Sermon by Lara Crutsinger-Perry
2016 was quite a year! Social media this week has been filled with lists

and video and pictures and commentary about the best and worst of all of

it. There were horrible atrocities in places like Aleppo, in the streets of our

cities, political struggles across the globe, and the death of Prince and a

Princess. But there were good things too, like the Olympics and the Cubs,

Pokemon Go and the return of the Gilmore Girls.

What will we as a church remember about 2016? The year of our

Centennial, for sure. Our new pastor. Our youth group mission trip to

Chicago. New floors. The Millennial’s group. Baptisms. Memorials. There

are many things we have done this year that we need to be thankful for, be

grateful for.

And now just like that it’s 2017! Happy New Years! It’s always interesting

to me how we measure time. And what a big deal we make the changing

of one year to the next. It’s such a big deal my children torture me into

letting them stay up late enough to welcome the New Year. To live in that

second as the world moves from one year to the next. For most of her life,

we have celebrated an East Coast New Year’s with Cassie but not this

year. She was determined to stay up until midnight PST. And so we made

it to midnight last night and quietly welcomed the new year without fanfare

or song. Just us snuggling on the sofa

In the Greek there are two words for time. Chronos and kairos. Chronos

time is the tick tock of time, time that is quantitative – can be measured in

seconds, days, years, etc. The chronological order of our lives. Beyond

chronos is kairos time. Time that is filled with special moments, time that is

holy. Things that take place at the right and opportune moment. We see

these in the bible when it says things like, the time is near, the time has

been fulfilled. This is the breaking through of God into our lives, the kind of

moments when time seems to stand still. I’m looking for more of that kind

of time this year.

But New Year’s Eve is a chronos event. Time literally counts down and we

usher in a new day. We also measure time with calendars. New Year’s day

is the first day on our calendar but it’s not the beginning of the church year.

We use the liturgical calendar for that. So how do we make days holy?

Within our secular calendars we have religious holidays, sacred days

across religions that help believers of the multitudes of faiths and people

groups to collectively celebrate the seasons, the saints and God’s

presence in our lives.

Individually, the passage of time, the repetition of dates, year after year,

also allow us to hold dates/moments of time as sacred – birthdays, deaths,

anniversaries of all kinds, days sober, graduations, we remember cancer

diagnoses, promotions, first dates, etc. One of my most important dates of

my life is July 27th. Some 20+ years ago when Beth and I were VERY

young grad students, we had had what can only be called a terrible,

horrible, no good, very bad day. So that night we went to a park and

shared a wine cooler J and somewhere lost in conversation that day went

from chronos to kairos and we decided that on that day, the very next year,

we would get together and reflect on our lives and that somehow things

would be better!

It was a promise of hope to get us through a tough time. And so we went

back to that same park the next year and you know what? Things were

better. And so every year since then, we have done this. We made that

date sacred, it became our anniversary and it was the day on which we got

married.

It’s interesting to be in Church on New Year’s Day – a meeting/mixing of

the chronos with the kairos. It is right to begin our worship in praise and

gratitude for another year, in awe of God’s creativity and our place in

creation. Indeed, we worship the sovereign God, who set the universe and

time itself in motion (Psalm 8). 2016 left some people wondering where

God is and how God will help us in 2017.

If only we could experience more kairos moments/more moments made

holy in 2017. Is it possible to live in God’s time within the chronos of our

life? If we change how we measure time, if we are more concerned about

quality than quantity does it change how we view ourselves and others? If

we seek to measure our years less in numbers and more in moments with

God and each other will it change how we live?

Let’s consider the Matthew passage for today. It is commonly called the

Final Judgment. We often just refer to it as the Goats and Sheep passage

because well that sounds less judge-y. And typically, we don’t like to

discuss the judgment by God. But this passage is set in some future time,

where it says all people will be asked to give account to God about how

they treated others.

There are two things I want us to consider in this passage. In this text,

Jesus names very specific groups of people who are considered the “least

of these”. They are those in need of food, drink, hospitality, clothing, care,

and visiting. And Jesus says, when you have done these things, you have

done them for me. This passage infers that God is living as one of them. In

this time and in every time, God has a special relationship with the poor

and has made God’s home among the poor and outcasts, even today.

Suppose for a second that this is why Jesus always felt so at home with

prostitutes, the sick and the different. Think about whom Jesus ate with,

hung out with, healed, and lived among.

Dirk Lange writes that every time we make a barrier to keep someone out,

we discover that God is always outside the circle we draw and the

boundaries we create. When we move outward (outside and beyond these

walls, and outside our comfort zone) we are actually moving toward God.

We will be sent out today after Communion as body of Christ and if we

look we will discover that the body of Christ is already waiting for us in

those who are suffering in our world. ,http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=173)

Secondly, we must avoid the trap of using this list as a kind of litmus for

our own self-righteousness. We think if we do these things then we will

fare well when the judgment of God comes. But if you are like me, you

missed the second big lesson of this passage. Those the king praises for

having served the “least of these” are just as surprised as those who did

not.

We read in 37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when

did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?

38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give

you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit

you?’

For you see, unlike the system of Puritan moralistic charity that pervades

our society, those in this passage were serving others without regard to

“earning jewels in their crowns” (as my mother would say). In Kairos time

people are not self-conscious, not selfish but are as God created us to be.

They give to others out of pure compassion. Not recognizing the God in

front of them. No hidden motives. What modern Christians must avoid less

we find ourselves with the goats is placing expectations and moral

attachments to our compassion, thinking people need to be worthy of our

charity before we share out of our abundance. In this parable we learn that

Jesus is more concerned about how we live out their baptismal vows. It’s

about obedience and discipleship. It’s about kairos time. It’s about love. It’s

about turning the ordinary into holy, because we do it in response to God’s

love for us.

2016 was a year of fake news and fake Christians. Finding God in all the

wrong places. The scripture is clear that God is here, come to earth in the

baby Jesus, Immanuel, God with us and still alive today in each of us. And

Matthew 25 is pretty clear about how God expects us to behave towards

our fellow humans. We are called to live lives that are compassionate and

merciful and intrinsically caring toward others. This is the God in us, the

moving of the Spirit that allows us to see the God in others. God say to

love unashamedly, unconditionally and unstopping. That’s my hope for

2017 that we will love ourselves, each other and the least/the other.

I wonder what Matthew 25 would look like if we wrote it for ourselves. What

will make us stand out from other houses of faith, other institutions, and

other gathering places on this street, in downtown, in Olympia in 2017?

Is that we visit the sick at St Pete’s and Panorama or that we prepare

meals for those who grieve? Is it that we become a place of respite for the

state workers across that street that face stressful days in the coming

session or that we welcome the homeless, the outcast into our fellowship

with food and encouragement and a safe place to heal? Is it that we

mentor our children and support young families? What are the things that

will separate us, what are the actions that will define us as disciples of

Christ in this space in 2017?

Kairos time recognized the “ripeness” of time, the time is ripe, and the time

is now. If we say we believe that God is living among us, living as one of

the “least of these”, living in us, then our actions, attitude and behaviors

should be oriented toward others. It is time to choose what is right over

what is easy. This is our charge for 2017, to make a commitment to protect

and defend vulnerable people in the name of Jesus.

I would ask that you write down one thing you can do, one thing we can do

that shows our love for one another, for the least of our community/the

Other not here, and subsequently for God in 2017 and when you come for

communion leave it one the altar as an offering to God.

And let us place our hope in the God of Genesis and Revelation. The God

present in creation, present throughout time, even unto the end of time

when all things will be made new again. God is living among the mortals.

And because God has made God’s home with us, we are not alone.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.