Lent Sermon Series: SUBTEXTS (2/28/16): “” speaker: Henry Paasonen
February 28, 2016 at 2:46 pm Categories: Sermons
In today’s parable we learned how Jesus encounters us through our encounters with one another. We saw that the way of Jesus’ original encounter is the way ‘down’, by his condescension from heaven to earth. We were reminded of Paul’s hymn from Philippians 2, which paints the picture of this condescension from heaven to earth by showing how Christ released his right to power as the second Person of the Trinity and emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and ultimately humbling himself to the point of death on a cross (cf. Phil. 2:5-11). And just as Paul exhorted the Church to “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus” we were called encouraged in the sermon to follow the pattern of Christ and to empty ourselves in order to reach out to the “least of these” (Mt. 25:40, 45). For when we reach ‘down’ to give of ourselves those in need, both giver and receiver are open to encounter Christ himself by the Holy Spirit in our acts of love.
- This is the last of three parables concerning judgment. If the first parable focused on the expectation of faith (based on the returning Bridegroom) and the second focused on the economy of faith (based on the self-giving Spirit), this parable is focused on the audience of our faith (based on the condescending Christ). If the Incarnation of Christ is the pattern of the Christian life, the ‘descent’ whereby God lowers himself to the status of a Humble Servant, what does it look like for the Church to follow that pattern? Talk about this corporately and then personally.
- Henry shared that wonderful story about the man who, upon learning his (new) American name, greeted Henry with an O’Henry candy bar. Henry shared how God used that small gesture to speak through that man’s gesture, indeed to touch Henry through that man’s life. Share about a way you have encountered God’s love through one of God’s servants in your life. What small gestures of love given to you made a God-sized impact in your life?
- In light of questions 1 and 2, consider it from the giving end. Who are the people in your world that you are in a position to bless with the gift of love? Henry reminded us that this parable reveals that we are “called, blessed, and prepared” (from the foundation of the world!) to be a vessel of God’s love to the world (Mt. 25:34). To whom have you been called, for whom have you been blessed to be a blessing, and in what ways has God prepared you to walk out your calling? Just consider your sphere of influence, the people you encounter on a regular basis, and think about your calling as inhabiting that sphere.
- Finally, this parable ends with a parallel warning to its great encouragement: “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” We are reminded here of the gravity of our calling as the people of God, that original calling given to Abraham, to be blessed to be a blessing (Gen. 12:1-3). This statement is not intended to give rise to doubt about our salvation. Rather, it is intended to make a sharp delineation around the identity of the Church. What it means to be part of the Church is to be part of the only institution on earth that exists (in part) for the sake of its nonmembers. We are the people on mission, the people who are always opening ourselves to people outside with an invitation into God’s future, to the people “beneath” with an extension of God’s love. Talk in the group about how the Church has both succeeded and failed to do this. How can we individually, in our life groups, and as a local church, always seek to open ourselves in hospitality and extend ourselves in love?