Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Earth Shook and the Whole World Changed

Matthew 28:1-10

Christ is risen!

Believing in the resurrection is what defines us as Christians. Not only are we here this morning because of the resurrection, but we gather every Sunday because of the resurrection. We worship on because each Sunday is a celebration of the resurrected Christ. We are who we are because of the event that occurred on this day. Without belief in the resurrection, Jesus is dead. Jesus would just be this guy, you know, who lived and died. Just a good man, a great teacher, but dead just like any other man who walked this earth at any other time in history. And that would make us, just followers of a good teacher; people who adhere to a certain great rabbi’s teachings.
But we are resurrection people. We believe in a resurrected Christ. We believe the tomb was empty, not because someone stole the body, but because Jesus got up and walked away. We believe Jesus died, yes, but we also believe he rose again. We believe the earth shook and the world changed. Because one who was dead, got up left his grave.
Jesus is alive this morning. We came here this morning knowing Jesus is alive. We know he did not stay in the tomb. We know his body was not left to decay.
And as we stand here on this beautiful morning, the thought of it should fill us with awe and wonder. Even though it is the foundational belief of our faith, because this is foundation, we should stand here amazed by the idea of it. Yet the fact is, most of us don’t take much time to think about the enormity of this one event and how it changed the world, changed our lives, changed everything forever and ever more. The very act of it shook the earth, and everything changed, the whole world changed.
As good Church going, Bible believing Christians, we all know the whole story. We all know Jesus was born to Mary. He lived some thirty three years. He gathered disciples, and went around the countryside teaching, preaching and healing.  He went to Jerusalem on Passover week, where he was crucified on a Friday morning and then on the third day he was raised. This is our story, our faith.
These women, all these Marys, whom we read about in this passage, did not know what we know. They did not go to the tomb that morning expecting Jesus to have been risen from the dead. They did not go there in order see an empty tomb and speak to an angel. They went there that morning expecting to stand outside the tomb. Mary his mother to remember her baby, her son; to weep as any mother might mourn just days after his death. The other two Marys, come as support and also to mourn, each in their own way; as disciples, as friends, as ones who also loved him. They came to see a grave, a tomb. They needed to see it, to stand before the stone that blocked its entrance; to bring closure to the chaos of these dark days; to say their final goodbyes.
A tomb was all they expected to see that morning. They expected him to be as dead, as he was when he was taken down from the cross. They expected him to be as dead as he was when they put him in the tomb on Friday evening. As dead as he was when the stone was rolled to cover the tomb’s opening. Last time they had seen him he had been dead; dead, dead. Dead is not something that happens in degrees. Nearly dead, all but dead, mostly dead, as Miracle Max tells us (from the Princess Bride), means still slightly alive. Once you are fully dead, you can’t get much deader than dead. These women woke up this morning knowing Jesus was dead, they walked to the tomb in sadness, with heavy hearts and heavy steps, because he was most definitely and assuredly dead.
But then the earth shook. And when the earth shook the world changed. An angel appeared. The stone was rolled back. The guards fell down frightened. And the women were also frightened, but the Angel said the most unbelievable thing. He said Jesus has been raised. They show them the empty tomb and instruct to them to go proclaim the resurrection to his disciples,

