Trinity 26 - The Sunday of the Sheep & the Goats
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
November 15, 2015
Matthew 25:31-46

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

Faith, hope, and love remain, and the greatest of these is love. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. (1 Corinthians 13:13; Romans 13:10)

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” (1 John 4:15-17)

You shall have no other gods because love never desires any other than the beloved. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:2). You are the beloved of the Lord. He calls you by your name, ever drawing you to Himself as a lover draws his beloved to himself, whispering your name and saying to you that He is a jealous God. He is a God that wants you and He has stopped at nothing to gain you, even giving His life’s blood for you. That’s why in Private Confession your pastor speaks your name when he absolves you. It is because God’s love is for you, personally. So your name is also spoken when you are baptized, when new life is conceived in you by the Father through the Spirit by the authority of the Son. That is why it is your tongue upon which His body is placed and not another’s for you. This is your God courting you and drawing you ever closer to Himself.

And your eyes, the eyes of faith, are only for your Beloved. You love the Lord your God. You do. Yes, we are sinners but hear again the words of St. John: “By [the love of God dwelling in us] is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment” (1 John 4:17). That is why the Law has no power over you. Because love, which is the fulfillment of the Law, dwells in you: God’s love for you. For there is no condemnation for you who are in Christ, the beloved Son of the Father.

So there it is. You have confidence on the Day of Judgment, St. John says, because the love of God is being perfected in you. We have a picture of this, an icon of it in marriage. Love is not an emotion or a feeling, it is devotion and dedication. When a person falls out of love they may think that it is because their beloved no longer elicits a particular feeling in them, but in truth it is because they have given up on their beloved. They were devoted but now they are disloyal. They were dedicated but not they abandon. But when a man or a wife is devoted to their spouse then everything they do is for them and for their marriage. This is how God is. He is the Bridegroom and we the Bride. He is devoted to us and everything He does is for us. And we, as the Bride, are devoted to Him and everything we do is for Him. That is how He can say to the sheep, “As much as you did it unto the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” For you love me.

We, like husbands and wives of this age, live in constant danger of falling out of love with our Divine Beloved. In the age to come it will still be work, but it will be work like that of Adam in the Garden before the Fall: it will be a joy and fulfilling in every way, it will come by nature, by our new nature. But now in this age we work by the sweat of our brow. We work at loving our Beloved. That’s not to say we earn His love or that our salvation is the fruit of our work, our love. Not at all. We love because He first loved us and we are saved by grace, by His love. No, our work is to believe this. That is what it means to believe on the One whom He sent, on Christ. It means to believe that God loves us and loves us in this way, that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to save the world.

The way we work at it is to give thanks for all things, to be able to imitate the apostle who says that in all things I have learned to be content: in poverty, in riches, in beatings, in peace and so forth. We, like the apostle who says, “Be imitators of me,” fight to be content in our Beloved. The fight is with our old selves who is not content with God but wants to be God. But despite the modern adage of worldly psychologists, you cannot love yourself. Love can only be given to another. That is what sin is: loving yourself rather than your beloved. In marriage this leads to divorce, in the kingdom of heaven this leads to hell. So the goats loved themselves and did what they did not out of love of the One who loved them but out of love for themselves that they might be thought of as worthy. But a girl never fights to be worthy of her beloved. Rather, she loves him by submitting to him as the Church submits to Christ as Sarah submitted to Abraham. In love we care for those our Beloved loves. And loves everyone.

That is why the sheep do what they do: feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty; giving room and board to strangers and giving clothing to the naked (or we might say, the under-clothed). They are not earning the love of their Beloved, they are loving their Beloved as He loves them. This is not keeping the rules of the Law but fulfilling the Law. Thus their righteousness exceeds that of the goats who only seek to keep the Law.

If you are a nice person because you seek to keep the Law then repent. Do not seek to keep the Law but rather seek to love your Beloved. This will not lead you away from the Law in some sort of free-love of the 60’s where it is not love but lust that reigns in anarchy and chaos. This will marry you every closer to your beloved as He through His word and mysteries speaks your name and draws you closer to Him. Then you will desire what He desires and do what He does even as He says, “Greater works than these will you do.” For the Father is working and so the Son is working, and so His beloved is working.

What are the works? They are works of love. That is why we, the Body of Christ, should be at the vanguard of charity and works of mercy. Not huge organized things but for our neighbors who are homeless in Hoisington, who are hungry in Barton County, who are under-clothed in our winters and thirsty in our summers. We’re not seeking righteousness by the Law to do these things, and the Law will never motivate us beyond the simple ability to say, “I helped so and so last week,” which is just us justifying ourselves by asking the Lord, “And who is my neighbor?”

Rather, we do these things born of the love of God for us. The cross is the point at which we realize that we cannot afford to love our neighbor to the extent that God’s love requires of us and we do it anyway. We die to ourselves that others may live to God.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves, loves God, for God is love (1 John 4:7-8). And greater love has no man than that he lay down His life for a friend.

+ In Nomine Iesu +