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The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“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. For 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, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

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

“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.’

“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. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I 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.’

“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?’

“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.’

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

Matthew 25:31-46

‘And breathe!’  This is one long and very repetitive passage.  With it we end our 40 days of parables.  On Day 1, David suggested re-reading the daily parable.  I am going to let you off that suggestion today.  I think we get Jesus’ point:  God is everywhere, and everything we do needs to reflect that.

Biblical passages sometimes mark special memories.  Matthew’s ‘Sheep and Goats’ was the theme at my ordination service.  Jesus’ words not just to his followers, but to all the nations have been the foundation of my 44 years in ministry.  Here on Holy Saturday, waiting for the Easter dawn, we take another look at our Lord’s final parable, in some ways a summary of what his teaching had been all about.

I see it now through the experience of being a grandmother.  On most visits with my grandsons, I am bombarded by the times tables.  There is nothing more exciting for a five-year-old than impressing an adult by repeating his numbers.  This week it took me back to another memory, learning that multiplication table myself.  It was hard work, and the repetition became monotonous. Then suddenly the process of multiplying was no longer something I even thought about. 2×2=4 was an instant calculation. In trying to make sense of this parable I realized the point of the repetition was to emphasize the importance of its content and then to fasten it in our brains so that we did these Godly acts naturally without even thinking about it.

As Jesus’ ministry began, he announced that he was on earth to bring good news.  And then at the end he reminded us that this good news was all about hospitality, friendship and justice, the characteristics of Christian discipleship.  Did I always get it right?  Gosh no, but I always had the trust that comes with Easter.  In just a few short hours we will be reminded again of God’s power to restore life and bring about forgiveness.

Prayer: Creator God, we thank you that Jesus taught us through parables.  We have learned of your goodness and of your love.  May our lives be so filled with the Spirit that we might naturally offer that same love to everyone around us.  Amen.

Action: Begin to engage with or commit to greater support of an activity that offers help to anyone in need.  Start with a kindly word or a pleasant smile (once the masks are off) then work your way to a seat on the board of a company needing to make ethical decisions in a hurting world.

This Thought was written by Caroline Lockerbie