All lives matter…

All lives matter…

Matthew 25: 31-46

I don’t often get on my soap box in Facebook Corner, but this week I make an exception and if in the end you want to call me a “silly old goat” I hope you can be sure that you are “one of the sheep!”

Jesus is talking about sheep and goats this week, but I hear him speaking up for “lives that don’t seem to matter,” and that strikes a chord in our society today, doesn’t it? I don’t dispute that ‘all lives matter’ to God, but sometimes we need reminding of the lives too easily neglected and Jesus does that in no uncertain terms.

Hungry lives matter!” Yes, let’s shout for them. “Homeless lives matter!” We’ve been saying that for years, but how much do they matter? “Strangers lives matter!” “Sick lives matter” and “Prisoners lives matter!” Jesus knows ‘all lives matter’ to God, but is reminding us of the lives we forget and neglect.

Even the lives of the goats will matter, including a silly old one like me, and he hopes we will change our attitude and be counted among the sheep. ‘All lives matter’ to God because we were made to matter, all equally loved and valued.

The lives of the poor and the wealthy;

The lives of the sick and the healthy;

The lives of the young and the elderly —

all lives matter to God!

The lives of the laughing and crying;

The lives of the living and the dying;

The lives of the silent or the shouting —

all lives matter to God!

All lives matter so much to our heavenly Father that he sent his Son to heal them and save the world so Jesus shouts for the forgotten ones and we do the same today when we say, “Black lives matter,” because they matter as much as any other lives. If our attitude is that of a silly old goat sent to a field on the left we can still change and be one of the sheep!

What Jesus warns me through this parable is that it is easier to tell the difference between a sheep and a goat than to identify Jesus in a crowd of people where all lives matter.

I am sure you will get, or have got many times before, your own understanding of what Jesus tells us. We can find many answers to our one question from different theologians, preachers and teachers, but this has the fundamental challenge to our faith: I know a sheep when I see one, but will I know Jesus when I meet him?

I can be a goat in sheep’s clothing — or, even worse, a wolf — but the King will know my heart and put me in the place I deserve to be. It’s not for ME to be the shepherd and judge who goes where if I can’t tell who is King of all God’s people, lives among them and values every life.

As we plan to start our Advent Journey next week I wonder whether the last verse of a Christmas carol is like a prayer answered, but we’ve never known it and are we ready to accept it?

O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

cast out our sin, and enter in, be born is us today.

We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell:

O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Immanuel.

If the Child of Bethlehem HAS descended on us, as we pray, and been born in us and lives among us what does he look like? What are we looking for and what do we expect to find this Christmas time?

I hope you might have forgotten it by January so that I can tell it again, but I want to introduce you to a contemporary group of wise people who set off on a journey from a church in the east to find a King God has told them to visit. They don’t know what he looks like or where they will find him, but he’s a King and kings are usually found in palaces wearing all the finery of wealth and power.

God has told them to follow a star and when it stops they will meet the king so this faithful group leave their church together to seek the one born as King of kings.

When the star first stopped all the wise and faithful people saw were faces of despair with tears of grief from years of poverty and conflict. They saw so much cruelty, fear and worry, but no kingly figure so they travelled on — and the star in the sky chased after them.

The star got ahead of them again and stopped. The only person they could see was the sad brown face of a hungry widow. No sign of royalty here, they thought, so they hurried off on their journey to find the king.

Don’t forget the star! Again, it had to chase the wise and faithful travellers from the east and apply the brakes further down the road.

This time they saw the black faces of thirsty children. All too young to be a king so moved on quickly without a second look at the frustrated star that chased them down the road. If stars could speak, it would have screamed for them to STOP. When it did, they did, but not for long because all they saw were brown faced refugees longing for a home where they could belong. No sign of a king.

The star stopped again over a hospital where the elderly and disabled were being cared for, but they weren’t looking for a palace for the sick; they were looking for the home of a king. The star still followed them and they always stopped when it did, but the next stop was a prison and that they knew was the wrong place to find the king. They were more guilty than the prisoners though of ignoring the will of God who told them to follow the star.

Then they saw a shepherd counting sheep and separating them from goats so stopped to ask where they could find the palace of a king.

You won’t find a palace,” said the Shepherd, “but you probably met the king down the road! He’s my Son and likes to one of the people so he knows what it’s like to live in the world I sent him to save! He’ll be back to finish separating the sheep from the goats soon if you want to wait!”

Then he will say to those on the left…….. You can decide whether to wait or not!

I think Jesus is the King of Gospel and Fairytale who walks among us in the disguise of the marginalised so that he understands the challenges of humanity. He is the king who dresses in rags and begs for food and water, shelter and healing, so that he can identify with the struggles of the most vulnerable in society to show us that “all lives matter.”

He is the Word that shouts from human flesh for justice to be done so that peace may come, but we are silent. He is the Light for the World that shines through humanity, but we hide it or don’t see it in others. He is in the stranger we meet and greet, but we choose who we invite to sit at our table and exclude those we don’t like.

We won’t find our King in a palace at the end of our Advent journey, or even in a Bethlehem stable, but born in the heart of humanity. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me,” says Jesus. “And whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10: 40) Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born is us today…. The prayer of our Christmas Carol has been answered and whoever welcomes the most vulnerable among us, welcomes Jesus.

A lot of people feel that God has abandoned us and that we’ve been waiting too long for Jesus so congregations decline and the church shrinks, but the Lord is with us all the time. We walk past him because he can be the Hungry King of our streets praying for bread; or a refugee with no place to call home; a hospital patient waiting for treatment or a prisoner of injustice with no advocate for his cause.

I can think I’m a sheep, all loving and righteous, but if I can’t recognise the King dressed in second hand clothes maybe I’m a goat going about mission in the wrong way. This is an invitation to look at ourselves and discern whether we have been like sheep or goats in attitude. It is a challenge to us as christians as to where we expect to find Jesus and what the King will look like.

Embrace everyone with the love of God and we can’t miss Jesus!

This is affirmation that “all lives matter” to God and when some people feel their life matters less they have the royal blood of Jesus in them! The “Black lives matter” statement reminds us that “all lives matter” enough to be loved by God in equal measure. There is no more or less with God — no favourites. All are welcome in God’s place when we come face to face with Christ to feel the one embrace.

If some lives don’t seem as important as others then we need to remember the Christ in them, the hungry ones, the thirsty ones, the homeless ones, all broken by sickness and injustice, all to be welcomed as the Son who matters most to our Father.

To claim that “all lives matter” means that “gay lives matter” or that “refugee lives matter” or “Muslim lives matter”, or the lives of any other faith, race, gender, age or culture matter to our Father. If not how can we claim that “all lives matter” when we choose the lives that matter most and those that matter least?

The evidence from history and in today’s world suggests that some lives, including black lives, don’t matter enough to be given the same justice or equal opportunities or to be loved like any other neighbour. I don’t want to be a silly old goat who neglects the Christ in them so I am going to let the crowd be like Christ to me.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,

let me be as Christ to you;

pray that I may have the grace to

let you be my servant too