Christ the King
Sheep and Goats
Christ the King
Many of us know the
classic verses in the Bible by heart.
We may not know all of the Bible verse perfectly, but enough
to remember the key words. Let
me illustrate. I will start the Bible verse and when I pause, you fill in
the key word or words. You will be surprised at how much you know,
and even more surprised by how much your neighbors know about key
passages in the Bible.
You fill in the blanks after my pause.
For God so loved…THE WORLD…that he gave his only
begotten…SON…that who so ever
… BELIEVES in him will not perish but have … EVERLASTING
LIFE. See what I mean?
You knew the key words, and so did your neighbor.
Let’s do the
twenty-third psalm. The Lord is … MY SHEPHERD…I shall not …WANT; he makes
me like down in …GREEN PASTURES…
he leads me beside…STILL WATERS…he restores … MY
SOUL…He leads me in the paths of …RIGHTEOUSNESS…for his
name’s sake. Even though I walk through the …VALLEY OF DEATH,
… I will fear … NO EVIL…for you…ARE WITH ME…your
rod and staff …COMFORT ME. You
prepare a table before me in the presence of …MY ENEMIES… You
anoint my head…WITH OIL…My cup runs …OVER… Surely goodness
and mercy shall follow me…ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE…and I shall
dwell in…THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER.
See, you know it.
You may not be able to recite all the words of the
twenty-third psalm perfectly, but with a little help, you know the
important words. And wasn’t it impressive to hear so many people
filling in the blanks.
Let’s try the
same process with another classic passage from the Bible, Matthew
25, our Bible text for today. In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the
final judgment, the sheep and the goats. This passage, too, is engraved and indelibly imprinted into
our soul. This passage lives deep within us.
I was hungry and you gave me … FOOD.
I was thirsty and you gave me…DRINK. I was a stranger and
you …WELCOMED ME. I was naked and you…CLOTHED ME.
I was sick and you took…CARE OF ME. I was in prison, and
you…VISITED ME. When you do these things to the least of people,
you do them to…ME.
You got it.
You know the essentials of this classic passage about the
final judgment, and God’s call to care for hurting people in the
world. We know that
when we care for the hungry, thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the
sick, the imprisoned, we are actually taking care of Jesus who lives
behind these faces of these people. Jesus lives within these hurting
people, behind their eyes, their tears, their pain.
We all know that. Our desire is that we are numbered among
the sheep and not the goats. It
is our prayer that we not only know who these people are, but that
do what God wants us to do. The
doing of compassion is much more difficult than the knowing about
Years ago, I
remember an associate pastor by the name of David Cox telling a
story about his visit to Israel. He was out in some remote hills of Israel and he came upon a
band of Bedouin tents. At
a distance from his car, he could see that there was a herd of sheep
or goats around those Bedouin tents.
From a distance, the sheep and goats looked very much alike.
As he approached this Bedouin camp, he could then see that
the sheep had been recently sheered of their wool.
When the sheep were sheered, the sheep looked very much like
the goats. But up
close, he could see which ones were sheep and which were goats. Likewise, God sees our lives up close.
We can’t fool God. God is up close to us and knows whether or not our hearts are
compassionate like the sheep in this story or if our hearts are
pretending to be compassionate, like the goats in this story. From a distance, we cannot discern true compassion or
pretending of compassion, but up close, God knows clearly the
God know the hearts
of truly compassionate people, and God wants our hearts to be truly
compassionate, not only to our favorite family or favorite friends.
God says to be compassionate to our favorite family or
favorite friends is quite easy and comes quite naturally, but it is
another thing to be truly compassionate to the hurting people of
this world…to the hungry, the thirty, the stranger, the naked, the
sick, the imprisoned. God wants our hearts to be truly compassionate
to the hurting people in our world around us, and not merely to our
favorite family and favorite friends.
I would like to
briefly tell you stories of people from this past week.
