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  • Pastor Gary

Jesus is Coming to Hoboken!

(sermon displayed as spoken) I am very happy to report this morning that Jesus is coming to Hoboken! That’s right you can catch him at the 8:00 am showing, lined up in rain or shine but especially when it is raining or better yet sleeting. If you miss that hang around for lunch. There are other showings too. If you prefer a more Jewish Jesus then you might want to visit the shelter when our United Synagogue is working there. There are some mosques around where he will be appearing as well. Religion not your thing? Blood drives, mentoring programs, meals on wheels. There is Jesus - Coming to a cardboard box, back ally or penitentiary near you.

That’s what Matthew wants us to hear. There are plenty of opportunities to meet Jesus. And it’s in the most surprising and unexpected places. It is in the treatment of anyone on the margins.

All this started when the disciples and Jesus were hanging around the Temple. The disciples were rightly impressed by the huge stones and gleaming alabaster of the Temple. King Herod, in a political move renovated the place with the Romans chipping in some of what they had stolen. The place was impressive. Herod and the Romans oppressed, repressed, and distressed the life out of people but heck the place looked great. Hashtag# A property committees dream.

They become more than a little distressed when Jesus rains on their feelgood parade by telling them the day is coming when it’s all going to rubble. “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

They jump to: when is the bad thing gonna happen and what are you gonna do about it?

Glad you asked said Jesus. “Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ And, by the way you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs. On top of all that “Then they will hand you over to be tortured and killed and you will be hated by entire nations. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed as a testimony to all the nations. And oh, then the end will come.

Using the parables that we have been reading all month, Jesus teaches them and wraps it all up with today’s prophecy.

Jesus ends this teaching, these parables and this prophecy by telling them that what they do to the least among them is what they do to him. It’s not like treating Jesus badly it is actually treating Jesus badly.

“They are surprised by their failure to recognize the messiah. Or, more to the point, they are surprised by where the Messiah hangs out."[1] You see returning in glory apparently is in some in-glorious places and circumstances.

And that is the beauty of all this. Want to find God? Been here the whole time. Wasn’t lost. Jesus is literally in the house y’all.

It’s interesting that the disciples want to know about the end and Jesus tells them something about the now. Where God is, what God is doing and how God is acting is in unexpected places with unexpected people. Sounds a lot like many Christians who want to know when Jesus is coming back while paying no attention to where Jesus is now.

I get asked, frequently, these days and hear in the wider conversation a lot – are we living in the end days? Yes, for 2000 of our fellow citizens who are victims of our failed government and selfish policies practices the last day was yesterday. Another 2000 tomorrow. For people who have given up hope and are dying just trying to live, this is the end day.

All of a sudden we are convinced that it is the end of the world. It wasn’t the end of the world a generation ago when AIDS was sweeping through Africa or there was a famine in Darfur- that was over there. It hasn’t been the end of the world as genocide against Muslims has been going on in Myanmar or against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq. But now all of a sudden we have a pandemic and a depression, and the world is coming to an ending and Jesus is coming back. Why? Because it is happening to us and not to others! How arrogant we are.

If anything this crisis, the disaster is an even greater opportunity to be with our Lord doing the work and holding on to the hope that is life with God.

Ok I preacher, I get it. But what about all this talk of sheep and goats? Glad you asked.

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. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people/nations one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Notice please, All the nations and then a little something in verse 32 that I think we have to take issues with the translators about.

See that “He will separate people…. It doesn’t say that! it says he will gather the nations and separate them. “Them” personal pronoun, accusative, plural. And he will gather the nations and separate the nations.

And the countries answered Lord, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger/ immigrant or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’

That’s what it says folks. You remember Jeremiah Wright, President Obama’s pastor from Chicago-by all accounts a lovely faithful Christian. He was skewed by Fox News and others for saying “God damn America.” They ran a clip, taken out of context, over and over again, bearing false witness against him. This is what he was preaching on and talking about the times our country has failed to do these things. Jeremiah Wright didn’t say it. Jesus said it. Fox News should take it up with him.

Do not be unaware of these strongly worded warnings to the nations of the world, including ours in this discourse. It behooves us to pay attention. And it is the responsibility of the Church to hold our leadership accountable to these tasks, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, alike.

Our text is Jesus’ last speech before the Passion Story begins—the story in which he becomes one of the despised goats, a scapegoat. The scapegoat on which the sins of the world were placed. And we are the sheep of his pasture. Let’s keep an eye out for where our Shepherd is appearing next. Amen, Come Lord Jesus.

[1] Lose, David, In the Meantime, United Lutheran Seminary 2014. Accessed November 20, 2020.

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