Rev. James A. Splitt
November 21, 1999
Matthew 25:31-46 Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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, _I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers 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, I tell you the truth, 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."
Ephesians 1:15-23 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Why do you do what you do? Take anything you do and make a case for it. Defend it. Justify it. Give your case, make a case for it. Claim you reason. Show just cause for everything that you do. We have all kinds of reasons for standing up for what we do. We may even be apologetic. That is, we may even make excuses for what we do, because we do what we do.
Try defending your stress. Take a stand on behalf of your stress. Why do you do what you do? We have scenarios and litanies of why we create and live with all kinds of stress in our lives. Why do you engage in the hobbies you do, your career, your habits, and your leisure? What motivates your being? What fuels your fire? What charges your batteries? What profound experiences in your life have changed you and direct your destiny? Why do you do what you do?
I was struck by the opening phrase of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. He begins by saying _ because of all this, I have not stopped giving thanks for you and praying for you. Because of all "something" Paul does what he does for us, praying and giving thanks. But that something is not a part of this morningís text. That something is found in the first fourteen verses of this first chapter in Paulís letter to the Ephesians. This morningís text tells us what Paul is praying and giving thanks for but weíre left wondering why does Paul do what he does. Because of all what is he praying and giving thanks for us? So I went back and read the first 14 verses of Chapter 1. I got it. I got the message. Paul lays the foundation for doing anything worth doing and worth doing well. If we can adopt Paulís language as our own and make Paulís reason our reason for being, it will give a mighty sound basis for doing what ever we do. And, whatís more, we may decide to stop doing some of things we are doing, because they will no longer compute under the reasoning of Ephesians 1:1-14.
Identifying with Paul_s reasons for doing what he does could dramatically change us, making it a part of why we do what we do. But you could shrug your shoulders at this. After all, it was Christ who said, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." Everyone sometimes finds their own level of ignorance the most friendly, and the most satisfying. Spiritual growth and discipline happen when we shake up our complacency and ask God_s Holy Spirit for more than a gentle nudge.
There are twelve stain glass windows in the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. One of those windows is called the Issachar Window. Issachar was the 5th son of Leah and Jacob. The tribe of Issachar was devoted to farming, an agricultural tribe that worked hard and reaped an abundance form it labors with the soil and the study of Godís word. The Bible says that Issachar_s people loved their land so much that they would not leave it, even to go to war. (Genesis 49:14-15). Tradition also has it that Issachar and his brother Zebulun made a pact that Zebulun would enter the arena of commerce while Issachar would spend time in the study of Godís Word, the Torah. Over the years, the tribe of Issachar continued this tradition. During the reign of King David the tribe of Issachar gave their king an incredible gift. I Chronicles 12:32 says that they were the people "who understood the times and knew what Israel should do."
One of the greatest hockey players of all times, Wayne Gretsky, has a famous quote. When asked the secret of his success, he replied, "I just skate to where the puck is going to be." Do we understand the times and know where we ought to be? Do we do what we are doing because of where it is going to get us? [Sweet, p.84].
The Jesus story today is very familiar. This is gospel text that is often acted out. How are we to know when Jesus is knocking on our door? How are we to figure out when we met Jesus and he was hungry and didnít have a roof over his head? This week one of the members of church called to talk theology. That doesnít happen very often, but what a wonderful call and discussion. How are we to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who have never heard it before? The old way was to think of them as heathen and then compel them to believe or we were justified if we punished them. This was conversion by coercion, not by love. We have since learned that we really didnít know what we were doing and the why of what we were doing. If we are going to bring the gospel of Jesus to people who have never heard it before, then we first need to see the Jesus in them. We need to see the Christ that Paul sees in everyone. Paul does what he does because he realizes that Jesus already knows those who donít know him
. During my college years I worked as a camp counselor at a camp in Highland Lake, New York called KOINONIA. My second year there, I was asked to be a counselor for 9, 10 & 11 year olds. I was great with Senior Highs, but now working with older elementary youth was going to be a challenge. I didnít know the 1st thing to do. So I went to the Camp Director, Jerry Manlove, and asked him what I should do. "Love them!" was his response. He turned and walked away indicating that I was to think about that and not ask for explanation. He wouldnít water down what he was telling me. It changed me. Those words helped me more than any other think I had learned. It translates in to the greatest motivational speech I have ever heard. I set upon the task of loving kids for who they are and what they could become in our 12 days together at camp.
Itís about time I got to the punch line of this sermon. So why does Paul do what he does? We know Paul prays and gives thanks for the people in Ephesus. Paul not only gives thank and prayers for them but in them, he sees the hope of Christ! Paul prays that they might have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know him better. He prays that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called them. Paul goes on to proclaim that we are Godís great power now and for all times. Why does Paul do this? Why does Paul see the hope of Christ in us?
Eph. 1:3-14 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of Godís grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are Godís possession to the praise of his glory.
What ever we do, we do because God has chosen us to be a blessing. Now reflect on everything you do _ and do it to the glory of God with thanksgiving. Because of this there is hope in what we do.
In the words of Dr. Laura. "Now go do the right thing."
Reference: Leonard Sweet. A CUP OF COFFEE AT THE SOUL CAFE. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998.