Matthew 25:31-46

The Judgment of the Nations

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.”

So, I have done yoga over the years very sporadically.  During this pandemic, I’ve found myself doing yoga almost every day.  It’s been a great release for me, especially as a runner…runners tend to use the same muscles and aren’t too flexible…yoga has given me a good release and a bit more flexibility.  

One form of yoga that seems to have become quite popular, but I just don’t get, is “goat yoga”.  

It is what it says, doing yoga while goats are around.  It’s supposed to be soothing, but I don’t see how it can be.  I have not done goat yoga, but, upon occasion, my two dogs have come into the room in our house where I do yoga if I forget to shut the door.

I can say with confidence, they are cute dogs, but there is nothing soothing about doing yoga with them in the room!  Quite the opposite.

Of course, that’s where my mind went when I thought of this week’s gospel lesson.  Goat yoga…

Our passage talks about the Son of Humanity, the Christ, the Messiah, the person who exemplifies the reign of God, being a shepherd.  A metaphor that we’ve heard before in Scripture.  A good shepherd, one that looks after his entire flock, including leaving the 99 to go after one wayward sheep.  

And, yet, this shepherd is separating the sheep from the goats…with the idea that goats are not welcome and deemed to separation from the sheep.

Now, one thing that we have to remember, Jesus is not making a statement on heaven or hell, or eternal damnation here.  Throughout scripture, there isn’t really a notion of “hell” as we have constructed in modern times, but there is mention of “Sheol”, this is, in Jewish understanding, a place of waiting for God’s judgement, a holding pen, a pause between this life and when the invisible reign of God becomes visible for all to see.  

And, another term in the New Testament is “Gehenna”, which is a place outside of Jerusalem that is a garbage dump, where things are thrown away…and sometimes, as we saw with the crucifixion of Jesus, even people were thrown away, or cast out.

But, it does seem rather dualistic, or black and white, or an an either/or proposition.  But, we have to remember, we are reading this 2,000 years later…Jesus is using dualistic language to point to a non-dualistic, or “both/and”, universal truth.  

In the world that Jesus was living, some folks wanted to be comfortable, not associate with folks deemed less than them.  Seems like that’s still going on today.

Jesus is conveying to folks that his presence, his friendship, and thus friendship with God and with everyone, should be extended to everyone.  That those in prison, without clothes, foreigners, immigrants, prostitutes, widows, children, and even thieves are made in the image of God.  He’s flipping the script on what was commonly practiced and actually using dualistic language to point to a deeper non-dualist God reality.

He was also saying that he is with those on the margins, always.  And, if you are looking for Jesus, looking for the divine, don’t waste your time on looking towards some future time or some super hero type myth, but that Jesus is with us know, all of the time, and we can see Jesus in those on the margins.  And, how we treat them, or ignore them, is how we treat God’s very self.  

We want to see Jesus as an earthly king, as triumphant, superman if you will.  But, what Jesus is saying is the opposite, look for him in the lowly, the down and out, the ones that we may often judge or look down upon.  

In essence, Jesus is saying to not judge until we want to be judged…now, here’s the kicker, Jesus is also reminds us that God is found everywhere, even in Sheol, and in the garbage heaps of Gehenna…there’s no place or thing that can separate us from the love of God as Paul reminds us…and that Christ is all and in all…

So, if you want to meet Jesus, become engaged with those around you that you may or may not be engaged in…look for the “other” and don’t have a mindset of of “us and them”, rather just “we”.  

And, if you do find yourself with the goats…know that God loves goats also, but you may be waiting a while as you figure out that God loves all and is in all.   

And, remember, no matter where you find yourself, even in this crazy season that we are all living in, that Love Wins…always, and eventually, and that Love will carry us through all things and with all people.  Let’s live in that!

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