The Least of These
Proper 29: The Reign of Christ
‘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.’
It’s a strange image: a shepherd separating sheep from goats. Or is it this Son of Man separating people as in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment of the Sistine Chapel?
Whatever this image it’s an apocryphal one, a condition for salvation. But it’s not about saving; it’s about justice and how that justice is lived. In essence this is an image, a statement pure and simple about how we treat others. Some of us here have been inside a prison; some of us have been homeless. Some of us had a time in our lives when we could not purchase the simplest of garments and most of us have been sick. Think about those times: who came to see you and who came to be with you? Parker Palmer, the noted Quaker writer and spiritual director tells of a time when he was deathly sick. Friends, family came and went most of them chatting away. But one friend came without a word every day in the late afternoon,
simply sitting at Parker’s feet and rubbing them. It was the best and most treasured gift this friend could give. Justice often comes in the guise of sitting at the feet of another rubbing them, taking away some distress without a word. And justice often comes to us in the form of someone who needs just us. The weak and vulnerable, the little ones whether they be human or animal.
The ones in the words of St. Francis to his brothers who bear the face of Jesus
who after all was homeless, penniless, vulnerable. We hear daily of the people in this world who are not only vulnerable but disposable. But Jesus in this parable
is seeking a very poignant way to get his disciples and by way of them, us, to find value in every human life. It’s when we don’t that we are in danger of becoming the goats, the ones who do not see value in others. For it is our responsibility to find Jesus in the person of the poor, the sick, the homeless, the prisoner, the defenseless. This is not about who is a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew or Buddhist
or Hindu or any other religion. This is an apocryphal parable about how to live and how to see God in the very messiness of life. And we often do not realize how
our lives have made not only a difference but given meaning to another by a simple gift of being present and paying attention to the great needs of our society
and each person in our lives. We can look around this room, this building, this community and say how that person or this one touched our life in such a way
it made a difference and we were changed for the better. We dare not believe consequences do not exist for they do. How we live is how we will be treated by others. So as far as it lies within us let us do right by all people. Do not allow antagonism to control our lives. Do not allow love of humanity to cool. And remind each other how much they mean to us. Amen.