Sunday Gathered Worship–Matthew 13:24-43
July 23, 2017
By Elizabeth Dede
A few years ago, two little girls named Ida and Kellan lived here at Koinonia Farm with their parents. I spent a lot of time with them in childcare and school. There was never a dull moment.
I read an article in “National Geographic” which reported that redheads feel pain more acutely than other people. This was definitely the case for Ida and Kellan. There was a lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
When we started school together, I had a rule: No Weeping and Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth. If they were playing too wildly, I’d warn them, “Somebody’s going to get hurt and then there’ll be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and you know how much I don’t like that.” Or if they were teasing each other, I’d say, “OK, time to stop before there’s weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.” I’m sure they got tired of hearing me say it, and maybe that’s why it was an effective way to get them to settle down.
I don’t know about you, but at the end of the age, I don’t want to be collected out of the kingdom and thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. I value my teeth too much. And you already know how much I don’t like weeping and wailing.
So how is it that we will be counted among the righteous who shine like the sun. Jesus tells us that we need to listen carefully.
What does the Gospel tell us? In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus speaks plainly about the righteous and the unrighteous. At the end of the age, all the nations will be gathered together, and they will be separated as sheep and goats.
The goats are the ones who did not feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, give clothes to the needy, and visit the sick and the prisoner. They will go away to eternal punishment, presumably the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The righteous ones are the sheep. Without knowing that they were serving the Lord, they fed the hungry, gave a drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, gave clothes to the needy, and visited the sick and the prisoner. The righteous will go to eternal life.
I often wonder how I’m measuring up. I feel like I have a long way to go, not for lack of opportunity. It’s that I’m shy and scared of the stranger. Before I lived and worked at the Open Door Community, I used to go out of my way to avoid homeless people. In Boston, I would cross to the other side of the street just so I wouldn’t have to look a homeless person in the eye. My friend Mary would force me to stay on the sidewalk and make eye contact, give a dollar, or say hello. She was just a natural at the Gospel life.
I still have to work at it. Even here at Koinonia, where we welcome the stranger every day, I find myself sticking to the familiar, sitting at the table with Craig, and avoiding new people.
It’s not necessarily easy to shine like the sun. But the light is infinitely preferable to the darkness. And the cool of eternal life is infinitely preferable to the fiery furnace.
So let’s wake up every morning, ready for a new day. Look for an opportunity to give food to the hungry. Share water with a thirsty person. Give clothes to the needy. Visit someone who is sick or in prison. Let me tell you, those things are infinitely preferable to weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.