Sermon for Christ the King Sunday, 26 November 2023

By Revd George Mwaura

[Bible readings: Psalm 95: 1–7a and Matthew 25: 31–46]

King of kings, speak to us in the shelter of this sanctuary by your Spirit and reassure us of a favourable judgement when we come face to face with you.


The Reader’s Digest carried a humorous story of a nurse who worked in the gynaecology department of a busy hospital in the seventies. They had just received a new battery-operated device that listened to the heartbeat of babies in their mother’s womb. The problem with these mini pods, as they were called, was that sometimes they picked up radio or television signals from nearby rooms. Imagine the surprise of a new nurse then, when one day, as she was examining one of the mothers, a voice came through the mini pod, loud and clear asking, ‘How are things out there?’ She fainted! Life is full of surprises. And some surprises, like hearing a baby speak from its mother’s womb, are quite disturbing. But some surprises can be wonderful. Most of you will know that today is Christ the King Sunday. A day we celebrate the Kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we also encounter Jesus wearing his hat as judge and King.

Jesus tells us that on the day of judgement, some of his disciples will be pleasantly surprised. On that day, the King of Kings will say, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Why? Because I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.’

The disciples will be surprised, and ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?’ And here is how the King will respond: ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did to the least of these brothers, you did for me.’ What a surprise! The followers of Jesus fed him, and they didn’t know it. Surprise! They clothed him, and didn’t have a clue. Surprise! They visited him in the slammer, but didn’t recognize him. Surprise! ‘Whatever you did for them, you did it for me.’ What a challenge.

Several lessons jump out from this Gospel message. First, we need to be careful how we treat other people, particularly those in need; for all you know, it could be Jesus in disguise. A member of my congregation in Bolton explained to me that his motivation for working with the homeless people came from his relationship with his brother, who developed mental health issues and become homeless. Thereafter, his brother completely refused to live in a house. He explained that when he serves the homeless people in the streets of Manchester, he imagines that one of them is his brother. That’s how we need to view those in need, as our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not out of fear of divine punishment, (though that’s motivation enough); but because the Spirit of Jesus lives in our hearts.

The second lesson is that Christ’s followers have a heart for those at the bottom of society. One of the most influential philosophers of the last century was a man named Albert Schweitzer. A brilliant student and one of the greatest organists of all times (second only to our Adrian). But at the back of Albert’s mind, there was a nagging voice that would not be stilled. The thought of all the misery in the world deeply troubled him. He came to believe that he did not have the moral right to take his blessings for granted. So, he gave up everything, studied medicine, became a doctor, and ended in a mission hospital in Central Africa. One day, a man who was in a terrible pain was brought to his hospital. Schweitzer laid his hand on the man’s head and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. In an hour’s time you will be put to sleep, and you will feel no more pain when you wake up.’ When the operation was over, the man woke up and discovered Schweitzer waiting beside his bed. He grabbed Schweitzer’s hand tightly and repeated over and over, ‘I have no more pain! I have no more pain!’

This was all the payment that Albert Schweitzer needed. (the nagging voice at the back of his mind had been stilled). He had a tender heart for the suffering of the world, and he saw Christ in everyone. Similarly, followers of Jesus must have a heart for those at the bottom of society. After all, Christ didn’t come to care for the healthy and wealthy, but for the sick and poor. That too, is our calling.

Christ may not be calling you to go to Gaza, Ukraine, Khartoum or Mogadishu, but he calls us to visit those in care homes, detention centres, prisons, hospitals or to give a listening ear to those who sit next to you in church. It’s easy for us to insulate ourselves from those in need and pretend that somehow, we deserve our good fortune; to forget our purpose for being here and become arrogant and selfish. But if we don’t spend our time serving those in need, we will never encounter Christ in human flesh.

In 1963, a man moved into a small town in rural Yorkshire. His little house was near an abandoned railway line. Every morning he noticed an elderly woman walking along the tracks picking up something and putting it into a trolley that she pushed along. The man got curious and asked the village shopkeeper about this woman. ‘Oh, that’s Mrs Jacobs,’ said the store owner. ‘Every day she travels two miles to pick up the coal that is spilled on the tracks when the morning train passes by.’ ‘Wait a minute,’ said the new resident, ‘there hasn’t been a coal-driven train on these tracks for years.’ ‘That’s right,’ said the store owner. ‘When the steam train stopped running, Mr Simpson who runs the hardware store was concerned that Mrs Jacobs would no longer have coal to heat and cook with. He knew she was too proud to take charity, so he decided to get up at dawn every day, take a bag of coal and scatter it along the tracks; he’s been doing that for over ten years now. Mrs Jacobs still thinks the railway line is operational.’ Wow!

A few lumps of coal dropped along a disused railway line each day… It’s not much, but it’s something. I believe God calls each of us to do something like that, to make life better for someone else. That’s what this text is all about.  I was in need, and you responded. In our text, Jesus doesn’t say that you eradicated hunger, stopped World War III, or drilled a hundred water boreholes in Africa; no; you gave me a drink.  Jesus isn’t calling you to change the world (but go ahead if you are inclined to!); he is calling you to do something that makes a difference in someone’s life. And when you do that, something extraordinary happens; people begin seeing Christ in you. Understand this: we will not be judged by the sins we have committed in life; no, no. Those have been paid in full by Jesus on the cross! The King will judge us on the good we fail to do x2.