Grace and Peace to you.
The King will say, “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 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.” And they will reply, “Lord, when did we see you…?”
The story of the Great Judgment obviously invites us to care for the poor. (If you believe in a literal hell, pay attention: the only criterion for getting there that Jesus offers is not your doctrine, or your moral purity, but how you treat the poor.)
This is also a story about how we perceive God. We think of God as all-powerful—but our view of power is distorted. We think of power as the capacity to coerce, to force something to happen or someone to do something. It is the capacity to impose one’s will upon another, which is inherently violent. And we imagine that God has that kind of power: God can make anything happen. But Jesus does not worship that kind of power. His image of God is not a king who imposes his will, but a father who gives his love. What if God’s power is love, not violence? What if God is not “all-powerful” but all-loving, all-present? Then we need to repent of our idolatry of violence. (Can’t you feel it? Don’t you want God to be violently powerful?) And we need to be saved—converted—and come to believe in the very different kind of power that Jesus shows us in love.
Jesus tells a parable in which the most powerful one, the King, is among the poor and vulnerable, the needy and those unable to force their will upon others—and we don’t see God there. This is not just a tale about a prince in pauper’s clothing. That is God’s clothing. God has not left her usual place to temporarily hide among outsiders. God is love, and God comes from among the poor. But we don’t see God there because they don’t have the trappings of power.
This Sunday is the Sunday of the Reign of Christ, the culmination of the church year, and symbolically the culmination of the life of Christ: Christ has lived and died, been raised again, given the Spirit to the church, and ascended to the throne of God to reign over all Creation. That seems like wishful thinking to us, because Jesus is clearly not in power—not imposing his will. But why do we worship that kind of power? What if God is love, not violence? What if reigning does not mean imposing his will but being present in love? Then in fact Christ does reign, and is all-present, and is most clearly visible not in people and nations and corporations who can impose their will on others, but in people who are free from such trappings. Christ’s power is the power of love, not coercion. And that power truly reigns over all Creation.
Christ, the Sovereign of the Universe, is present. Open your eyes.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes