12/26/99, Sunday After Christmas
the Sheep from the Goats
“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. 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, and he will put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on the left.” (Matt. 25:31-33, NRSV).
As we stand in the threshold of a New Year our world seems to be terribly troubled by fear of annihilation: The end of the world. The topic has made the cover of the news magazines, newspaper cover stories, long books, talk shows, TV specials, and many cartoons.
Our Atlanta Journal Constitution’s, literary prize winning cartoonist, Mike Luckovich, on Christmas Eve had a crazy looking annihilationist surrounded by mountains of emergency supplies: water, gasoline, tuna, Snapple, Pop-Tarts, dental floss, and he is reading a newspaper headline story about an Iowa wig shop that lost power due to a Y2K glitch, and he’s saying in the caption, “%$#&! I KNEW I ‘SHOULDA STOCKPILED WIGS!!!
Lots of folks seem to believe the end is near and they want to be ready. The problem is that they are getting ready in all the wrong ways.
Matthew addressed this issue in our familiar scripture reading that we have repeatedly studied in Sunday School lessons, and heard many times in sermons; but, suddenly our ears perk up as we have a fresh interest in this scene from the Last Judgment.
The bottom line is that the world will end. But, we don’t know when. In fact, when we think it is going to happen, that is certainly not when. Or, then again, it might tonight!
Biblically speaking, someday, our earth will become uninhabitable and life, as we know it, will end. Also, from a strictly scientific point of view, our planet looks like it can cough on for a few more decades, maybe centuries. That is if we will curb our self annihilation tendencies toward destroying the ozone layer, the trees, water, etc.
The very real worries as we come to the end of the 1900s; the things that could mess it all up in a hurry, are terrorist acts and the computer glitches that will occur. If you are called to Jury Duty on January 6, 1900 (as has already happened in Philadelphia) you will know that you can’t travel back in time, and that will be merely funny. However, if some old computer in Russia sets off an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile aimed at The Georgia Dome, we will have a major catastrophe, to say the least. Of course, that would bring more excitement to The Dome than the Falcons have generated in ‘99. The other big problem we face is if some insane terrorist sets off an atomic bomb in Centennial ParkL few of us would be around the next day to tell the story. All of us clearly remember how even a small nail bomb, caused a fear felt around the world, during our 1996 Olympic Games. These are real threats.
However, we can not control these kind of events. Even the government police agencies of all cities and nations can not prevent bombs and terrorism and Y2K computer glitches. We can be vigilant, but we really can’t be ready.
About the only thing we have control over is our own soul. We each make decisions that determine our eternal destination.
We decide whether to be counted among the Sheep, or the Goats, Saints or Sinners, Redeemed or Lost, Residents of the “kingdom prepared for you.” (v.34), or cast off into “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (v.41).
How can we become spiritually ready? What can we do in order to have an inner assurance that we are OK, no matter what come our way?
At Thursday’s Worship Service we read from Luke 2: 22-35 about the old prophet Simeon who had been waiting at the Jerusalem Temple for the coming of the Messiah for many years. God had promised him that he would not die “before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” (v.26) Then, eight days after that first Christmas, he saw Joseph and Mary bringing the baby Jesus for his dedication and knew that this was the long expected Savior of the World. Simeon then said that he was ready to die because he has experienced the salvation that was going to be made available for every person that would ever live.
We can be ready to die, and also be ready to live life to its fullness for all the days that we have left in this world. We can also begin to flest out sanctified and redeemed new lives.
It is interesting that those numbered among the sheep in our story, seemed to not know what they had done to be counted as fit for the kingdom. Their lives had seemingly overflowed in acts of kindness toward others as a result of their receiving the great peace that God had planted in their hearts. They asked, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry, and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? 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,” (see 37-40).
You see, its not enough to only feel emotionally ready to meet our Maker; we must live daily lives reflective of our relationship with the Redeemer. We must keep on working for the time is coming when we will no longer have the opportunity to accomplish things great and small in Jesus’ name. So we grab hold of a bigger vision---A magnanimous loving until the end.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor