Fr. Bill Carroll – Christ the King Sunday, November 26, 2023

Jesus said, “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 unto me.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Last Monday, we went to the Maude Cobb Convention Center to help unload food that many of you donated, and then sort it into boxes to feed hungry people in our community.  I came with Rachel White, Noah Collins, and Emily Wilcox, representing our youth group, along with Tricha Wilcox and Dot Fricks. And, while we were there, we worked with Betty Horaney, Cherry Sikes, and Wiley and Judy Thomas, as well as friends and neighbors from other churches in Longview.  I know that many of you came to work on other days. 

This year, Tovah Robertson coordinated efforts at the Trinity School of Texas, which is always one of the single biggest donors of food.  Earlier this month, I presided at the annual ingathering service for the school, where each student brings up a can and puts it on our chancel steps (right over there).  This is always one of the highlights of the school year for me.  These canned goods are a small token of the much larger truckload of food that our school families always provide.

As things were winding down, we were able to talk to Betty about the history of the meal and some of the recent changes that have been made to improve efficiency. This includes drive-up service, which really helps people with mobility issues.  This year, fourteen hundred families signed up for a food box.  By my estimate, that’s five to seven thousand people.  With leadership from our youth group, Trinity contributed $2100 toward the $17,000 they spent on turkeys and chickens.  

This experience of neighbors helping neighbors is something I gave thanks for on Thanksgiving Day.  With so much bad news in the world today, it is refreshing to see people working hard and giving generously, following Jesus and serving our neighbors.

Recently, Rachel, Mother Vivian, and I met with Tisha Grotemat, who has accepted an appointment to chair our youth and children’s formation committee.  Among other things, we discussed age-appropriate ways to involve our children and youth in outreach.  We agreed that we would convene the whole committee early next year and invite Elise Hill and Ben Bright, who will take over as co-chairs of the outreach committee.  I would like to challenge all of us at Trinity to bring energy, focus, and discipline to this ministry—to figure out creative ways for people of all ages to respond to this clear mandate from Jesus.

Today’s lesson from the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew should open our eyes to the many ways that we can find Jesus all around us—in hungry and thirsty people; in refugees, immigrants, and other strangers; in our neighbors who are homeless or in prison; in those who struggle with addictions and mental health challenges; and in those who lack adequate clothing or any other necessities of life.  

These words of Jesus should remind us to seek him and serve him in these neighbors—without leaving a single person behind.  And they should challenge us to move beyond the symptoms—to the root causes of human misery.  For, as the First Letter of John puts it, “We can’t love God, whom we don’t even see, unless we love the neighbors we do see.”  Or, as Dorothy Day once said, “I only love God as much as the person I love the least.”

Last week, Mother Vivian preached about the parable of the talents, which comes right before today’s Gospel.  She noted that, in this story, we are the servants of Jesus. And our Master has departed for a season, entrusting us with great treasure.  The gift of God’s own love, unearned and undeserved, is a priceless gift indeed.  

Jesus came to set us free from the dog-eat-dog world we live in–a world filled with greed, divisions, violence, and despair.  And today, he calls us to prepare the world, beginning with our small corner of it, for God’s coming Kingdom.  Martin Luther King called it the Beloved Community.  And, for fifty years now, the popes have called it the “civilization of love.”  God calls us to be his covenant partners–taking his gifts and multiplying them, to share with our neighbors in need.  For the world we live in does not belong to us.  It is God’s world.  It all belongs to God.  

The Rev. James Forbes once said that “No one gets into heaven without a letter of reference from the poor.”  Without denying that we are saved by grace alone, I’d like to insist that this is true.  In reality, it’s even more straightforward than that.  Our letter of reference, the only one that matters, comes from Jesus himself.  And he came among us as a poor man, with nowhere to lay his head.  He was born outside the inn, and he died outside the city gates.  And so, he knows his true followers by how we treat “the least of these.”     

For thus says the LORD, “I will seek the lost.  I will bring back the strayed.  I will bind up the injured.  And I will strengthen the weak.”

I speak to you in the Name of Christ, the King.