The Sorting Process
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The Sorting Process
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
I find it interesting that many people in our world today believe that life is like a lottery. They believe that it doesn’t matter what you say or do but your number could be drawn at anytime and then you could be taken out of this world. The question though is what happens after that, where do the people go? This is a question that most non-believers want to skip. For them it is easier to believe that after death there is nothing left and the end is the end. However, the word of God tells us a different story That is extremely important for us all to understand. The word of God tells us that there is an afterlife for our eternal soul and that Christ will return to sort out those who believe in him and those who did not.
Matthew 25:31-46 shows us the sorting process between the sheep and the goats. Jesus says that on the last day the shepherd will separate the goats from his flock of sheep. The goats will go one place and the sheep into another place. The way in which the sheep and goats will be distinguished will be how they served others. The sheep will receive a great inheritance because they served those in need. They fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, gave shelter to those who needed it, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and gave company to those in prison. However, the goats are separated out as they served only themselves. When hungry they feed themselves, when thirsty they take water for themselves, when in need of shelter they take for themselves, when naked they make or take clothing for themselves, and generally they are the ones who end up in prison or would not dream of visiting anyone who was in prison. These goats who think of only themselves will not receive an inheritance because they have received their reward in full.
What I found interesting this week though was this similar passage and message in the Old Testament. However, Ezekiel describes a separation between different sheep and not from sheep and goats. Ezekiel describes the separation and sorting from the fat and rich sheep and the poor, injured, and hungry sheep. This suggests that there can be Christians who find themselves separated with the goats because they lack a Christlike heart and Christlike actions. There are those who may come to church just to fulfill a duty to be at church yet they have no relationship with Christ. There are those who have received the riches of the world and do so by exploiting the poor. Rather than taking those riches to help and serve the poor and needy they hog their wealth to themselves. This is much like the parable of the wealthy man who one year produced an excess amount of wheat. He decided to build new and bigger barns to hold all his wheat himself so that he could then take time to relax and take life easy. The only problem was that his life would be taken from him and all his wealth would go to the birds as he did not invest his wealth for those in need our of his greed.
In the last day we will all be separated and sorted out according to our faith and deeds. If you knew that this was going to happen to you would you not want to make sure you had a good relationship with the one who is going to be doing the sorting? If we had a relationship with the sorter we would do as the sorter commands. We would use our blessings that he invested into us to serve those in need and to share the message of his grace. I believe that this pandemic has served as a wake-up call for all of us to see how we survive through the challenges of ministry through lockdowns and fear of disease. Regardless of lockdowns and quarantine are call to serve and to give remains the same. Our call to preach the gospel to all nations remains the same.
Yesterday during our Missionary deputation, the one thing that I heard the most from God is the definition of a missionary. When you hear the word missionary, I think we often think of a preacher going into the mission field to preach the gospel. However, what we need to realize is that we have all been given gifts and talents that can be used to serve and build God’s kingdom. This means that if you are a stay at home mom then you are a missionary. If you are a construction worker then you are a missionary. If you are a grocer then you are a missionary. If you are a chef then you are a missionary. If you are a social worker then you are a missionary. If you clean houses then you are a missionary. If you are a doctor, pharmacist, or nurse then you are a missionary. God has given you these gifts to serve on his mission field. However, if you take these gifts and use them only to serve yourself then you are acting more like a goat or just a fat sheep instead of the kind of sheep that Christ is looking for. Laura could easily just stay in the US and make a decent amount of money as a doctor and Taylor could easily stay here in line of work of science and conservation and live comfortably with his wife. However, they realize that they are called to be a missionary and they are choosing to take their talents and skills to be used by the Lord and fulfill a great need. This is what it means to be a sheep that Christ is looking for when he returns.
In light of this being thanksgiving week I think it is appropriate that one of our readings today happens to be of Paul giving thanks to the Church in Ephesus. Paul is thankful for what he has heard about their faith in the Lord and for the Love they have shown to God’s people. Paul has prayed for the Father to give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they can know the Father better. That they may be enlightened to understand the riches of his glorious inheritance for all who believe. If the goats would only understand the blessings and riches that they would receive for just a small amount of sacrifice and love for others while alive in this world what wonderful changes we might see. I truly believe that this is the difference between a missionary and a non-missionary. It is either the love of self or the love of others that we must choose. My hope and prayer through this pandemic is that our love for others will be more self-evident than our love for ourselves. My hope and my prayer is that we will know the one who will be sorting us all out and that we will be prepared for the sorting process when the time comes.