“This Is the Day!”
I know that it will be a stretch, but I want to begin understanding our Gospel parable today by telling a parable myself:
You see, we do a funny thing when it comes to selling houses. We could live in a house for ten or twenty or even longer years and have a plan to upgrade the bathroom or kitchen or dining room, add a bedroom, or garage or what have you. But we put it off and we put it off, and finally when we are looking to sell the house, we remodel and upgrade and make the house much more attractive to potential home buyers. When what we should have done all along is done the upgrades and improvements along the way so we could have enjoyed them as part of the home we always wanted to live in, not just wait until the last moment and then finally make the improvements.
You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with sheep and goats and visiting the sick and imprisoned, feeding the hungry, welcoming the poor or stranger. And while on one level you are correct to wonder, what it actually all comes down to this time of year is the idea of “This is the Day!”
Often times we hear people say things like, “live each day like it is your last” or “today is a present, so treat it as a gift.” And normally I dismiss these things as positivity thinking about how to spend our days being attuned with one another, but lately I have been thinking about what it truly means to be present and to spend time with myself and others.
So, let us today ask the question, what if today was your last day on earth, what would you do if This is the Day?
No doubt if you had loved ones you would want to spend every moment with them letting them know how much they mean to you and perhaps dispensing what wisdom you have gained. Perhaps you would try to visit a place you have never been and always wanted to go, perhaps you would actually say what you have been meaning to say for years to a lost friend, family member, or someone you know you were mean to. Perhaps you would just turn in, not let anyone near you, and do the old dog maneuver and separate yourself from the pack and be alone in your last moments.
But remember our theme today is what would you do if today was your last day, and so I want to key in on something that we all too often paint over. Caring for the least of those among Jesus’ family begins with caring for yourself. Now this does not mean going overboard and turning overly inward and not helping others, but this means that you must love yourself before you can love others. This means that when you need that day to just rest and recuperate and recharge, that you take that day to do just that. So that when you are ready, you act, as the hands and feet of God incarnate!
In other words, and to stretch my parable out even further, you must make improvements so that your house is in good order and then when ready, you can invite people over. For if self-doubt, fear, and guilt reside within you, then you will have every excuse in the world to not help those around you. But if hope, faith, trust, and love are your foundations, then indeed your house is built upon the Rock of the Ages.
What this boils down to, is that all too often, we put things off in our lives and back burner our most important tasks for another day. All too often we make ourselves too busy to slow down and love ourselves, let alone, see the lost among us, the poor among us, the outcast longing to be known among us. And as such, all we then fail to look into the mirror and realize that perhaps we are the very lost we seek to help, that we are the very poor we want to assist, or we are the very stranger that longs to be welcomed.
Furthermore, what Jesus is telling us today, is that when we slow down to recognize and help others the way we would want to be helped, is when we are doing the very same thing for Jesus himself. So that on the day of reckoning, when the sheep and goats are separated (and I’m sorry to all the goats, I don’t know why you always get the short end of the parable) when all our accounts come due in life, we will be judged by one simple measuring stick…did you do it to the least of these?
Did you give the hungry food?
Did you give the thirsty something to drink?
Did you welcome the stranger?
Did you clothe the naked?
Did you care for the sick?
Did you visit the imprisoned?
It’s as if Jesus gives us a checklist of righteous measurements. It also seems quite daunting, doesn’t it?! But it is easier than you might think. Because often times it begins with us. But because after we have our house in order we must act and help others out, as Jesus calls us to do, and because I am all about offering some solutions today to help us on our way, here is a list of things you could do when ready to help the least of these:
Buy a bag of food at Coborn’s for the food shelf
Donate a case of water to Oasis of Central MN
Bring cookies to your new neighbor, or a neighbor you have not met yet
Take those old shirts of yours that you haven’t worn for decades and donate them to Good Will
Volunteer at the hospital
Volunteer at the Church
Volunteer at the Prison
Say prayers for all those mentioned above
And here is the truly amazing part of our faith: when you stumble, because you will; when you fall, because you will; when you sin, because you will; it is in those moments that the greatest of all of us, Jesus Christ, comes to save the least of His family…which perhaps just may be us! That no matter the day, whether This is the Day or it is another day in the future, we are saved by the grace of God, we are forgiven by the Cross of Christ, and we are lifted up to try anew each second, minute, hour, day, month, or year because at some point we will do something to help the least of these. And in that moment, when you may not even know what you did, in that moment, you were Jesus to the least of His family.
To quote a Haitian prayer, “Lord, what we were yesterday is not what we are today. What we are today is not what we were yesterday.” Today is a new day, this coming year is a new year, what do you plan to do with it? What repairs or improvements does your house need? What repairs or improvements does your neighbors house need? Are you going to do something now, or just wait until the last possible moment to finally be the love God longs for this world?!
This is the Day, This is the Day, All Glory to God, for This Is the Day, Amen!