In their advertising campaign for Christmas, one of our major supermarkets has informed me that I should relax after this year, for there is no naughty list… so I can help myself to the cake on the shelf, I can have as many loo rolls as I can carry, we don’t need to worry that we didn’t wash our hands for long enough, or that we failed to home-school the children in physics and math’s. There’s not a naughty list for Christmas this year, there is only the good list and as far as we should be concerned: we’re all on it.
So, hide behind the Coronavirus season, you’re “let off” being selfish and tuck into the goodies you’re being offered, that you have everything you desire!
Now to the contrary, our Gospel speaks of a naughty list, and a nice list and it will be quite clear who’s on which. The Sheep and the Goats… to the sheep the King will say, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you… for I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me something to drink….” And to the Goats, “depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink…”
The problem with the supermarket advertisement is that because at the heart of God is care and justice, there is in turn a hope that we might learn to care more deeply for each other. The advert suggests that we indulge ourselves at the cost of others… and that’s not good enough.
But! And this is a big but… because at the heart of God is also understanding… Perhaps the supermarket has inadvertently got it right that there is only a nice list – and we’re all on it!
For though human selfishness is deeply problematic to God and the flourishing of his kingdom… in the celebration of Christ the King: What sort of a Kingdom is being built which doesn’t have at its core: understanding and forgiveness? Even if there is to be judgement, that judgment is to be executed in love, and we know from scripture that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. In God, love understands all things and forgives all things.
Correct me if you wish, but it’s my understanding that since the beginning of the creation there is choice for the proto-humans and as a result of that decision for Adam and Eve to indulge themselves in the fruit of the tree of knowledge – there has to be for them a life outside of God’s paradise – but that doesn’t mean a life completely cut off from God.
God continues to be with them, to search for them… and so in turn, God is with us, even with the worst of us, even if we think we belong on the naughty list or have been told this by the powers and authorities of this world: sacred or secular.
Though we might choose to be selfish, though we might only think of our own needs. It doesn’t mean that we are cut off from God: it just means we are cut off from paradise – from a fuller practice of God’s world and how it can be, and be wonderful.
Our scriptures, even including our Gospel remind us that we have agency, the ability to decide how we are going to respond to God. But as members incorporate of God’s kingdom, we don’t have the luxury to decide to willingly neglect the needs of the hungry or the thirsty or the naked.
For the kingdom of God which is about here and now, has no referendum for the Christian to decide if we want to be part of it, or not. Whether we want to live by its rules and principles or not. We are clearly reminded “as we do good to the least of our sisters and brothers in need, we do it to God”. And this is our joy, and satisfaction.
In the greatest outworking of God’s kingdom, there is only the nice list, and yes, we’re on in; everyone. But before we get to that greater clarity of his kingdom, as Christian people, we are inhabiting and sharing in building the kingdom of God in this world, here and now, and that version of God’s vision is clearly reflected for us to hear.
“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And 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 is how we build God’s Kingdom on the Feast of Christ our King this is how we transform our World in his name. Amen