Each week when the laundry was finished, it was my job as a boy to go through the enjoyable task of getting each load of the warm laundry ready to be folded and sorted. A basket was placed before me with the command…”Turn these inside, out.” What has now become a tedious task was then made sweet by the colors and the textures and the warmth and the downy fresh basket of possibilities.
On this Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church’s year, we will hear of another sorting. We encounter in the Gospel of Matthew a final story of turning things inside, out. This story is set against the backdrop of the coming story of Jesus’ passion. In this story, the “Son of Man” gathers the nations together for a great separation. We hear the famous inside, out line, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
What kind of king do you know of that gives medals of honor based on these not so flashy achievements? Kings and queens, for that matter, aren’t exactly known for paying attention to the “least among you.” The American colonists, after all, didn’t find the concept of kingship or queenship terribly helpful either. Even with the highest ideals, however, we, who are inheritors of this kingless America still struggle to place primary emphasis and importance on “the least of these.”
And maybe that’s why, even as Americans, and for that matter all nations, need a sovereign, well, a different kind of king, an inside, out type of king. One who is always reorienting, challenging, and calling all people and all nations to an inside, out type of reign, a kingdom of hospitality. Imagine if France, or South Africa or China or the United States would measure policies and laws and budgets against the rule of hospitality?
I know, I know, it isn’t as simple as just turning the basket of laundry inside, out. That would be too risky and too idealistic and too radical of a reorientation for us. Or is it, actually, the only real way to be a subject in kingdom come?
We should think on these things in these last days of the church year, even as we sort, and fold, and reach into the laundry basket of warm possibility.