They immediately left to do just that. But before they got very far, they encountered the newly resurrected Jesus. He spoke to them and they ran to him, clung to him, and worshipped him. The first resurrection celebration worship happened right there, impromptu at Jesus’ feet. And then Jesus then instructed them to go and tell his disciples.
What a wonderful privilege these women had that morning, to share with those who also knew Jesus as they knew him, that he is not dead, that he is alive! They took the news to the disciples. And that is where our passage leaves us this morning, with the women running off into the morning mist to tell the disciples the good news.
We serve the same risen savior; a risen savior who use to be dead. A risen savior; a savior who died, stayed dead from Friday all the way through Sunday morning. That means that his heart stopped beating, he stopped breathing, his brain stopped working, his body grew cold. He was dead, in every sense of the word, and then on Sunday morning, against all odds, against the very nature of what it means to be dead, and beyond all comprehension he was alive.
It is Sunday morning. We are these women. We know our savior is risen. We know the tomb was empty that morning. We have seen him. We know he is alive. We have our instructions, go and tell the others. What do we do?
Do we hide this fact in our hearts; ponder it, dwell up on it? Go back to our homes with our quiet awe, or do we go and tell the others?
The eleven were elsewhere, they were still living in the darkness of Friday night and Saturday, and these men would never have known unless these women went to them and told them the most amazing thing just happened. There are so many like them out there this morning; people who really do not know why we celebrate this morning; people who do not understand what fills us with joy, with awe, with wonder.
We CAN hold onto this truth, pack it away in some deep part of our being, where we can cherish it, know it for ourselves. Nurture our belief. Turn it into a sentimental moment of our Christianity. To be loved, cherished, kept safely from harm’s way, where it cannot be touched, seen or destroyed, only to be brought out on special occasions (perhaps once a year on a Sunday)  to be treasured and admired, but then quickly put away once again. Live quietly pious Christian lives.
But, Jesus is alive, and when that happened the very earth shook with the news and the world has never been the same. How can we keep that to ourselves?  How can we go back to our homes and ponder these things in our hearts?  How can we not share this amazing truth with all those we know, share this truth with all whom we encounter? Christ rose from the dead, and is alive. How can we not be shaken, and tremble with this news? How can we ever be the same? Jesus is alive and it changes everything. Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing has ever been the same.  How can we NOT allow our lives to be so transformed, so that every breath we breath whispers this truth, every movement we make, is motivated by this one event in all of history? Every word we speak, ultimately points to these words. Christ is risen, Christ is risen today, tomorrow, always. Christ is risen and we live as he lives, we love as he loves. Our lives are lived as screaming testimonies of what it is we have come here to celebrate.
Christ is risen!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Stranger Comes to Town: A Palm Sunday Sermon