The lives of these people are an inspiration to us all. Their
lives reveal that these people are sheep, that they have truly
compassionate hearts for the hurting. Usually and far too often, we
find the heroes and heroines of faith far above us and far away from
us. We find people like Mother Teresa who worked with the dying in
Calcutta or Father Damain who worked with the lepers in Hawaii. Our
heroes and heroines are far away and far above the reach of all of
us. Today I would not like to make this error. I want to talk about
the heroes and heroines of faith among us and none of them would
ever think that they are a hero or heroine. That is just like the
sheep in the story for today. The
sheep did not think of themselves as being something special because
of what they had done. The same is true of the following people.
When you get up close to these people, you discover that they are
I talked with Diane
Moore in our small group the other day.
She is an LPN, a licensed practical nurse.
It isn’t her degree and certification that I am talking
about; it is her heart. It
was her tone of voice; the way she fashioned words; the way she
showed her feelings, but this definitely was a woman who cared for
her patients. The way
she took a piece of mending home and repaired a piece of clothing
for an older woman. The
way she stopped and bought a hamburger for another elderly resident
of her home. All of us
in the group sensed that Diane had a special quality of the heart.
Up close, we could see it. On Sunday morning, you would never
Delaney Krogstad is
married to Jon, and she also was part of another small group a few
days ago. She and Jon
came to the church to ask questions about our homeless ministry, and
before they left, they were the new co-coordinators for the
breakfast groups. They
happily volunteered to get people to make breakfasts for the
homeless who stay at our church.
Up close, we could see into their hearts.
Traci and Cheri
Morash, a young newly married couple, just joined our church.
They came by the other day, and asked about signing up to be
overnight hosts at homeless shelter.
Up close, you can read their hearts more clearly.
Last Sunday, Lois
Righi was here at church with her new friends, Roger and Diane
Klein. Lois had a nasty stroke
some years ago; then her husband Joe died of a sudden heart attack.
Before those nasty incidents, Lois and Joe were the belles of
the ball and won many a dance contests.
Lois ran our church nursery, was wedding consultant, and
weeded the gardens. Her
grandchildren thought and think that this is Grandma Lois’ church
and that she owns it. Grandma Lois does own this place. Lois now
lives in an adult home for assisted living, and she can’t get out
unless someone comes to pick her up. And who comes at least every
Sunday morning? The
Klines. You see the three of them laughing and drinking coffee
together in the Fellowship Hall. Up close at their table on Sunday
mornings, you can see their inner hearts and inner happiness.
Pam Pizzachemi is
often around church, with Joe her husband.
The two of them have a child who is very sick with epilepsy
and epileptic seizures. There
are days, weeks, and months that the two of them don’t sleep much
because of their care of their child.
The severity and frequency of the seizures are rather
overwhelming, and even with the most expert medical care in the
world, they are put to the test.
Up close, you should see their hearts.
God does, and their lives are an inspiration to those of us
who know them.
Terry Reed got out
of prison recently. He
was in there for illegal business dealings.
I hadn’t seen Terry for years but we had corresponded when
he was in prison. He
was and is one handsome dude; he is one good looking guy. But
recently, I was stunned to see his eyes. His eyes had become so sad,
sad like I had rarely seen before.
We eventually talked about his wife and child whom I met
immediately after prison. His
wife was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, but
shockingly, she had died suddenly from cancer and Terry was suddenly
single and home schooling his daughter. It was then I understood
about the sadness from deep within his eyes.
Terry is leading Bible studies at McNeil Island prison, and
many men study the Scriptures under his spiritual leadership. Up
close, you could see through Terry’s sad eyes and into his heart.
Eyes are often the window of the heart, and through his eyes, you
know that his heart is good.
Tom Jacka is one of
those quieter types around the church. He goes about his business
and people barely know him here at church.
