Gospel of 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. 32 All the nations will
be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from
another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he
will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then
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; 35 for 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, 36 I was naked and you gave me
clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and
you visited me.’ 37 Then 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? 38 And when was it that we saw you a
stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And
when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited
you?’ 40 And 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.’ 41 Then 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; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no
food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I 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.’ 44 Then 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?’ 45 Then 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.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the
righteous into eternal life.”
A long time ago, Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God. He gave his
followers many examples of what life is like in God’s realm.
Once, when he was showing his disciples the marvels of God’s realm by
feeding 5,000 people, according to John’s Gospel, those who ate their fill
responded by wanting to make Jesus king. They recognized Jesus as God’s
awaited prophet. So, the crowd wanted to force Jesus to establish God’s Kingdom,
with Jesus as their king. But Jesus wasn’t a political figure. He wouldn’t have
anything to do with becoming an earthly king.
His purpose was to let the presence of God flow through him so that people
would experience God’s transforming love, forgiveness and healing. He would
have nothing to do with what the crowd wanted that day. Instead, Jesus scurried
away from the people to a place of solitude and prayer.
When Jesus stood before Pilate, he was asked whether he was a king. He
responded that his kingdom is not of this world.
God’s realm is far different from the world in which we live. Even so, we
are given glimpses of this kingdom within our world. People who take Jesus’
examples seriously and work at making present God’s love reveal God’s realm.
People who welcome, and feed, and clothe, and visit those in need follow Jesus’
examples and make God’s kingdom a reality here and now.
It was June of 1991. Responding to an invitation from a dear friend, I flew
to Atlanta. I had served St. Luke’s Church in downtown Atlanta as a transitional
Deacon. In 1989, I moved to New Jersey to be ordained and serve the Church as a
I hadn’t returned to Atlanta since serving St. Luke’s, so I was eager to attend
their 11:15 am Sunday Eucharist.
It was a joy being with the people of St. Luke’s and worshipping with
them once again. After the liturgy, I went to Coffee Hour to reconnect with some
parishioners. It was fun.
While at Coffee Hour, I was invited by a group of 10 to 15 parishioners of
various ages and genders to join them on a short excursion. They insisted that it
would be meaningful to me. I gave in, postponing my lunch plans.
I joined them in walking north along Peachtree Street. It was during Atlanta
Gay Pride. I wasn’t aware that the parade going on until I walked out the door of
As participants in the parade marched along Peachtree Street, we walked
north, past the famous Fox Theater and just a few blocks further. That’s when I
caught a glimpse of what I imagined my former parishioners wanted me to see.
Our entire group stopped and gazed, not at the parade, but at those standing
along the sidewalks of Peachtree Street.
On one side of the street was the First Baptist Church where the well-known
Atlanta televangelist Charles Stanley still, to this day, preaches. On the sidewalk
and lawn of that church stood about 25 people, women, men and children. They
The image of those people holding their signs remains etched in my
memory. One sign read: “You’re going to hell.” Another read: “You are a
disgrace to God.” And, another read: “God hates…”, followed by a derogatory
word for gay people.
My heart sunk, and sadness filled my body and soul.
But then, I was redirected by a person in our group to look at the other side
of the street, the same side on which we were standing.
Not too far from where we stood, I witnessed a group of about 15 women,
men and children standing in front of the United Methodist Church with their own
Their signs read: “You are God’s child,” and “God loves you,” and “You are
my brothers and sisters,” and “You are welcome here.”
And, then I gazed upon a Grandmother and her small Granddaughter
handing out cups of refreshing water to those marching in the parade under the
warm, June, Atlanta sun.
And, my eyes filled with tears – tears of joy. My former parishioners agreed
with one in our group when he said, “Now, that’s the Church.”
I left that scene changed forever. That afternoon in Atlanta, along Peachtree
Street, I caught a glimpse of Jesus.
On what side of the street would you have seen Jesus? Oh, he was definitely
For me, God’s realm is all about welcome, healing, reconciliation,
forgiveness and self-giving love.
Where these are present, I believe, that’s where we’ll find Jesus Christ, the
king of God’s realm.
So, let’s work at welcoming, healing, reconciling, forgiving, loving and
bringing about God’s realm in our world today.