‘For the Least of These’ (Matthew 25:40)

What a year 2016 was! How was it for you? 2016 is over but the repercussions of the decisions that were made last year will be felt in this coming year and in the years to come. There are possible seismic changes ahead. The world is in transition. There are question marks over our whole way of life. The ‘turbo capitalism’ of free trade, the so-called benefits of globalisation, together with the insipient security problems and terrorist threats have all lead to democratic instability where the very future of liberal western democracy itself hangs in the balance. In a recent Newspaper article Pankaj Mishra announced, ‘Welcome to the Age of Anger’. We are now seeing ‘a tremendous increase in mutual hatred and a somewhat universal irritability of everybody against everybody else.’ This is caused by and leads to ‘an intense mix of envy, humiliation and powerlessness’. The French have a word for it, ‘ressentiment’.

This last year has seen a response from those described as ‘history’s forgotten, humiliated and silenced people’, also referred to as the ‘left behinds’. Those who have not reaped the expected and anticipated widespread prosperity that was the promise of globalisation. Pankaj Mishra also wrote that ‘to chart a path through the Age of Anger or even just to get our bearings we need, above all, a greater precision in matters of the soul.’ But where is the soul of our society? Despite all our technological achievement, access to information and ability, society knows precious little about ‘matters of the soul.’

This is where we have the link between political, economic and sociological matters and God’s people who make up the Church of Jesus Christ.  We are the ones who can safely, seriously and successfully navigate the murky waters of the human soul. We are the ones who are in touch with our maker, the ones who know our God of love, justice, mercy, peace and rightness. ‘Jesus Christ is the way, the truth & the life’ (John 14:6). In Christ, we are the purveyors of truth and reality and of hope. This is because we know the One who is fully and truly human, the God/man Jesus Christ, the one who shows us what it means to be a human being and what it is to be a human being in relationship with God and with others in families, communities, societies and among nations. Therefore, we are the ones who have to speak, have to engage, have to act. How else are people, is society, going to be able to handle all that is coming?

least_of_theseGod want us to live in a way that has authenticity and integrity as his people with the responsibilities and accountability that that entails? So we need to see the world from God’s perspective, to have his values and priorities, building our lives on the sure and certain foundation of Jesus Christ. In a section of Scripture known as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus clearly outlines what God considers to be of eternal value. In this most challenging of passages, Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe and provide for the poor, engage with people in need, in hospital, prison, or anywhere. We are to help alleviate poverty and suffering in whatever form. Jesus, the One who is the King of Kingdom, shows us that this is how we serve him.  In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.’ The Message translates this verse as, ‘I’m telling you the truth: whenever you did these things to someone overlooked or ignored that was me – you did it to me’. Jesus turns everything on its head. The King, the top of tree, is saying, actually you will find me at the bottom of the ladder, that is where I am, at the opposite end to worldly supremacy and domination.

And this is our ministry, our calling, to care for the least and lowest, the victims of the system, those our ‘turbo capitalism’ has ‘left behind’ and left humiliated, powerless and silenced. Also included in this are the elderly, the weak, the infirm, the mentally & physically sick, those who just can’t cope, those in debt, the addict, the homeless, the helpless, the hopeless, the marginalised, the ignored. We start 2017 with a new strap-line which is ‘Caring Christians at the Heart of the Community’. We do all this as if are doing it directly to Jesus himself. Mother Theresa, who was canonised in 2016, lived among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta to care for them because, she said, ‘Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.’ The only way to overcome the ‘Age of Anger’ is with the power of love, God’s love, the love we find in Jesus Christ, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, serving the Lord from the heart of genuine compassion that he has given us. In 2017 will we deliberately and intentionally go in the opposite direction to a society of ‘mutual hatred and universal irritability’ and seek to love God and others by choosing to see Christ in the least and lowest and choosing to serve ‘the least of these’?

You can listen to Julia’s sermon titled “For the Least of These” here: http://www.knaphillbaptist.org.uk/whats-happening/sermons

Our Theme for 2017

‘‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:40