Lenten Reflection for Monday, February 21st, 2921 — Matthew 25:31-46
Are you old enough to remember the 70s popular song “Stuck In The Middle With You”?
“Well I don't know why I came here tonight.
I've got the feeling that something ain't right.
I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs.
Clowns to the left of me! Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle with you.
Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,
And I'm wondering what it is I should do.
It's so hard to keep this smile from my face.
Losing control and running all over the place.
Clowns to the left of me!Jokers to the right!
Here I am stuck in the middle with you...
Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m stuck in the middle with Clowns on one side and Jokers on the other. It seems that discovering what it means to have an “Authentic Faith: is eluding many in our day.
Is this Christian thing really all that easy? Is it as simple as saying a one-time prayer, and BOOM, you’re in — easy peasy, no worries for a lifetime of eternal security? Some will tell you that it’s really that simple.
But, if you’re serious about your Christian faith, I encourage you to dig a bit deeper. With tens of thousands of Christian denominations and non-denominational churches, holding various and sundry beliefs, they cannot all be correct.
My friends, truth is not subjective, and not all beliefs are based upon TRUTH. And, just because you firmly believe and have faith in something does’t necessarily make it an “Authentic Faith.”
The clowns will tell you one thing and the jokers will tell you another. How do you tell fact from fiction and TRUTH from the lie?
Here at St. Nicholas OCC we emphasize the need to seek authenticity in our practice of faith. We see that a great deal of error has slipped into the church over the past thousand years. Beginning with the “Great Schism in 1054, and then with the Protestant Reformation beginning in the 16th century, a plethora of innovations have crept into various groups, many of them contradicting one another, and virtually all of them are contrary in one way or another to how the earliest Christians believed and practiced their faith.
Conservative Old Catholics define authenticity using a three-fold metric comparing Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition, and the Consistent Teachings handed down from the Primitive Church — we call this a “Three Legged Stool.” If one leg fails or is removed the whole stool collapses under it’s own weight.
Over the past few weeks I’ve written quite a bit regarding churches enforcing man-made spiritual laws. This subject is similar. How we understand God’s will for our lives, and how we respond to that knowledge will either have eternal consequences or rewards.
Will you become a sheep or a goat?
I’m often perplexed by the teachings of certain churches that diminish the importance that “DOING’ stuff on the salvation of our eternal souls. Many simply state that all that matters is FAITH. “Once you’ve got faith,” they say, “your eternal destiny is secured.” “There’s nothing you can do to loose it” they extol.
There are many places in scripture, like today’s Gospel, that place a high importance of DOING something. Protestant and nondenominational churches tell us that “there is nothing we can do to earn salvation.” To that I agree. They also say that “Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross.” Catholics believe that also. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus himself tells us that there are things we “MUST DO” Chief among those “THINGS” is that we are to DO the WILL of the FATHER.
Using the example we read today, those who aren’t actively DOING something are in danger of some serious consequences. Today’s reading in Matthew illustrates the eternal importance that God places on how we treat others. One consistent view of scripture is that somehow, both faith and works are intrinsically linked.
Sisters and brothers, scripture must be read and understood in context of the whole, alongside traditional understanding, not simply isolating verses to define doctrine.
There are many factors that affect our eternal destiny. Therefore it’s imperative that we study God’s word and authentic teachings handed down to us from the Apostles and Fathers of the early Church.
My sisters and brothers, as Christians we’re truly “Stuck in the Middle.” We’ve got the demands of the unbelieving world on one side, and the teachers of a false gospel on the other. Today’s Gospel emphasizes one piece of the puzzle — that we MUST become a people who is loving and caring of our neighbors. It’s an imperative, not something nice do do!
Gracious and ever living God, Instill in us a heart of compassion and mercy. Help us to live the words of your son who teaches us the necessity to love both God and Neighbor. Encourage us O Lord to seek Your face with an Authentic Faith, one that is not swayed by the lies of modernism spoken by the “People of the Lie.” AMEN
GOSPEL — Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples:“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”