A Reflection - Revd Matthew Gough
Here we are at the end of the Church Year, with Advent next week, Christ the King-the High point of the liturgical calendar. I must admit I don’t feel very high. I wonder if you like me, have had it with Covid-I hate it. Our worlds have shrunk. As our freedoms and horizons diminished with normal life as we knew it and took for granted gone.
I wonder if we cannot stand the lack of control which the pandemic has brought. Though I note many of parishioners who manage to cope the best, are those who are used to isolation, impairment and restrictions dues to health and mobility conditions.
Our reading today, has weakness at its heart. How we identify with and find Christ amongst the weak, poor, vulnerable and lonely. It’s a challenge to the Protestant mind-set as it appears to reward salvation based on good works rather than faith alone, How we look after the ‘least’ echoes into eternity deciding our destination into heaven or eternal fire. We pay more attention to it as it is the only Eternal Judgement Passage in the Gospel of Matthew and it doesn’t appear in the other gospels.
The language of brothers being the least has led some commentators to conclude that Jesus may be talking about his disciples, how we look out for those following Christ matters. And in following Christ, one should suffer and struggle and therefore we should help them, and that is us, then we help each other. Most writes seem to conclude the poor are the poor of society and how we help them, shows how close we are to Christ-the natural outworking of our faith should lead us to help the destitute.
20 years ago, I was working in Israel amongst homeless Russian immigrants. I spent a brief time teaching them English. And the many of the homeless were addicted to drugs and alcohol and often found lying around on benches or slumped on the ground in the Mediterranean sun. One of their community’s main leaders was a guy called Alex who himself has gone to Israel from Russian as a missionary to the homeless but himself managing to end up homeless and needing to get himself off alcohol which he did. Christ worked through him and he had the respect and high regard of all the other homeless men. It taught me something about God working in surprising ways even when things do not go as planned, even the ways that Christian plans say they should.
This high point of the Christ the King is in part using this gospel of Matthew as it promises the return of the Son of Man which is the finale of the Christian story. We look forward to a time of Jesus’ return. Advent will be a time of preparation. In 2020, we will not have our usual comforts and freedoms, perhaps we will better identify with the least. Perhaps we will see more of Jesus in others, and experience Christ in our own sufferings.
That is the comfort I take. That again and again we most likely find Christ most when we are least and in our own weaknesses. In this time of preparation, may we know Christ as we learn to dwell in a state of vulnerability.