I never knew you

We once took a party of people to a packed City Hall to hear a famous speaker, and one of the ladies’ husbands, who wasn’t a Christian at the time, came along to be our minibus driver. He came in with us rather than come back for us all later, so he was with us when a Christian drama group acted out a version of our gospel reading today.

In the drama the actor, a man at various stages throughout his life from childhood right through to old age, kept hearing an occasional loud knock at the door, and also a voice, meant to be Jesus Rev 3.16) which kept asking, ‘May I come in?’

Eventually the man died and found himself outside a large door; so he knocked at it, and cried out, ‘May I come in!’

A voice then boomed out, ‘Away from me, I never knew you!’

The drama was very powerful.

It was then that the preacher turned in the direction of our friend’s husband, and looking straight at him, pointing his finger at a distance asked, ‘Could this man be you?’

That was the night of his conversion. He felt it was time to make a choice.

He still is a Christian, a lovely man and he testifies beautifully to others even though he has gone through a lot of pain with bone cancer recently.

But the gospel reading today is a difficult one,

Here the ‘Lord’ in the story, identified as Jesus himself, says to those who cry… ‘Lord we did this in your name, we did that for you…’

‘I never knew you, go away from me’

Pardon me?

Is this the same Jesus we ask ourselves? Being unkind and unloving, rejecting those who have laboured for him in his name at the judgement day?

It would seem at first glance that REJECTION and FAILURE make up the first part of our message today? But we have to ask ourselves what kind of people is Jesus addressing?

Certainly not the lost and the needy here or even those who already know more rejection than they can bear; He seems to be addressing the self-righteous, the know it alls, the surface people, the righteous, the proud, the vain, the ones who think they’ve reached perfection already and have got all the answers… even the pretenders cf Acts Lk 9.49

But certainly the ‘We did this for you, we did that, you owe us one!’ kind of people.

Is Jesus not also saying something about the need for his followers to really KNOW him as a personal friend rather than simply knowing about him?

Take his words…I never KNEW you!

During my years in ministry I have found that my casualties are those closest to me, my family and friends, my colleagues who quite often get left out, as I rush here and there.

It is possible to know about others, but not really KNOW them well or their personal needs.

I’m not blaming a church with big demands, when I become neglectful, no I blame myself for not getting my priorities right.

Sometimes when we’re caught up in doing, rather than being, we neglect the ones we care for the most, and our gospel message, in turn, becomes false and hollow.

And so it can be with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we can know of him, and never get round to making time to really know HIM, his attributes, his gifts, his love, his heart, his mind.

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Paul in his letter to the Ephesians talks of the need for us all as disciples to be strengthened in our inner being through his Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts, that we all may have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to KNOW his love that surpasses knowledge.

When we know Christ and enter into this friendship with him, we become more aware of how we ought to KNOW AND LOVE others, especially those who are really close to us.

This gospel reading today is part of the closing paragraphs of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’..

They all hold a very similar theme, and are about CHOICES, not rejection!

These paragraphs round off the entire Sermon on the Mount by asking…

Will you walk the narrow road that lead to life or the wide road that leads to destruction?

Will you display good fruit in your life or bad fruit?

Will you simply be hearers of God’s word or doers?

Will your house be built upon rock or sand?

Let’s all make a choice right now.(take a sweet)

Which hand is it in? (favourite game of children)

Who thinks right? Who thinks left?

Some you win and some you lose!

There’s no way of knowing which hand holds the sweet, unless it is labelled, in which case we would all choose correctly! Or would we?

Our Old Testament lesson today joins this theme,

See I am setting before you today a blessing or a curse: the blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God; and a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God.

Why do we so often make WRONG choices then throughout our lives?

At every stage in our lives, we will be faced with choices. The Lord is knocking at our door desiring to come in, to bring his light into every dark situation or problem we find ourselves in.

Will we ignore him or admit him?

We have choices we make as we live out our Christian lives; traumas that come our way, persecution, testing times, judgements, challenges to our faith…scorching criticisms that knock us for six.

Will we go under, lose our way. . . or choose life and believe that God has all things under his control, and everything is in his hands?

Rather like that well-known song . . .

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high,

and don’t be afraid of the dark….

Walk on with hope in your heart

and you’ll never walk alone!

If we have strayed or got things wrong if we’re loaded with guilt, or indeed only just convicted of a sin, we only have to turn in the direction of a wonderful friend and ask his help, for he is the Lord who is waiting and hoping too.

Whenever we feel there’s no-one else to turn to, we can always turn to him. He is a forever friend.

And that’s what I love about Jesus.

Prayer which St Francis prayed as he stood seeking God’s will at the beginning of his ministry, in the ruins of the church of San Damiano:

Great and glorious God, and Thou Lord Jesus, I pray ye, shed abroad your light in the darkness of my mind. Be found of me Lord,

So that in all things I may act in accordance with Thy Holy Will.

Amen