Through a small group, his friends here at church know that
he is a professional dentist and was even president of the
Washington Dental Association, a high powered job. But to people on Sunday mornings who are shut-in, Tom is just
the driver of the church van. He
smiles gently to his riders. They know nothing of his past week and
pressures; and he faithfully picks up the shut-ins every week for
church. Up close, you can see what is inside of Tom.
Yesterday at the
Children Center’s bizarre, Marnie Boomer was selling special pins
for a homeless ministry she is involved in.
Marnie is quite a character, a young woman, about thirty,
whose total passion seems to be helping the homeless on the streets
of Seattle. In conversations with her, you pick up on a certain
quality of spirituality that is unusual and attractive. You will have to hear from other people that she is
professionally an architect in a downtown office. She never seems to
have time to talk about that, because she is selling pins for the
homeless and all. Up
close, you can see into Marnie’s heart and it is good.
There are many
other stories that could be told about people whose hearts are truly
compassionate and not pretending to be compassionate to the needy,
but these are a few people I bumped into this past week and their
lives are an inspiration, not only to me, but to all who know them
… up close.
Would you please
take out a worship registration card and pencil?
I would like everyone who can write to do this. You can
register for Holy Communion on the one side of the card, and the
other side of the card is blank.
I would like you to use the blank side of the card, and write
small. If you write large, you will fill up the card too quickly.
Would you write six
words at the top of your card?
These are the six famous words from Matthew 25:
I will speak slowly so as to list these six words.
The six words to write are:
Then I would like
you to list eighteen ministries that work with these six important
words and people. So
you make a listen and write only the following titles, not the
Food Banks. Many of you
people are involved, especially in the Des Moines Food Bank. The
Chamberlins work over there every week.
The Krogstads are our official representatives to the Des
Moines Food Bank. This
food bank depends on our monetary offerings and our weekly food
offerings. Many of you
bring food for the food barrel near the entry to our church.
Friend to Friend. Des
Moines has the largest concentration of elderly in the state of
Washington and 60% of people in our retirement and nursing homes do
not have visitors. Mary
McGoran is the head of this ministry. In 1985, we had 85 visitors from our parish dropping in for
conversation with an elderly person.
Mentoring at the Schools. Our
neighboring schools are now 50% minority students and many people do
not comprehend how our neighborhoods have changed.
Many schools have wonderful mentoring programs, where you are
supervised as you read or do math with children.
Two congregational representatives are Walter and Merilee
Johnson, if you want to speak with two experienced mentors, or
telephone any school principle.
Haiti and Jamaica. We
have Third World sister churches and ministries, and many members
from our parish take a “vacation with a purpose.”
They go and work in our churches or missions in those places.
We support a nursing station in Jamaica. Many of you sponsor children in our church’s schools there
in these nations. The
steering committee for this ministry is exceptionally strong.
160 people have been to these third world countries and
everybody tells how much they were deeply affected.
As you know, we have a homeless shelter at our church, and we
take care of twelve men, five nights a week, during the cold winter
months in Seattle. We
are a satellite of St. Martin De Pores, a downtown mission. People volunteer for four tasks:
drivers, overnight hosts, breakfast makers, and linen
washers. More than a
hundred volunteers from our congregation make this happen, plus the
superior lay-leadership from our church. We always need more help.
Toppenish and Mexico.
The tenth grade kids go to Toppenish to work in a Hispanic
ministry over there, with Hispanic kids and church.
The eleventh and twelfth graders go to work in the orphanage
in Mexico. We have
heard from many of our kids that these are life-changing experiences
Shut-ins of Grace Lutheran.
We have twenty-two shut-ins at Grace Lutheran now and they
are to receive Holy Communion every month from Pastor Ray and also
visits from friends and members. Many of you visit and telephone our
shut-ins. We pray for
our shut-ins each week by name in the prayers of the church.
Drivers for Shut-ins.
I have mentioned Tom Jacka and his driving of the shut-ins
but there is a need for more drivers. Maybe this is a ministry for you.
