Message isbased on Ezekiel 34:11-24 and Matthew 25: 31-46

So several of today’s lessons, and the Gospel in particular, talk about judgment.
In fact, the readings the past few weeks reference the last judgement.
And, we talk about that subject in the Creed each week when we say about Jesus that “He will come again to judge the living and the dead”.

However, there usually isn’t much talk in mainline Protestant churches on that issue.
They (we) like to talk more about love, and forgiveness, and heaven.
But, there is no denying that the bible, and Jesus himself, spoke of a final judgment.
And today’s story of the sheep and goats as well as past week’s readings refer to hell.

So, I was thinking what it would be like when Jesus comes as Christ the King.
When he is supposed to judge each of us and either put us in or out, so to speak.
I’m imagining that I’m standing in line,… waiting,… and talking to the guy next to me.
What I and he say at that time, might sound something like this;….

“So, it looks like we got a long time til he gets to us, don’t ya think?”
‘Yes, but to tell you the truth I’m not in any kind of hurry to get there’.
“I know what you mean, cause if this is supposed to be about our whole life,….”
‘I know!   There’s a lot of stuff I probably did wrong, a lot of it I don’t even remember!’
“Me too”.

‘I don’t know about you, but I kinda think any bad things I did weren’t really that bad.
You know, like petty stuff that was wrong but nobody really got hurt from it’.
“Yes, its not like we were murders or violent criminals or something”.
‘Right, and I’ll bet you there’s people in line here who can’t say that, huh?’
“Yeah, so you think maybe we got an advantage over some of the real bad ones?
‘That’s what I’m hoping, or that maybe even he missed some stuff along the way.’

That’d be nice, but I gotta tell ya I don’t think that’s gonna happen.
I was taught that he doesn’t miss a trick and that one wrong is a bad as another”.
‘You mean that stealing a pack of baseball cards is same as robbing a bank?!?’
“Yup.  From what I understand those things are all counted against us equally”.
‘That stinks and sure doesn’t seem fair, does it?’

“No, but I think this is not suppose to be about what’s fair or even counting wrongs.
I think it’s more about his considering whether we’ve done good stuff all along”.
‘I once rescued a kitten that was stuck under a generator base.  That was good.
And I always was polite to my teachers and even to the school crossing guard, even though she was a nasty you know what’.
“Hey;  shhhhh…. no bad words at this point!”  
‘Yeah, yeah.  I know’.

“But I remember this parable from the bible where Jesus talked about this day.”
‘What did he say?’
“He told a story that, at the judgment day, he’ll separate people, like sheep and goats”.
‘What?  Can you tell me what the heck that means?’
“Well, he said that, like a shepherd separates the sheep and goats, so will he do that.
That he’ll consider whether we cared for the needy and the least among us.
He said that, if you did that for people its as if you did it for me, and if you didn’t….”
‘So which one was which,… I mean, which are the sheep and which are the goats?’
"The sheep were the more valuable ones so they got to go into the safe area.”
And the goats?
They were more….. shall we say….. expendable.”

‘Well, besides the cat thing there were a lot of times I tried to be good to others. 
And I guess I always had an eye towards the fact that it might matter if I’ve done good in life so that, at the end, I wouldn’t be in trouble.’
“But I think that is exactly what he doesn’t want us to do.”
Whaddaya mean!?!’
“What I mean is this;…..doing good should not have to be a calculated thing.
It’s not supposed to be something we “try” to do in order to get a reward but something we just kinda do naturally.”

“I think that what this all boils down to is what Martin Luther said about we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ”.
‘You mean the civil rights guy?’
“No, the guy who prompted the Protestant Reformation;… what he said.
That believing Jesus is the Son of God and that he died so for sins to be forgiven and most importantly, that what Jesus told us about how God loves us.”
‘You mean when we get up to where he is, we just tell him that we believed?’
“Not exactly.  He knows that already.  It’s more like if we believed in and trusted in him all along, we are more likely to have done good stuff.

‘How’s that work?’
“The idea is that knowing and trusting Jesus moves us to do the kind of things that he wants people to do;…you know….care for the least, help others,…..stuff like that.
We do acts of love and kindness because we know that we are loved, cause if you don’t feel loved, then you are more likely to just worry about yourself and the hell with others.
‘Hey!.   Please don’t use that word around here, okay?’

So does that mean if I believe what Jesus said about how God loves me then It’s likely that I ended up doing the things he taught and did himself?’
"Yeah, that’s how it works”.
‘And what about when I didn’t do those things or even when I did things wrong?’
“When you’re sorry about then, you’ll be forgiven”.
So how do I know if I’ve believed like you say?’
“No problem and not to worry, cause he’s  known that all along”
‘So maybe I’ve been a sheep and not a goat all along?’
‘Not ba,..aa,..aa,..aa,…d.’
“Ha, ha, very funny,…. and amen to that.