January 2021 Message from Bishop Larry Kochendorfer
Dear Beloved of God –
I’ve been thinking lately about the conclusion of the liturgical year and the coming New Year in which this article will be read.
The Reign of Christ includes the gospel reading from Matthew 25:31-46. The familiar passage of the sheep and the goats. Both those identified as sheep and those named goats are ... surprised: “When was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison?”
Surprised by their failure to recognize the Son of Man. Surprised that the Son of Man is present in the face of the poor, the imprisoned, and all who are in need. Neither sheep nor goats expected the Son of Man to be present and available in the face of “the least of these.” Each imagined that the Son of Man would come in strength, power, might, and glory. Yet Jesus reveals that he comes in weakness, vulnerability, and brokenness.
God didn’t come to us in Athens or Rome or Washington or Beijing or Moscow, or any other seat of power. Surprise! God came to us in lowly Bethlehem as a vulnerable infant. And God didn’t conquer the world through military strength, but through the scandal, shame, and pain of the cross. And even more, the God we know in Jesus welcomed the child, the woman, the orphaned, the sick, the lame, the outsider. To these he showed compassion, grace, mercy, love.
The God we know in Jesus is revealed not in power but in vulnerability, not in might but in brokenness, not in judgement but in mercy.
And God continues to come where we least expect God to be...in the plight of the homeless, the poor, the needy, the refugee, the imprisoned.
And, in those who work with great courage and confidence for justice for all. In those who seek reconciliation with First Nations peoples. In those who yearn and work for a place and a space of welcome for all. In those who seek to be bearers of God’s grace, mercy, and love.
And to us, and to all who are weak and vulnerable, worn and wounded, broken and hopeless. To all of us affected in one way or another by the roller-coaster ride of the pandemic.
In the midst of this time of crisis, this gospel reading draws our attention this New Year to what might be a surprise: that God regularly, even relentlessly, shows up where we least expect God
to be. To surprise us, disarm us, overturn our expectations and judgements. God invites us to see and to welcome with open hands and lives God’s surprising and unimaginable grace, mercy, and love.
Perhaps this text isn’t as much about us – sheep and goats – as it is about God, and about who God is and where God is present. God is not only at the end of time waiting on a royal throne in glory, but right here, right now, in the face of those around us, with us – each of us – in the middle of this pandemic.
It may not be where we expect God to show up, but it is just where we need God to be. Surprise! Blessed New Year!
In Christ Jesus –
+Bishop Larry Kochendorfer
“The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)