The sheep and the goats – Matthew 25:31-46

Well, it is a challenge to be the third speaker – especially to follow…

But it is a greater challenge to reflect on the past year for Canberra Baptist Church in the light of this familiar, but always unsettling parable about the sheep and the goats.

Because what this parable says, in the words of Rev James Forbes, of Riverside Church, New York, is, “Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor.”

This is what we talked about last week, in the last chapter of Philippians, that we are identifiable as Christians when we give. It’s that simple, I said! We are to be giving people because we are people of a giving God. We give – not out of guilt or because we renounce worldly goods (though some are called to this path) – but because giving replicates the character of God. “Only in heaven,” said Mother Teresa, “will we understand how much we owe the poor for helping us to love God like we should.”

So, our question, as a church, is have we, are we, will we in the year ahead, open the door “to the least of these who are members of my family” as the king says.

Canberra Baptist, knock knock! (Who’s there?)

The least. (The least who?)

The least of who God loves is long and surprising. Are we ready to be surprised?

The second surprise we find when we open the door is that welcoming in others, also means learning to accommodate others. Learning that others do things differently. Learning that others have different perspectives. Learning that living with difference means learning to do conflict – to do confrontation – well; because conflict will arise (it is surprising how often that has surfaced in our lectionary readings this year).

Or do we say to ‘the least of these’ who we welcome into our community, “Now, stay the same as us and stay silent if there are problems!” Is that genuine community?

Canberra Baptist, knock knock! (Who’s there?)

Adore. (Adore who?)

A door is between us so open up so genuine community can begin!

The final surprise in this parable is that both the sheep and the goats – those who inherit the kingdom of God – and those who don’t – are surprised by their destinies! What is the difference between them? Both seem to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Both seem to have been unaware of Christ’s identification with the least of these? But one group – the sheep – simply did the practical acts of love – sharing food and drink, welcoming strangers, offering clothes, looking after the sick, supporting detainees – that were needed. The sheep were not better at seeing Jesus in the people coming to their door. The sheep were better at being Jesus when they opened the door.

Canberra Baptist, knock knock! (Who’s there?)

Goat. (Goat who?)

Go to the door, open it, welcome the least of these in, genuinely welcome the least of these in, do the practical acts of love. And we will discover that we are God’s sheep.


Knock knock (who’s there)

Jesus (Jesus who)

Jesus who goes with you out that door

drawing you to himself;
strengthening you for acts of love;
and filling your hearts with joy.
The blessing of God almighty, Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.