“Then the King will say to those at his right hand,
‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father,
inherit the the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care for me,
I was in prison and you visited me.”
Matthew 25: 34-36
Here’s a question: what does it mean to be “blessed” by the “Father”? What does it mean to stand as an inheritor of the Kingdom of God?
If we believe the hype about contemporary theology — preaching, teaching, music and writings –we would think that a blessing is all about the material and the paper, the property and the status. But here, Jesus is very clear. The “blessed” are those who have heeded God’s call to meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us. The blessed are those who do not ignore the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, those who are sick and those who are bound and in need of liberty.
What’s interesting is that Jesus describes the blessed as those who have responded to need with exactly what was needed. Too often, we give the things we don’t want anymore. We give the things we feel people should have, not the things people really need. Or, we give and our giving is more about us and what we want and not really about the need of the other.
But Jesus dignifies and respects the deepest needs within us and reflects the love of a Father who would not dare answer His children’s need for bread with a stone or a rock.
Hunger was met with food — not a warm smile.
Thirst was met with something to drink — not a warm prayer.
Nakedness was met with clothing — not warm wishes.
It should not surprise us that Jesus would try to be clear about who the inheritors of His Kingdom would be. There have always been so many pretenders to the throne. We use the gospel to enrich ourselves, to store up and justify wealth and power. Yet, that kind of power is fleeting. Even though “might may yield to right” for a while, that kind of might is not forever. God — the Father — will have the last word.
We interpret the scriptures to suit ourselves and to justify our grip on our privilege. But we certainly cannot do that here. The Kingdom that God has been preparing before the foundation of the world is to be shared with those who strive to make the gospel real, to live and witness to the gospel in ways that serve to transform the circumstances of people who suffer — people who refuse to buy the lie that “being blessed” can be separated from “doing blessing.” Does that make sense? Faith…works….
If we take this message further, given that Jesus never hesitated to ground his examples in the realities of people’s lives, we could add:
I was lonely and you comforted me
I was fatherless and you stood up and stood in the gap for me
I was motherless and you rocked me in your arms
How will the blessed answer the needs of today’s vulnerable?
Children who need loving and present fathers, children who need foster and adoptive families, children who need stable homes?
Here’s a prayer for this Father’s Day eve:
God, despite what the world says “good fathers” are not rare. They are all around us. We don’t see them because we are so busy focusing on the fathers who have gone astray. Please, send a double portion of Your spirit to rest on the Fathers in our communities. Help them to stand for their own and to stand in the gap for others. Encourage their efforts to share their love, multiply their capacity to respond as fathers to the incredible season of father-hunger we face as a society. Grant them grace and the courage to stake their place. In a deeper and more meaningful way, whisper in their ears the bold and audacious truth: just as we need mothers, there is a place within all of us that can only be reached by a loving father, and You, God, desire that your children’s needs be met. Amen.