christmas shopping. But these things don’t help us measure up in life.

Paul and other writers help us understand how to live out being followers of Jesus. Another way we think of measurement is that some of us think we are a little higher or lower than others on the righteousness scale.
 (The volunteer will step up and down on the ladder as directed.) It’s as if we see ourselves on a ladder. Some people are on higher steps than others.
 Some people are on lower steps than others.
 We usually put ourselves on the middle step.
 The truth is that we are all on the floor. No one is higher or lower than anyone else. In God’s eyes, we are not really sheep or goats. We are all sinners, made righteous through Jesus.

It’s wrong, then, to assume we need to measure up by doing things. These ways of caring for the needy are not works we need to do in order for Jesus to love us, to admit us into eternal life. (Do you hear Luther speaking loud and clearly here?) I believe the parable Jesus tells is not command or description but rather encouragement and challenge to follow where he leads.

We don’t need to worry about whether we are assigned to eternal punishment or eternal life. We already know we are assigned to eternal life because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. We are assigned to eternal life because we are here seeking a relationship with Jesus. We are assigned to eternal life and we express our gratitude by helping others and telling others about Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

… The Hebrew word Shalom means peace. It is the kind of peace Jesus brings – not just a lack of war, but a sense of rest and abundance and security for everyone, for the entire creation. In John, Jesus says, “My peace I give you. The peace I give you is not the peace the world gives, but something much more.” (Pastor Lynn paraphrase of John 14:27)

Shalom is an all-encompassing peace. I have heard it said that if there is not shalom everywhere, there is no shalom anywhere. The kingdom of God intends for there to be shalom. The way to bring shalom into the world is to do just what Jesus says in Matthew 25: 31-46. We are sent by him to feed, clothe, visit, and otherwise care for those in need as if they were Jesus himself.

The other day, I discovered Osheta Moore. Her website says this about her: “Osheta Moore is a Los Angeles writer and podcaster, as well as wife to an urban pastor, mother of three, and economic justice advocate for women in developing countries. Moore has consistently been a voice for peacemaking, justice, and racial reconciliation.”

She has recently published a book called Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Broken World. In the book Moore invites readers to spread shalom. From dropping “love bombs” on a family vacation, to talking to the coach who called her son the n-word, to spreading shalom with a Swiffer, Moore offers bold steps for crossing lines between black and white, suburban and urban, rich and poor.”

I could tell her story, but hearing her tell it is much more effective. Listen to how she lives out, and encourages others to live out, the passage that is today’s Gospel reading. How does she look for Jesus in others? How do others find Jesus in her? Where is the Kingdom of God for Osheta?

Watch the video: …

How does she look for Jesus in others? How do others find Jesus in her? In the giving and in the receiving of these gifts: Doing laundry, listening, spending time, accepting all, generosity, kindness, peacemaking, speaking up … .

Where is the Kingdom of God for Osheta?
The kingdom of God is everywhere, as we tell a story of shalom in the world.

I believe shalom is a great definition for the kingdom of God. I believe Jesus is the Great Shalom-bringer, the Prince of Peace, who reigns over this world. He is the King of Love, the Sovereign of Forgiveness.

This week, I hope you will look for opportunities to bring shalom to someone else.

Please pray with me: Gracious God, Prince of Peace, Ruler of our lives, lead us to be your peacemakers, your comfort-givers, your merciful servants. Amen