WHO”S AFRAID OF Y2K?
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 100, Matthew 25:31-46
November 21, 1999 by Tad Mitsui
Too many people speak about the year 2000, so-called Y2K, these days. Some people are planning big parties, and some are worried about it. I, for one, believe that it”s no big deal, there is nothing to fear. Those who lived through the Ice Storm in 1998 in Quebec know that when you live in a community of caring people, you will be able to cope with most difficulties. We should not be afraid of any technical glitch that may happen on the New Year”s day. Neither should we be bothered by some religious fanatics who predict "the end of the world". Quite frankly, I think that those doomsday millennium scenario are none sense.
In today”s Gospel, when Jesus said, "When Son of Man comes in his glory,…he will sit in the throne of his glory,…he will separate people one from another…", he was speaking about the last judgment day. The belief in one determining moment, like "the end of the world", "the Second Coming of Christ", or "the final judgment day", was very important for early Christians. During the first few centuries of the church history, they suffered a lot because of their faith. Christianity was a new religion. So both the Roman Emperor and people were very suspicious of Christians. They seemed odd: they were too kind to everybody, met at night, sometimes in the cemeteries, and shared a piece of bread saying "This is my body." That”s why some people thought that Christians were cannibals. So Christianity was prohibited. Many Christians lost their lives for refusing to give up their faith. You understand why the promise about the final judgement and the second coming of Jesus Christ was enormously comforting to them. It was a promise that their faithfulness would be recognized. It was not a threat of some scary cataclysmic events. Jesus was saying to those faithful followers who were suffering the consequences of their belief, "God knows your faithfulness. Your reward awaits. Do not be afraid. Continue to be good to other people."
In 1970, there was a coup d”etat in Lesotho, where I lived. The Army took over the government by force. They declared the result of the election null and void, because they didn”t like the political party elected to take power. Many people were arrested, tortured, killed, or went into exile including many of my students. We were all afraid, because nobody knew what was going to happen next. There was enormous fear especially among the foreign residents. Many of them were desperately trying to think of the ways to escape. The British High Commissioner came to calm our nerves. The British authorities were supposed to be responsible for the security of Canadians, also. We discussed the possibilities of a rescue by air lift or a breakout by an armed convoy, etc. None of us believed that the British would undertake such an expensive operation for a handful of us in a tiny insignificant African country. The best advice came from the Roman Catholic Bishop. His advice was simple, "stay with your people." He was so right. People, who love and trust you, are the best protection against all dangers. There is nothing more secure than living in a community made up of caring people. Today”s lesson from the Gospel makes the same point.
It says that on the day of judgement, Christ the King will come in his glory and sit on the throne. He will praise those who fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed the strangers, took care of the sick, and visited the prisoners. He said that those ordinary acts of kindness were the proof of true devotion to God. "When you are good to those poor people, you are being good to me." – he said. "You will share the glory of Christ the King." It can be a criticism of those who think that they are Y2K prepared, because they debugged their computers and VCR”s, drew out enough cash, stored enough food and water, and are keeping a rifle handy to protect what”s in the storage.
The message of our Lord is very clear. If you are kind and loving persons offering day-to-day acts of kindness to others, you are already in the Kingdom of God. These words were a huge comfort to those followers of Christ, who had already been living in such a life-style. They treated each other as though each person was Christ himself. They were kind especially to the most hard pressed persons, like a hungry person, a person without decent clothes, or even a criminal who was in a prison.
I found the following story about a daughter of a minister, in a magazine for preachers. Her name was Susan. She is now a Lutheran minister herself. One Sunday afternoon, when Susan was a child, the family was having their customary Sunday dinner. There was a knock on the door. Father went out to answered the door. He did not come back for a long time. So Susan went to check out what was happening. There was a shabbily dressed woman speaking with her father. She had two small children with her. Father took them to the Food Bank and the used clothes storage of the church which was next door to the manse. When Susan came back to the table, her brother asked who the visitors were. She answered, "Jesus and her two children." Susan was not quite correct in facts. But she knew correctly the meaning of the teachings of Jesus, especially the one about feeding the hungry, clothing those who had no clothes, etc. Yes, her father was being kind to Jesus and her two children, as Jesus said, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me."
We will go into the new millennium in a few weeks. When Y2K arrives, God will be with us as always. And there will be no problem we could not cope with, if we carry on as we always have; to continue to work with God to build a caring community of all God”s children, which is the Kingdom of God on this earth,.