Finding the King, November 22

Finding the King

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46

Rev. Cathy Schuyler

Catskill United Methodist Church, and online; November 22, 2020



There’s a cartoon that shows a living room from the balcony above it.  A few chairs, a couch, a large window with drapes, and if you look carefully, there are feet peeking out from the bottom of the drapes, feet with sandals.  Look slightly more carefully and there’s a glimpse of a white robe and long black hair hiding behind the drapes.  There’s someone else in the living room, answering the front door, where the people outside ask, “Have you found Jesus?”


We who have found Jesus, not hiding behind the curtains, but in our lives and in our hearts, are glad to have found him.  We celebrate and appreciate the presence of Christ’s love and grace in our lives, and we seek to live lives that share that grace with others.  The author of Ephesians references the depth of joy we have as those who have found and have chosen to follow Jesus:  17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.


What strikes me about this most excellent story that Jesus tells near the end of Matthew’s gospel is that finding Jesus is acknowledged by everyone as a good thing.  When the Son of Man comes in all his glory, that is, when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead, as we declare in the Apostles’ Creed, he will separate the nations as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.  All those who respond to Jesus, those at his right hand and those at his left, the sheep and the goats, are interested in finding Jesus.  Wait, say the first group, when did we care for you, Jesus?  When did we feed you or give you water?  When did we visit you in prison or care for you when you were sick?  We were always hoping to find you, Jesus.  When did we find you?


The second group’s questions come from that same desire.  When did we see you, Jesus, and ignore your nakedness?  When did we not feed you, Jesus?  When did we overlook you in prison or on a sickbed?  We’ve always been looking for you, Jesus.  How did we miss you?


Everyone in the story wants to find Jesus.  And Jesus isn’t as obvious to find as we might expect.  There are many stories about royalty who hide out among their people, in disguise, not obvious to all.  In this century, where we see pictures of famous people all the time – on billboards, on TV, in magazines, and all over the internet – it’s hard to imagine what it was like to know about someone, like your king or queen, and yet not really know what they look like.  Painted portraits exist, but certainly aren’t as portable as newspapers or cell phones, so many people didn’t get to see them. Before cameras, it wasn’t unusual to know of someone famous, someone whom you’d heard of, whose ideas and thoughts you were impressed by, and still not know what they looked like.  Methodist history tells us that more people knew what Francis Asbury looked like, one of the first two Methodist bishops in this country, than knew what George Washington looked like, who was his contemporary.  Why?  Because Bishop Asbury was a traveling preacher.  Lots of people had seen him in person.  President Washington was known by his soldiers, and by his colleagues in politics, but he didn’t travel to speak to new people all the time as Asbury did.  Even just two hundred years ago, celebrities weren’t always recognizable. 


I trust you’ve seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Not exactly an historically accurate movie, I grant you, but wise in its insistence that King Arthur had to introduce himself to everyone he met.  Who are you?  I’m the King of all England, King Arthur!  Over and over again, because the people wouldn’t have been able to distinguish him from any other person who came galloping by accompanied by the sound of coconuts as horse hoofs.


The princess and the pea is about figuring out whether a visitor is the princess she claims to be.  The Prince and the Pauper is a story about a boy who wanted to be an anonymous face in the crowd for a while, unrecognizable.  Matthew’s story of the final judgment speaks of Jesus living among us, unrecognizable as the king of our lives.  Unrecognizable, that is, unless we live as citizens of the kingdom he’s been telling us about all along.  Jesus, where were you? both sides ask.  And his answer is the same.  I was where you didn’t expect me, but where you might well have known I would be.  When you fed the hungry child in your neighborhood, when you visited the prisoner up in Coxsackie and cared for your old high school nemesis who caught Covid-19 last month, and when you left warm clean socks in the Blessing Box for someone whose feet were cold, you cared for me, for Jesus himself.  And when you couldn’t be bothered with those pesky kids, or decided that the presence of homeless on the streets was bad for business and ran them out of town; when you forgot about the young men in prison because they were a bad lot anyway, and washed your hands of your niece who is addicted to drugs because she’s a lost cause, you gave up on me, says Jesus.  That’s where I am these days, among the least of these, the ones who struggle and are living near the margins of society.


Jesus doesn’t tell this story as a commandment.  There may well be people who hear him and think, OK, that’s where to find Jesus, but I don’t have a lot of interest in finding Jesus.  This story isn’t told for them.  It’s told for us.  We love Jesus.  We appreciate his grace and sing of his glory.  We declare that he is king of our lives and that we want to be witnesses to the kingdom of his love.  This story is for us.  If we want to find Jesus we need to start looking for him beyond the walls of this church, beyond the friendships we cherish with neighbors who are making it and holding their own in the midst of these difficult days.  If we want to find Jesus, he’s not behind the curtains in our living room nor is he primarily in big rooms or small sanctuaries of people singing his praise.  Jesus is found among people who are struggling to make it, and among those who struggle with them, recognizing that we’re in this together, working side by side, hand in hand to bring Christ’s justice and love to the world.  There are a lot of our neighbors about to run out of unemployment funds without a new job in sight.  There are far too many people in Greene County who are fighting addictions, in part because it’s hard to find a reason to hope in their world.  And there are people who are getting sick with Covid-19 who will suffer, and who may not recover to the life they had before they got sick, physically or economically.  There is pain all around us, hungry, thirsty, and sick people who are looking for care, for mercy, and for love.  That’s where Jesus is – our king, our savior, our teacher, Lord of Lords.  He’s with those who need the love we’ve got to give.  That’s where we’ll find the fullness of life we so desperately seek.  That’s where we’ll find Jesus.   Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

11For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

20Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.



Psalm 100

1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

2Worship the Lord with gladness;

   come into his presence with singing.

3Know that the Lord is God.

It is he that made us, and we are his;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

   and his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name.

5For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.


Ephesians 1:15-23

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.


Matthew 25:31-46

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘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.’ 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


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