Every other Thursday morning, you will find a group of ladies
in our Fellowship Hall, making quilts, blankets and layettes for
people around the world. These
quilts are even used by the Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa’s
ministry, in Calcutta. Our
quilters join with hundreds of thousands of other quilters in other
churches, and these quilts are enormously important all over the
Over the years, our congregation has developed a reputation
as being the “world hunger church” because our people are so
committed to working against the causes of world hunger, impure
water and oppressive governments.
Lutheran World Relief (I am on the board for this
organization) and the Hunger Appeal are the normal channels for our
offering. We give some $80,000 a year to this work, without even
blinking an eye. Lutheran World Relief has some 150 projects in 50
different nations. The
people at Lutheran World Relief are professionals who find superb
partners in Third World countries and we work through them. You need
to be part of this effort if you are not.
11. Prison Fellowship with Terry Reed. This is a newer ministry in our congregation and Terry is the
person who volunteers over at McNeal Island.
Pastor John O’Neal sits on their board and is knowledgeable
about this ministry.
Multifaith Aids Project.
Sue Stockman and Karen Penny Ervin are the leaders of our
congregation in this worthy ministry. Aids is a horrible disease that is found all over the globe
and in our own community and in our own church. We are called to be
sensitive and caring to these people in pain, often rejected by
society as were the lepers during the days of Jesus.
Habitat for Humanity.
This is a highly publicized ministry and does great work.
We know about this ministry partially because of the high
profile of past President Jimmy Carter.
Dale Dann is the co-ordinator of this project and the
building in our neighborhoods.
If you want to help locally, it is easy to get on board.
Our kids have plans to do Habitat for Humanity projects in
the future in Idaho.
AA and NA programs.
If you are here during the week, you will find several
Alcoholic’s Anonymous meetings and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Many of our members belong and provide spiritual leadership
for these groups. You will also find a twelve step group meeting every Sunday
morning at 9:50 in my office and many members of our church use the
twelve steps of spirituality.
This is a newer Christmas ministry at our church in which
members buy Christmas present(s) for a child whose parent is in
prison. The gift comes
to the child, not from a congregational member, but from their
parent in prison. It is
a super ministry that many of you support, and Kimberly Wigginton is
Letters to political figures.
A letter well written on a social issue is very powerful, and
some members write to their senators, representatives, and other
political people of political responsibility. Karen Kaiser of our church is a state representative in
Olympia and serves her constituency well.
Many of you helped build computers for Third World trade
schools and are planning to go and work in these trade schools to
help train computer technicians. Dale Dann has developed computer
trade schools in Third World countries, and he needs more people to
give of their time and expertise to train repairmen in Third World
18. Other. Just
write in the word, other, because there are ministries that you are
involved in that I have no knowledge of or have forgotten.
So write down the word, other, and list some ministry that
you are involved in.
Review again the
six words. The hungry,
thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, imprisoned.
Those people who have hearts of compassion are called sheep,
and God knows our heart because God is up close to us.
God knows difference between truly compassionate and
pretending to be compassionate. God knows the difference between our compassion for our
favorite family and favorite friends and compassion for the hungry
Now, go through
this list of eighteen ministries to needy people and check those
that you are involved with and place an X near those ministries that
you may consider being involved with. Perhaps you are ready to be involved in one or several of
every congregation has a few old characters around and they set a
tone. An old character of the past was a man by the name of Al Lunde.
Lunde was a character, a hard-nosed crotchety Norwegian with a
constant twinkle of humor in his eye.
He would come out of church and tell me how he disagreed with
my sermon. He then would complain vociferously that he couldn’t
hear the sermon and that we needed a new sound system. I would argue
back, “If you can’t hear, how do you know that you disagree with
me.” We had a never
ending, playful battle of wits and words. He asked me to plan his funeral with him, and I remember what
he wanted to have said at the conclusion of his obituary:
“You tell them folks that I am a sheep and not a goat.”
Al Lunde was an old sheep. God
saw him up close and knew his heart. So did I for that matter. Amen.