Matthew 25: 34 – 40
34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘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.’
This week we approach what should be a day of reflection for us as it is Remembrance Day. It is a day when we are called to shift our gaze from ourselves to others and in particular those who have sacrificed for what we have today. The reality is that this is not always the case, in our own live or in our history. Our faith stories speaks to the need to look beyond ourselves and to see the wider world. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel has stated, “The Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” It is a call for us to see our history of war, and what is happening in the world right now, in a different light. We all have a part to play in our collective future. But our world can be a lot different than this, can’t it?
It has been said that we live in a world where everything revolves around the “Me!” We hear sayings such as “if you don’t look after yourself, no one else will!” There seems to be this notion that we need to grab and hold onto whatever we can get for ourselves because that is our mission in life, to enable us to acquire more, more things, more possessions, bigger, better, newer. The reading from Matthew is a direct call for us to shift our gaze from ourselves to those around us, to those who might be marginalized in our world, those who might be hungry, naked, without a place to live. I suppose the question that I have is does it stop there, or is there more?
I will be honest, we do well with charity, churches, and the United Church included do well with offering charity to those who need it, we feed the hungry, we clothe the naked, we visit that lonely, we do well and that is good work, but should there be more. I found this quote from Mark Van Steenwyk which challenges me to think in a new way; “Charity isn’t justice. Charity accepts the status quo. When we do charity, we give out of our affluence to help the poor; we don’t actually sacrifice our affluence to destroy the distinction between the rich and the poor. We mustn’t settle for charity when justice is required.”
If we were to look at Jesus’s life we would see someone who challenged the status quo of his time. We would see someone who worked not only for charity, but for true justice for those who are marginalized, those who are outcast, those who are poor. Jesus lived a life of social transformation and I believe that we are called to live that same type of life. The work that we do is good work, it matters to those who are hungry, naked, cold, and lonely, but we are called to be more, we are called to be people of transformation. We are called to be people who will pull down that which keeps so many living in our world hungry, cold, lonely, and without a safe place to live. We are called to be people of true justice for all people. We are called to be people who challenge the war and violence that has torn our world apart too many times. We are called to be people of peace and true justice in a world that so badly needs it now.
God of all people, help us to see that the work that we do in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the lonely, speaking for peace, is only the beginning. Help us to become Your people of transformation, working in the world for true justice for all people. Help us to see those places where injustice has become the norm for society and help us to challenge those structures that work to preserve the injustice that exists. Be with us as we challenge the status quo so that all people might live in the abundance of life. We ask all of this through Jesus, the rebel, the one who lived a life of true transformation. Amen.