Monday, 21 November 2011

Christ the King (Matthew 25:31-46)

Matthew 25:31-46 is a tough passage of scripture. It is one of those passages that haunts us, as someone said to me recently (quoting Brueggeman I think). For those of us who have tried the black and white interpretation of this passage we know more is required than the easy judgement that the text on its own suggests. Integration into a christology that includes the condemned as well as the blessed would be a good start! The black and white interpretation condemns as surely and superficially as any fundamentalist theology is prone to do, and on as slim criteria as well. What is also needed is a deconstruction of the text that allows it to speak its message of transformation and hope.  Happily, I was provided with just such a deconstruction over the week-end in preparation for our celebration of Christ the King. The deconstruction came in the unusual form of the African Bible Study, a method ob bible study that assumes no expert knowledge, but simply trusts that the text of Scripture is alive with meaning for each of us now. Here are a few of the points that irrupted out of the process:
  • Judgement proceeds on the basis of not only what each has done but also on what was not done.
  • Both groups, sheep and goat, are as surprised as each other that Jesus was present to them in their lives in the unlikely disguise of the hungry, thirsty, etc.
  • Sheep and goats in the time of Jesus were virtually indistinguishable to a casual observer. Just as the criterion of judgement was a surprise, so too final membership was a surprise because salvation cannot be anticipated this side of God's judgement.
  • The passage called each of us to greater vigilance and action on behalf of the needy and poor.
No one felt the need to condemn themselves or pronounce their salvation in the strict terms of the parable. Likewise no one resiled from the simple judgement that God asks more of us. All the responses looked to God for mercy, for themselves and for the poor.

Not a bad result.

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