41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
Devotion by Anne Mooney
I don’t like this scripture. It is hard for me to believe that Jesus or God would ever banish any of us to a place of eternal punishment and separation, so I really wrestled with this passage and also considered the passages leading up to it where the five foolish bridesmaids are denied entrance to the wedding feast and the slave, who received only 1 talent and saved it instead of investing it, was banished. I found myself relating to the bridesmaids and the fearful slave. I am guilty of leaving many things undone out of fear and the tendency; I have to focus on distractions rather than what is important in order to avoid fear.
At this point, I need to say, fear is what continually separates me from God and others. Fear drives me to let my ego rule my heart and mind by encouraging me to isolate, blame, and procrastinate.
I am currently taking a break from work. Teaching school face to face in the era of Covid-19 has brought many layers of complications, expectations, as well as an increased workload. I have felt continually overburdened and overwhelmed with the extra things I have to do, a double caseload of special needs students, and the resulting overstimulation that is simply a part of teaching a classroom of students with autism. I am worried I cannot keep up with the workload. I have realized I have not been successful in regrouping during my evenings and weekends off so that I feel ready to teach my student. I have found myself growing angry. My anger scares me because I know it affects my judgment as well as my ability to respond in a loving way to the needs of my students. The fear has also nurtured my natural tendency to isolate and withdraw, which has only nursed my anger. I eventually reached a place where I felt so angry I could not feel compassion. I couldn’t feel God or recognize God in the faces of those who offered support and help.
I was faced with a choice. I could let things continue as they were, or I could confess my anger and need for help. Thankfully I chose the latter. Thankfully God has slowly but surely shown me there is grace in this world for me even though I feel I haven’t earned it or don’t deserve it. God with skin has shown up in the faces and hearts of friends, family, and our minister to assure me I made the brave and loving choice. I have been given the gift of acceptance and belonging and the space to reach out to God and heal.
What if the judgement is ours? If I had failed to honestly communicate my degree of stress, I would be living in my own judgement and I can tell you, it was unbearable and seemingly eternal. In reflecting on this experience, I have remembered other dark times that felt like they would never end. It was in surrendering to the experience that I found relief. God sends help to me through my community. When I judge myself and separate myself from my community, I grow bitter and resentful.
I don’t know anything about the end times. I know a little about the end of a life. God is teaching me to live in the moment so I can be a part of a community that demonstrates and delivers the love of God to anyone who needs it.
Thank you for loving us and giving us the gift of community, God with skin. Help us find the willingness to reach out to each other even when we feel afraid and lost. Amen.