Home / Sermons / It’s Time: Being (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25:31-46)

It’s Time: Being (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25:31-46)

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This sermon is a throwback, with a modern twist. We, as Jesus people, follow a different calendar in the life of the church than the January-December timekeeping of our culture. This Sunday, today, is Christ the King Sunday—the end of the church’s calendar. It is our “New Year’s Eve” of sorts. A good time to reflect on what has happened in our personal, and faith community’s, journeys with Jesus the past 12 months. For our congregation, this has been a period of multiple narrations looking inward, back through time, and forward. We have remembered our stories, the stories of 100 years of being a congregation. We have celebrated the ministries of beloved pastors – one that served Memorial UCC for many years, and another who graced this space over the summer months. We have prayerfully reflected on where the Spirit is leading us into the next 100 years. And now, on the eve of Advent, the weeks leading up to the birth of God incarnate amongst us,  a babe in a manger, we find ourselves in another place of remembering.

For early in the church’s calendar year, back in January, we began our trek through the book of Matthew with the Beatitudes:

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5: 3-12, NRSV).”

It is time for us to check in. This year has seemed to be particularly punctuated with spaces of divisiveness. Just having gathered together with family and friends for Thanksgiving, there may have been some challenging conversations around the table that created disquieting in some cases, tension, frustration, anger, and/or heated words in others. Or, maybe it was an exchange, or several exchanges, on social media that caused unsettling comments to be posted in response to #WeStandWithMuslims, #MeToo, #TakeAKnee, #environmentaljustice, #therearetoomanyhashtags. If you are wondering about what all the “hashtags” are about, the symbol is used on social media as a way for people around the world to connect and respond to a specific topic. Or, maybe it is the overwhelming 24/7 news coverage of the violence, terror, hate rhetoric, and discord that is weighing heavily on our ability to respond to anything—at all.


When was it, God that we saw you and did not take care of you?


Here, Ezekiel cries out with God’s words to the people from Judah in exile in Babylon around 600 BC. This is a God that:



Brings people into new lands.

New places of hope.

A God that feeds.

Provides a safe place to rest.

Actively seeks the lost.

Retrieves those that have drifted away.

Bandages the injured.

Strengthens the weak.

This is a God that judges—and also saves.

This is a moving, active, engaged God.


Public theologian Susan Thistlethwaite writes that “God is not to be found in a concrete and glass sanctuary or painted into stained glass. God is found on the move, occupying a tent as slaves escape, with Jesus on dusty roads in the Galilee or the stone streets of Jerusalem, and with gatherings of people protesting civil rights abuse, war, and the impoverishment of the many to enrich the few” (#OcuppytheBible, pg. 112).[1]

Created in the image of this Still Moving God, here is where our throwback intersects with our present condition. Called together as a denomination in 1957, the United Church of Christ “has no rigid formulation of doctrine or attachment to creeds or structures. Its overarching creed is love” and embedded in our beliefs is the call “to be a prophetic church. As in the tradition of the prophets and apostles, God calls the church to speak truth to power, liberate the oppressed, care for the poor and comfort the afflicted.”[2]

While creeds, catechisms, and declarations may not be primary in our understanding of our relationship with God, Jesus, and Spirit, they are woven into the testimony of our ancestors. You might be familiar with the Nicene Creed of 381 CE. Or, the Apostles Creed which had “evolved into its present form by the seventh century .”[3] Or, was anyone here introduced to the Heidelberg Catechism[4] in their confirmation class? It was written in 1563. More recently, just over 80 years ago in Germany, as Hitler rose to power, Karl Barth and other theologians drafted words that became the Barmen Declaration “a call to resistance against the theological claims of the Nazi state.”

And just this past week, on Monday, November 20, another declaration was made. Gathered at Old South Church in Boston (a UCC congregation that traces its roots back to 1670), the Boston Declaration calls out “expressions of Christianity driven by white supremacy, often enacted through white privilege and the normalizing of oppression. Confessing racism as the United States’ original and ongoing sin…” those that gathered and signed the document further stated that “we commit ourselves to following Jesus on the road of costly discipleship to seek shalom justice for the least, the lost, and the left out. We declare that following Jesus today means fighting poverty, economic exploitation, racism, sexism, and all forms of oppression from the deepest wells of our faith.”[5]


When was it, God that we saw you and did not take care of you?

When was it when we saw you on the streets, without a home?

When did we walk past you when you didn’t have a coat or gloves in the middle of winter?

When did we cross the street when we saw you approaching us with a hoodie over your head, and jeans low on your hips?

When did we drive past the nursing home, and not stop in for a visit?

When did we hear your verbal outbursts and roll our eyes in disdain?

When did we not leave the comfort of our homes to visit you when you were incarcerated?

Or hire you, when you newly released from prison?

Or refused to fund the medical care you needed to overcome your opioid addition?

The Boston Declaration leans into these laments and others–“We acknowledge and lament the realities we see around us: broken lives, broken homes, a broken social system that incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth. We lament a broken and corrupt police system, a broken economic system that prioritizes profits over people, a broken sense of national identity. We lament national boundaries that make our worries about security a pretext for destroying the lives of others, and a broken church that disrespects and marginalizes many people rather than honoring and embracing them…”[6]

It is time. It is time for a shift. The past few weeks, as we have reflected on the readings from the author of Matthew, we have focused on waiting, naming, and now—being. Our God, the one that is a verb, calls on us to be… verbs. The “being” of God’s active presence. The “call to action” put forth by the Boston Declaration “as Christian followers of the Jesus Way…may we live in this world continually welcoming the stranger and ‘treating the foreigner with love, for we were once foreigners in Egypt’ (Deut. 10:19)… (and) May we bear witness to the hues of difference in God’s life—a God who is neither male nor female and who embraces all people regardless of their identity.”[7]


God, when was it that we saw you?


May we see. Hear. Be. Act. Amen.



[1] Thistlethwaite, Susan Brooks. #OccupytheBible: what Jesus really said (and did) about money and power. New York: Astor Blue, 2013. 212.

[2] “What We Believe.” United Church of Christ. Accessed November 24, 2017. http://www.ucc.org/about-us_what-we-believe.

[3] “The Apostles’ Creed.” United Church of Christ. Accessed November 24, 2017. http://www.ucc.org/beliefs_the-apostles-creed.

[4] “Heidelberg Catechism.” United Church of Christ. Accessed November 24, 2017. http://www.ucc.org/beliefs_heidelberg-catechism.

[5] “The Boston Declaration.” THE BOSTON DECLARATION. Accessed November 24, 2017. https://thebostondeclaration.com/.

[6] “The Boston Declaration.” THE BOSTON DECLARATION. Accessed November 24, 2017. https://thebostondeclaration.com/.

[7] Ibid.