Sermon Reflections for East Africa (Sunday, November 20th)

Every Tuesday until Advent, LWR will be posting brief theological reflections on the upcoming Sunday’s Lectionary readings. This resource is intended to help pastors find touch points between Sunday preaching and the current crisis in East Africa. For more resources to engage your congregation with this famine go to where you can find a PDF of all of these sermon reflections between now and Advent.

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

(Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, Psalm 95:1-7a, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25: 31-46)

Psalm 95 provides a profound context for the Gospel reading. “In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also” (v. 4). This is the same “great God”—the God of all creation—from whom the Son of Man proclaims the blessing to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world” (Matt 25:34). Thus, the context for the ethical judgment of the “last day” is not just about humans. It is cosmic, it is about all of God’s creation.

This is all the more important in light of the drought of east Africa, where the “dry land” formed by the hands of the Creator (Ps 95:5) has been ravaged and scorched. God is a God of flourishing and not starvation. Thus, the work of this God’s followers must be as much about the work of sustainability as it is about relief. Thank God organizations like Lutheran World Relief understand these “cosmic” implications of the work of mercy. Working to be better stewards of creation so all may survive and flourish is a work of mercy.

Many Christians draw much motivation for works of mercy from exactly this text in Matthew 25, and it is hard not to. But there is a deeply comic undertow to this parable. If the “sheep” and the “goats” are told beforehand that we see in the least of these the face of the Christ, are we still surprised when Christ tells us again, after the fact? I believe we will because we never really see the face of Christ around us except in hindsight. So, may we live as the face of Christ is in everyone we meet and all those we see in need.

To carry out a long-term response to this crisis, aimed at helping farmers recover their crops and agricultural livelihoods and reducing people’s vulnerability to future crises, LWR must raise $3 million by the end of 2011.
Your congregation can be an important part of that by taking up the Feeding 5,000 Challenge. For resources to help connect them with LWR’s emergency response in East Africa go to or call 1-800-597-5972.