Text: Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Theme: “The End”
Intr- For the illustration today I will just assume that all of you like to watch movies, whether as a cinephile, a once in a while movie goer or everything in between. When you watch movies you probably get excited about it, with emotions running and enjoying what the whole experience brings to you.
Now, tell me, why do you still enjoy movies when you know they are not a live event? I mean, you know beforehand that somebody wrote the screenplay, somebody directed it, actors acted in a very boring way, if you’d be able to be in the studio to see them at work. Everything there is previously scripted and 99% of the movies you already anticipated how it would end – the good guys and good emotions win in the end.
Different explanations for this could be mentioned, and I offer here my two main reasons for that. Movies provide us with two things we like in life, which are: controlled emotion and vicarious emotion.
For one, we enjoy the ride of the ups and downs of a movie exactly because there is control. We know somebody planned and executed it beforehand to bring us good, enjoyable content. We probably won’t be let down by our movie genre, with a few exceptions. The movie will deliver what we need, controlled emotions.
And for two, vicarious emotions play a role too. As we identify with a character in a movie, we start to feel as if it were us living that fantasy life. We live that life through them, vicariously. We can have it all without leaving our comfortable and secure seat; and at the same time we can feel intense emotion, fear, danger, doubt, joy and sadness, etc… like movies usually make us feel. Again, all controlled. You let yourself into the experience because you know that in the end things will go well and you can safely carry on with your life without the scars of a near death, a broken relationship, or a plane crash.
What does that have to do with our Service, especially today when our theme is “The End”. Well…get it? The End? Where did you see that before? That’s right, at the end of many movies. But it is more than that. In our life, in our Christian life, these are two characteristics that are present too. When we are in Christ, we live a life of controlled emotions and vicarious emotion.
“Hold on pastor. That will not make much sense since our life is full of unpredictable, not scripted things, which we are not sure where they will lead us to”. Think again. Are you sure there is no One looking after you to make things to make all things work for your good? You heard that before; Romans 8! You know that there is a God, there is the Father who loves us in Son, Jesus. There is someone who has scripted the way in which your life, as unpredictable as it can get from your point of view, has security, forgiveness, control, and life. Adding to that, read Psalm 139 again when you go home today and learn about the one who has got your entire life since conception in His hands.
Thus, just as you enjoy the ride of a movie because you know the end is already planned, we as Christians enjoy our life, no matter what dangers, fears or with the joys and wings, because we know what will come in the end. Everything is under control.
Therefore, it is good that we every so often remember how the end will be. The Gospel today helps us to review it. How does the end look like?
1 – The end
There will be one last day in which the present order of things will pass.
-Christ comes with his angels and sits in His throne.
-We call it Judgment Day, but it is really a separation, distinction. Sheep separated from the goats. This is not going to be decided on a long trial; when you get there, you are already one of them, which is defined by the presence or absence of faith in your heart in this life.
-This sets the tone for the “you have done it to me” section. We might be tempted to think that works are the cause of the being a sheep or a goat. But they are a consequence of that condition. The blessings of the inheritance are stated first, even before any work is mentioned. One must be a Christian before he or she can perform any good work. Moreover, if that is to be intended as a to-do list in order to be saved, what would happen to a person who never visited a sick person or a prisoner?
-We will live forever with Christ. We are the characters of our own life, and we were made good guys and good girls by Christ whose life has meaning, direction and an end – which is also a new beginning.
Here we are reminded also of the vicarious emotion. For we were actually the bad guys in History, just like St. Paul the author of the epistle today. We were goats, ready to be condemned. We had to suffer the penalty for our sins. But the Lamb has stepped up to accomplish the Father’s will and die in our place. By the blood of the Lamb, we are now called sheep. He is the Vicar in our place, taking the curse of death and eternal condemnation so that we can live in the peace and joy of His forgiveness.
2 – The trend
The end sets the trend: How does that trend in your life?
I would say that it trends backwards. As we know how the end will be, we embark joyfully in this journey in our life, with all the things it brings. We live knowing that:
-To live is Christ and to die is gain – You live with Him, and you die with Him. The end is the beginning of eternal life.
-We live that Jesus will come in glory, visibly one more time. But we know that he keeps coming to us frequently. Not only spiritually, being with is everywhere, but in His very body and blood in Holy Supper.
-Knowing that God is the director of everything gives us strength and resilience to live. By faith you know that your life is not guided by randomness, but by a ransom that brings you happiness in the full sense of the world. Christ’s Cross.
-The risen Christ -1 Corinthians 15. Your God is a living God. Your Christian faith is based upon the resurrection of Christ. Because of the resurrection of the dead. Without resurrection, our faith is in vain. He is alive, will come back, sit in his throne, and tell you: “You are blessed by my father. Come and enjoy life forever.” That is the reason you are living for since you became a Christian.
-If you are in a moment of your life where you feel sad, grieving, angry or desolate, you are reminded that your life happens inside the happy life in Christ. As I mentioned before, “all things work together for the good of those who God called in Jesus Christ.” You can deal with life’s unpredictable moments relying on a very predictable Saviour, Lord, and Friend, who is leading you towards and end that you know beforehand: the last day which is also the first of your eternal life.
Cc – Controlled emotions. Vicarious emotion. This is your life in Jesus. Enjoy it, live it, endure it. For as you live in Him you will die in Him. The end will come, and you will be resurrected in Him. Then, a New Beginning starts. You will have eternal joy, bliss, and delight. These will have no end.
 [More explanations could be offered, but in the end it is somewhat strange. It is all scripted, nothing will happen unexpectedly, and still, we watch it. In some cases, we watch it again, even when we know the entire movie already. That’s true even for sports, when we know the whole world of betting, that even sports games may have been somewhat scripted beforehand, who knows… but we still watch it can enjoy the emotion of being there.]
 Romans 8:28
 The Lutheran Study Bible, page 1640. “The story does not teach that people are justified before God on the basis of words. The sheep receive their blessings and inheritance from the Father before a single word about their good works is spoken.”
 Luther, Martin. “For 26th Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 25:31-42”, from His Church Postil. Available at: http://www.trinitylutheranms.org/MartinLuther/MLSermons/Matthew25_31_42.html
“For Christ himself shows that he is speaking of the works of believing Christians, when he says: “I was hungry and ye gave me to eat,” etc.; “what ye have done unto the least of these my brethren ye have done unto me.” For there is no doubt that he who performs such works of mercy to Christians, must himself be a Christian and a believer; but he who does not believe in Christ, will certainly never be so kind toward a Christian, much less toward Christ, so that for his sake he would show mercy to the poor, and needy; therefore he will refer to these works at the judgment, and accordingly pronounce the verdict to both parties, to those who have done, and those who have not done these works, as a public testimony of the fruits of their faith or of their unbelief.”