Mid Week Faith Lift
July 1, 2020
“We Are the Least of These”
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
“Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” Matthew 25. If you have been part of any Christian Church prior to Unity you have most likely heard this passage from Matthew. It has been quoted as a moral imperative, as a command to do good works if only for the motivation of being among those chosen by God, as the rest of the story is about separating the sheep from the goats depending on how you behaved in this life. The traditional take on this is that if you do good works and help your neighbor in this life you will be rewarded with heaven, and if not you will be condemned to hell. The modern evangelical take on this is to understand it as a way of separating the saved and the unsaved, which results in a lot of interesting and perhaps unintended consequences.
What we lose when the focus is on the afterlife is the profound awareness that we too are the “least of these.” Let’s explore that today by listening to the whole passage, which is titled “The Judgment of the Nations” not of individuals. Here is how it reads:
Matthew 25:31-41, 45
The Judgment of the Nations
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 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, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; …..45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ (NRSV)
The first thing we notice about this is that it is a Cosmic Christ event. It is about all the nations, but not as nations, instead it is as people, individuals that we account for ourselves. By beginning with nations, Jesus is saying that this includes all people, across the entire world. Even as we are part of a nation, in this Cosmic Christ event, we are each, individually, accountable as a part of this fabric of life. It is a profound statement of the inter-connectedness of all life, of all people and even more, Jesus opens for us the thought of Good being woven into the fabric of the universe. Essentially, it is God or the energy of the Universe that embodies that moral content for us. How does that happen?
As Bishop Mark Andrus explains this, in an earlier passage in Matthew Chapter 10, we are told that God is aware of the death of a sparrow, so also God or the Universe is aware of each one of us. The message in this passage is that we as individuals and as the collective are essentially the same; the same energy. The ancient saying was “as above, so below.” Modern day physics speaks of the implicate order, which is essentially the “…deep structure of reality which underlies both the galaxy and the hummingbird. What if the implicate order involves some deep goodness woven in?” p. 98, Sixteen Stations of the Cosmic Christ. We are a part of that Cosmic Order, that Cosmic Christ.
Bishop Andrus also quoted Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr who speaks of the fabric of goodness in the Universe. We don’t often hear the entire quote, so here it is as noted on page 98 of Sixteen Stations of the Cosmic Christ:
Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross. But that same Christ arose and split history into A.D. and B.C so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. There is something in the universe, which justifies William Cullen Bryant saying “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.
As I read this quotation from Dr. King in its entirety, I can’t help but reflect on current times. We are living in a time we will for sure mark as BC and AC; before Covid-19 and after Covid-19, a time that will forever mark history.
It is for sure a time when the truth of systemic racism and the pain and suffering it has caused to people of color, to black people will continue to rise. It is a time when we are all clearly identified as “the least of these” for we are all susceptible to COVID-19. It is a time when we begin to step into the calling to be followers of Jesus, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked and to wear our masks to protect each other, for we cannot ignore that each of us is the least of these. It is a time when we wear our masks to care for the sick and all those who are caring for the sick. It is a time when we are marching together, young, old, black, white and brown for Truth to be heard and taken to heart. It is a time when we are truly visiting the unjustly imprisoned and hearing the cry for justice and freedom. It is such a time as this that we know that we are truly each a part of one another and we are all the least of these, no exception.
It is a time when we are being called to live into this “Judgment of Nations” as a community and as individuals. Bishop Andrus speaks further of a mathematical cosmologist, Brian Swimme, who writes about what he calls the:
“up-and-down processes that pattern the universe at every dimension and size. The Power of Interrelatedness, or “the power of care, how the Universe responds to the other,” puts forward the idea that the universe has a corrective quality that works to transform distorted complexes. There is a judging power in the cosmos, a corrective force that ends distortions brought about by actions of humans. P, 98, Sixteen Stations of the Cosmic Christ.
It is a time when the planet is telling us it is in crisis and to pay attention. This
Correcting power of the judgment of the Universe is not personal, but it comes to our consciousness through the personhood of Jesus in his life and ministry and teachings. We are called not to be saved, but to awaken to our place and our role in this unfolding story of the Cosmos. Matthew Fox states that when we hear the language of the son of man sitting on his throne in glory, we are alerted that this is a signal that we are talking about the Cosmic Christ, who transcends time and space. It is about that Universal Christ consciousness that is love woven throughout the world and it about the person of Jesus who reflects to us that this Christ is present in each one of us empowering us to respond to bring about a consciousness of love, or heaven on earth.
Jesus is telling us how we are meant to be in this world, now, not in the next world. This is NOT a transaction, a means whereby we do good works and behave in such a way to earn heaven. It is about recognizing the truth that we are the least of these and that whatever we do to the least of these we are also doing to ourselves. This is a mystical understanding of ethics whereby we know that we are celebrating one another’s deep beauty and “Christed-ness”, and as we work to relieve the suffering of others, we relieve our own. Let us not misunderstand the cry of Black Lives Matter, “No Justice, No Peace” as a battle cry for destruction of property and lawlessness. It is a cry of Spiritual Truth, for until there is justice as a Cosmic unfolding and correction, there will be no peace. It is a powerful affirmation of Truth and the Universe is reflecting that Truth.
What are we called to in this message from Jesus called the Judgment of Nations? We are called to listen, lean in and learn and then to do that again and again and again until all have been heard and know they matter. When I find myself tiring of it all, and to be honest, sometimes I do grow weary, I pause and pray to refresh. Jesus went to the mountaintop to pray, which metaphysically is a higher consciousness. And from that higher consciousness, I remember that I too am the least of these. Whenever I want, so very much, to objectify the other, to see an enemy in the other, I pray to remember we are all “the least of these.”
Some days that is easier than others especially when someone in the grocery store who is unmasked sneezes without even covering his face. I pray and again I pray and wash my hands again and again. My human self want to smack him and quote this scripture to him and report him to the manager…..but I pray, I wear my mask and continue to know that we are both the least of these and one with the Christ. May we all wake up to that Truth and what it really means for us, that we can have heaven on earth by right of consciousness. And I pray..
Blessings on the Path,