The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46
Today is Christ the King Sunday, according to our liturgical calendar, and I’ll admit that I have some mixed feelings about it. I always have mixed feelings when we use language mostly associated with dominion and conquering to describe Jesus. But this year, it’s sort of comforting.
Christ the King Sunday is pretty new to the Christian Church, given to us by our liturgical forebears, the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Pius XI instituted the day in 1925. While it has some roots in the theology of early Christian theologians, it was mostly a modern creation. And when you think about what was going on in 1925, it kind of makes sense. The world was still recovering from the First World War, and totalitarian governments were once again on the rise. The pope wanted to assert the power of Christ in the world over any human leader who might try to claim more power for himself for the sake of dominance rather for the well-being of his people.
And I really like how our lectionary, or our schedule of scripture readings, sets this day up. I think they’re very much in line with the intentions of Pope Pius XI. Our scriptures today invite us to think about leadership in a different way. The scriptures today are not about conquering kings, warring against other people to assert their dominion. They are about a shepherd tending to his flock. A king whose greatest concern is for the least of these.
Here’s how I see it: some leaders are kings of scarcity, and Jesus is a king of abundance.
The leader who needs to assert power for the sake of dominance, of constantly grabbing more for himself at the expense of his own people, is operating from a place of scarcity. There’s not enough for everyone so I must grab as much as possible so that others don’t have more than me.
But Jesus, our Christ the King, is a king of abundance. We have enough. We have enough to give the hungry food. We have enough to give the thirsty drink. We have enough to welcome the stranger into our borders. We have enough to clothe the naked. We have enough to take care of the sick.
We have enough to take care of the sick. We have enough to take care of the sick.
We are in the midst of the largest surge of the pandemic. By now, we all know someone who’s had it. Some of us may know someone who has died. And I imagine just about all of us know someone who is suffering financially or emotionally because of it.
They are the least of these. Those who are sick or dying. Those who are mourning. Those who are most vulnerable to this virus. Those who are jobless and can’t pay their rent or afford food for their children. Right, many of us are the least of these.
And Jesus says what we do to the least of these is what we do to Jesus himself. In fact, he says in the gospel today, our very salvation is dependent on it.
Our response as a country has been a response of scarcity. It’s not that our country doesn’t have enough resources to take care of every single person during this crisis, It’s that we don’t have the gospel imagination to create solutions that will keep everyone safe and provided for.
Refusing to wear a mask imagines a scarcity of freedom. Refusing to provide economic aid to people who have been laid off their jobs because of this crisis imagines a scarcity of both financial resources and deserving. As if the abundance Jesus teaches us, the grace he teaches us, isn’t applicable in real life. As if we don’t actually believe what our own savior tells us.
There is enough. There is enough. There is always enough, and our salvation depends on making that abundance available to the least of these. And let’s all remember that each of us has been or will be the least of these at some point in our lives.
There is enough. That is the gospel message. That is what Christ, our king of abundance, is telling us today.
If you’ve been around even just a little bit these past few weeks, you probably know that St. Luke’s stewardship campaign has been in full swing. The time, the skills, the money you give to St. Luke’s is what makes us the thriving community we are, even in this challenging time. For the second year in a row, our stewardship theme has been Hope & Abundance. I selected it last year because we were in a transition year. It was my first year with you, and you hadn’t had a permanent rector in a few years—but y’all had taken the risk to hire me for more hours than you’d paid a rector in awhile. You took the risk of having to dip into your savings accounts to do so, and you did so out of hope. You didn’t have abundance on paper, you weren’t sure if the pledges would cover this hope, but you acted out of a spirit of abundance.
It’s looking like we’re going to finish this year in the black. You not only covered the extra hours in my salary, you gave more than our budget imagined. And while that’s a number that we can see on paper, it’s not just about money. Your time and your efforts and your skills, in addition to your financial resources, created that abundance.
The abundance of this community spilled out in so many ways. We have a team of eight people caring for Richard right now, each bringing their own gifts to his needs. Josh and Kristian have spent countless hours figuring out exactly what we need to have quality, worshipful music over livestream. Something that we’ve now been told is actually really hard to accomplish—and we’re almost there because of his commitment to our music ministry. And even with our limited setup, Kathy and Jack and Jane have come together to give hours and hours of music since the beginning of this pandemic, bringing us peace and comfort over the internet. Sid has been quietly tending to our building, making sure it stays in good shape through this dormant time. The Boorens and Gale and others have given so much time to the care of our yard. Laurel and Jim have overseen the creation of a columbarium, and they have made it a beautiful resting place. Our Vestry has made difficult decisions in this time, to keep us all safe, while also gracefully tending to and fostering the ministries of our community.
And our abundance has spilled out beyond the St. Luke’s community. St. Luke’s has been able to give hundreds of dollars to Zarephath, Snowcap, My Father’s House, and fire victims. Over a dozen of you mobilized when we made the church available for people evacuating their homes because of the fires. Even now, I know you are making meals for and checking in on people who are sick or who have had surgery or who are just struggling in this difficult time.
When we’ve encountered the least of these, we’ve responded with abundance
And today, we celebrate how we’re stepping into abundance for 2021 through your pledges. And all I can say is thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness. To the gospel Jesus calls us to. To the least of these. To this little part of the Body of Christ in Gresham. Thank you for living into hope and abundance.