November 22 Worship Service

Our November 22 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. All scheduled worship services from Thanksgiving through the end of the year will be online only with minimal in-person participation to reduce COVID risks.

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The November 29 worship service will be held without in-person attendance because of the rise in COVID cases in our state. It is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.

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Sermon, November 22
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 | Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23 | Matthew 25:31-46

Christ the King Sunday, it is the end of the Church’s calendar year – believe it or not! We’ve come full circle. This is the day in which we celebrate the enthronement of our Lord, and the complete establishment of his kingdom, and our membership therein. When? “When the Son of Man comes in his glory.” All nations are gathered, and then separated. Just as last week’s lesson of the talents, this is a lesson of The Day of Judgment, a Day of Reckoning. So, this is the end.

This one brings other questions though. And the big one, which is on everyone’s mind is, “Am I a sheep or a goat?” True, some of you may be called an Old Goat by people around you, like your children. But, this is a deeper meaning, and its extension: how can I know the difference? Am I saved? Am I going to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God, or sent to eternal punishment?

Looking at the lesson, the difference between the sheep and the goats seems to be in the actions. Let’s take a look at real sheep and goats. Although sheep and goats pasture together easily and often. And in the present day it is easy to tell the differences. That is a result of selective breeding. In the ancient times, they looked more alike. But, one thing that hasn’t changed is their basic personalities. I read a good description of the difference: “The Shepherd leads the sheep, but the goats lead the goatherd.” Goats are kind of known for doing what they want, and going where they wish, and literally butting heads with those who tell them differently. Sheep aren’t nearly like that. Allegorically, these traits can sort of be used to demonstrate their commitment to discipleship, and to Christ. They follow the Shepherd, go where he wishes them to go, and do what he wants them to do. And, judging from this lesson, it would appear to be an eternal commitment, not just for this life, but also for the life to come.

The problem here is that we are Lutherans, and we are trained, engrained, taught, cajoled to believe, “We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.” That part is true. We soundly reject what is called “works righteousness,” or being saved by what we have done to please God. But, being saved by grace does not mean that we are then supposed to do absolutely nothing (that has historically been called the Lutheran heresy, BTW). Sheep do move and do things. You see, there is this other biblical theme, “You shall know them by their fruits.” Luther didn’t have trouble with these two concepts, although sometimes, his followers have. Luther believed (and I believe), that following salvation, there is a natural outpouring of good works. These are done, not to try to please God. If we hadn’t found God’s favor, these wouldn’t be considered good works in the first place! But in gratitude for the grace and favor which we have already received from God, through Jesus Christ we now do works of love to God’s glory. In other words, these good works are done as a Thanksgiving (nice word for this week) for what God has already done for us.

On the other side, if there is no evidence of these fruits of the Spirit, of our faith active in love, then there is a real question as to whether the person is a disciple of Christ or not. That is the whole question concerning a life of discipleship (a word related to the word “discipline”), or whether you are a sheep or a goat, is what or where are your fruits of faith? Where is your outpouring of love?

This situation is tied also to another question, which we find in the lesson today, “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in prison?” And Christ himself gives us the answer to this one, “When you did/or did not do it to the least of these, you did/or did not do it to me.”
The membership in the Kingdom of God is then tied to community. It is not a community of greatness, but rather one of faithful service and stewardship. Christ identifies himself, and his kingdom, even in his glory with the least! It has often been said that the greatness of a nation is measured by how it takes care of its weakest members, the poor, the sick, the elderly. In that respect: how are we doing? Because it is in this respect, that we mirror the Kingdom of God itself. Those who cannot help themselves, they are the ones we are called to respond to, to be Christ to.
Again, it is a question of stewardship. For stewardship is our ministry, our discipleship. As I mentioned concerning last week’s texts, the Day of the Lord, is a day of reckoning, a Judgment Day, and just like last week’s Gospel, a calling in of accounts, an audit. Were the poor taken care of? The weak? Others in need? Have we responded to the needy as God in Christ has responded to us?

Those who live in response to God’s call in the Gospel, and this is the Gospel, they are declared righteous and welcomed to the great Wedding Banquet. To prepare us and strengthen us for that setting, and for what we are to do until that time, Christ has given to us the Lord’s Supper, which is but a foretaste of that Banquet, but one in which Christ himself is truly and fully present none the less, to welcome his disciples into his full presence, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Prepare your hearts and minds to come forward now, and meet him in his holy supper, Christ our Lord, our Savior, our King who is, and who is yet to come. And follow wherever, and in whatever, He leads us to do His will.
Pastor Rose

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