The Last Sunday after Pentecost
Christ the King Sunday

The Very Reverend Torey Lightcap

Matthew 25:31-46

 

(This sermon is available in text only.)

 

 

You know, when I was a kid in the ‘70s and ‘80s,
There were a lot of bumper stickers on cars.
Does anyone remember the “peace sign” bumper sticker?
“My other car is a Porsche”?
Do you remember the one that said “I’m mad too, Eddie”? (If not, ask your grandparents.)
“Keep on Truckin’.” “Don’t blame me — I voted for the other guy.” “I brake for yard sales.”
My stepbrother had one on his car. It had the Fonz from “Happy Days” and it said, “Stay Cool.”
(I cannot tell you how much I wanted one of those.)
We got slowly passed on the highway one time by someone with a bumper sticker that said,
“STAY ALERT — AMERICA NEEDS MORE LERTS”
Finally, and maybe best of all, the one that always made me think.
It said, “What if the hokey pokey is really what it’s all about?”

And then there’s “Honk if you love Jesus.” Do you remember “Honk if you love Jesus”?
Give me a little toot on your horn if you remember that one.
I’m fairly certain this was a remnant of the “Jesus Freak” movement in the late ‘60s.
I grew up in Oklahoma, culturally Texas-adjacent, very Baptist, and these were pretty common.
It was a clever way to demonstrate your faith.
But of course there’s no way to distinguish the horn on your car. A honk is a honk.
There’s no difference between an “I love Jesus, too” honk
And a “Hey buddy, your muffler’s dragging” honk.
So, you might have one of these on your car
And drive home wondering, W hy is everybody honking at me?
Because of that, naturally, very few people did any actual honking. The fad didn’t last long.

This is easy to understand unless you’re six years old.
I recall trying to get my mom to honk at people with “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper stickers.
I loved Jesus. I knew she loved Jesus. What was the problem?
And remember, this was before seat belt requirements,
With bench seats, and some of the cars we drove were huge.

I have distinct memories of wandering around inside the car as we went down the interstate,
Offering observations, asking questions, meandering from the front seat to the back.
Mom said I was a real character, which was Mom-speak for pain in the neck.

“Mommy, will you honk at that car?”
“No, honey.”
“Why not? See the bumper sticker?”
“Yes, honey, I do.”
“Well, you love Jesus, right? …. You do love Jesus, don’t you?”
“You know I do.”
“Okay, so what’s the problem?”

Or. Again. The Plastic Jesus! The plastic dashboard Jesus. A fad from the ‘50s, 60s, and ‘70s.
If you loved Jesus, you could get a little plastic statue of him sitting on a spring
And affix it to your dashboard,
And he would gently sway back and forth with the traffic
To remind you, as you commuted, that God loved you too,
And God did not want you to yell at other drivers.
The adhesive came loose after about a week in the hot sun, so a lot of people just taped him down.
In 1962, there was a song about it:
I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I got my plastic Jesus
Glued to the dashboard of my car
You can buy in phosphorescent, glows in the dark, he’s pink and pleasant
Take him with you when you’re traveling far.

“The Dean has lost his mind. Someone call the Bishop.”

No, what I’m saying is, the building behind me that we so love and cherish is the Cathedral proper.
It is a building. A holy building, to be sure — lovely, and meaningful. A real jewel.
But organizationally and theologically speaking, you are the Church.
We are the Body of Christ.
Wherever we go, we take the Church with us.
You cannot not take the Church with you, because —
“Wherever you go, there you are.”

A plastic statue of Jesus on your dashboard,
Or a bumper sticker on the back —
These are only the most superficial signs that the Church is present in the car.

Perhaps a car is nothing more than a tool for moving the Church around —
A mobile command unit owned and operated by an authorized field agent of Jesus Christ.
For this is surely what you are.
Every baptized person is a licensed and authorized agent of Jesus.
And, if you happen to have the plastic Jesus actually affixed to your dashboard,
Well, that’s just the cherry on the whipped cream.

I would like for you to try to remember this when you get in and out of your car:
You’re not so much getting yourself and your loved ones from place to place,
Not nearly so much as you are … moving the Church around.

When you move the Church, you take it with you, take it all , wherever you go:
The lore of the faith, the substance of our belief, the moral instruction.
The Word of God cannot remain still for long.
It radiates out, must be picked up and carried along.
Every car trip is the sending-out of the Church into all the world.

A word from the Gospel According to Luke:
“[T]he Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him
In pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.
He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.
Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!”
And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person;
But if not, it will return to you.’”

This impulse was hard-wired into the Church from its inception.
Baptized people are people who are Sent, and who Go.
In fact, the very word “apostle” means “send forth.”

And now today we have heard what the Church is specifically intended to do whenever it is sent.
We get this sweeping, apocalyptic vision of Judgment Day from the Gospel of Matthew.
I heard Presiding Bishop Curry this week, talking about Judgment Day.
He said — I’m paraphrasing —
He said, I t’s all about the question of whether God’s standards have been applied.
If justice ever had a chance to enter the picture.
That God is love — not that “Love is god,” but God is love;
And that justice without love can turn into tyranny.
I’m glad I heard those words.

So although it would be tempting to think of this passage on sheep and goats
As being about getting sorted into either heaven or hell,
The real driving question is, What are the standards of love?

The answer: It’s a high bar. A very high bar indeed.
Did you feed the hungry?
Did you give the thirsty something to drink?
Did you welcome the stranger?
Did you clothe the naked?
Did you visit the sick person and the prisoner?

The high bar. The love of God. The justice of God. The holy standard.

In other words, did you perceive the need in others and respond to it in kind?
And did you know that when you did that, you were doing it to Jesus himself?

When you look into the eyes of a stranger, it is a risk, to be sure.
Jesus is saying that we will meet him there.
In other words, we should expect to be changed by it.

These mobile command units we’re in today.
The Church we bring with us.
The moral instruction and exhortation.
The fact that we have been sent by Jesus in order to serve Jesus.
And yeah, it might take us to some pretty interesting places along the way.

What a strange and absolutely beautiful promise:
To bear Christ to the world, and in so doing,
Get a glimpse of Christ himself.

Remember these things as you drive in your car today and every day.
And may God bless our effort, and multiply the result.
Amen!