Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
If you’re a goat, this is not good news. If you’re a sheep, it’s a disconcerting challenge!
Jesus, the master story teller, has us picturing five foolish maidens knocking on a closed door. When they needed to be oil right, they got it oil wrong, and so missed their opportunity to join in the celebration. It’s a frightening story about being ready.
“Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.” We sang that cheerfully back in the ’60s. Jesus is serious. The issue is serious!
Then there’s the cash-in-hand story. Even more frightening. The one-talent, bright spark has a plan. He buries his cash and digs it up to hand it back. ‘You wicked and slothful servant!’ Hearing that performance evaluation wasn’t part of his business plan. And there’s worse for him to follow.
‘You’ve been faithful over a little. Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ That’s what we need to hear.
Now we in the TCC community of faith are not in positions of great power and authority. We’re known at work, to our families, and to a few friends. Given 200 years, who will remember us? We won’t make it into the history books. So ‘the kingdom prepared’ is a far better investment for the here and now, and for the ever after.
But… ‘believe and receive’ is not the whole story. Not the way that Jesus tells it. If we want to be wearing a thick woolly fleece and not be reckoned to be a threadbare goat on judgment day, then we need open hearts in our treatment of others—the hungry, the thirsty, those lacking clothes, strangers, imprisoned believers (verse 35ff.). The sheep are shocked. ‘When did we do this?’ they ask. ‘As you did this for one of the least of my family, you did it for me,’ Jesus explains (verse 40).
This makes us uncomfortable. In the villages, Jesus had mixed with the poor, the marginalised, the diseased, the not-wanteds, the Samaritans, and many of these had become His disciples. He started a new family of belonging to Him. He invites all and makes welcome.
Listen up, well pastured TCC sheep!
We need to follow Jesus.