Matthew 21:1-17
This is a passage which those who have spent year after year in Church services, know all too well. Well, in truth we probably know some amalgamation of how each of the gospels tells this story. The story we have in our heads has bits and pieces of the way each of the Gospels record the event and then we have most likely thrown in some imagined details that perhaps we don’t even realize are not even in scripture.
As someone who has preached Palm Sunday year after year now, this is really hard for me. When I see the scripture reference, I can instantaneously identify which “Triumphal Entry” passage this is, before I even open my Bible. Before I even read one word, I already know what I think. I already know the preaching points, which ones I have used over the years and which ones like the best and which ones I tend to skip over. I know the socio-political background for the passage. I know all about what it meant for Jews to be pouring into the city that day and what they were celebrating. I know all about how there was probably also another nearly simultaneous procession of Romans coming into the city to “keep the peace” during the Jewish holy days. I know about the Romans, I know about the Jews, I know about the Passover and the various meals and celebrations that took place around it. I know what is going on in the temple, what is going on in the streets and what is going on in homes all across that city. And if I can’t bring the information to the forefront of my memory, I know where I can find the information. The fact may very well be that I KNOW TOO MUCH. I am not just familiar with this passage, I already know what I think about it, what I am supposed to think about it and even before I read the passage this week, I was already cycling through the different angles I could take on it.
With this passage and so many like it, it would be nice to come to it not really knowing what to expect, seeing it as if it were for the first time, so I can perhaps really see it. But I can’t, I can just look at it, read it, listen to it and try to really hear it and I tried this week. I really did make a valiant attempt to look at the passage, to allow the passage to just be and, not forget, but put on the back burner what I know, or I think I know and just live with this passage, what it says and what is going on here on this day, at this time and what Matthew has to say about it.
So let’s begin by reading it again. Listen to it, really listen to it. There are perhaps things that are different than you think they should be. There are strange things going on. And I might not end the passage where you would expect me to end I keep going and read what Jesus did for the rest of the day. What did he do next? Does that change your what you think about what is going on? What do people say? What questions are raised? Listen, really listen. Pay attention.
Read passage again.
What did you hear? What was different? What stood out? Is there anything that you never thought to question before but have questions about now? Think about it.
When I was in college, Rachele, my roommate, and I would often go into the North End, it was our favorite part of town. One day we went into town and the street was full of people. And they were cheering; it was kind of like a parade. And coming down the street were people caring a figure of some kind on platform of some kind. The figure was covered in dollar bills, almost completely obscuring its body. And there were ticker-tape papers flying in the air. The figure came down the street and turned down another street and everyone followed it cheering, the ticker-filling the air where ever it went. And then it was over almost as soon as we had happened upon it. We stood there in awe wondering what it was we had just witnessed.
This was before people went to the internet to find the answers to all their unanswered questions, so all we could do was speculate about what we had seen and what we thought was going on. This is kind of where we are in this passage. Something happens and then we are left to try to figure out what happened and why.
This week as I read and studied this passage I tried to make believe I was a stranger visiting a strange town and I happened up this procession. And tried to ask myself the same kinds of questions Rachele and I asked ourselves when we came up on that procession in the North End so many years ago.
The first thing I notice is that almost sounds like Jesus is riding two mounts. Now that’s weird. No seriously look at the passage.
Why two mounts?
The easy answer is, well because Matthew is quoting: Zechariah 9:9
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Zechariah is speaking of a king coming in peace and humility. The passage uses a Hebraic redundancy of wording which when used was supposed to highlight the point being made. The King will come, triumphant in humility and victorious in peace and this is pointed out by the fact that he is riding a “colt, a foal of a donkey,” and not a war horse, not even a horse, but a donkey.
But two animals? 
There is also an historical/cultural answer. It was also common practice for a military leader to ride in a procession with a secondary mount, one which was there just in case your primary mount went lame, or if it was a particularly long procession, to ride when the primary mount was tired and needed to rest. To process in riding a donkey, not a particularly grand mount and to have a colt or a foal as your secondary mount would further emphasize the humility and peaceful nature of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem
Did Jesus really ride two animals?
 I don’t know. Matthew is the only one which includes two animals. He could be right, Jesus might have come in with two animals, but none of the other gospel writers thought it was important enough to mention, or Matthew could just be trying to make a point about the nature of Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem. I think it is alright to not know for sure.
What is going on with the palms and cloaks?
It is Palm Sunday; we all have palms branches in our hands. This is what we do right. But have you ever really looked at the Palm branch in your hand and wondered why? So, why palms and why cloaks?
Jesus was processing in a humble, peaceful manner, but the crowds were seeing this as something else. The crowds were welcoming a conquering king. They were showing signs of reverence and celebration that was common when the new ruler came to town. You put your cloaks on the ground to show reverence and respect for a dignitary. You waved branches and sung praises to let the new ruler know that you loved and adored him and welcomed him and his rule into the city. He is coming to set up a Davidic kingdom; to set things “right;” to restore their nationhood and set himself up on its throne.
What does Hosanna mean?
It means “save us.”  It is a prayer, a cry to God. Save us!  They are crying, but they are celebrating this prayer, this cry. They are saying it as if their cry has been heard, as if their prayers have been answered.
But save us from what?  What do the Jews feel they need saving from?  Why have they been crying out to God?
The Romans: at this time the people of Israel identified most with their ancient ancestors in Egyptian slavery. They wanted to be released from Roman oppression. They were crying out to God from their “enslavement,” Hosanna, God save us, release us from our Roman tyrants.
This is happening at the beginning of Passover week, when they are about to celebrate how God used Moses to bring them up out of Egyptian slavery, to “save them.” 
Does knowing that they are saying these words at the beginning of Passover week add any meaning to this?
This is a huge celebration in which the Hebrews celebrate how they won independence from the Egyptians how they were saved from their oppressors.
Let’s say that someday, the United States falls apart and various parts of it are now a part of other countries and New England is annexed into Canada. What if as the New England providence of Canada continued to celebrate Independence Day – July 4th?  The officials of Canada put up with our celebration because it is mostly harmless and they just increase police presence in its capital Boston, where all the “Americans” like to go every year to celebrate together with picnics along the Charles and fireworks. For three days Boston is full. There are reenactments all over town of various “Independence events”. We reenact the Tea Party, the Massacre, the first shots fired on Bunker Hill, the lanterns lighting, it is HUGE. And then on July 4th both sides the river are lined with people picnicking, cooking on small grills, children running up and down the grass, families gathered together, it is a wonderful celebration when we remember when we were once a fine nation and we once won a revolution.
But imagine one year a man from Western Mass or perhaps Northern Vermont, comes to town. Some of us have heard of him, he has some interesting things to say. He seems harmless in and of himself, but some people seem to think that he has come to bring about a new revolution to set us free, so that New England can be the seed of re-envisioned, re-instated United States of America!
What do the people say about what is going on?
Jesus is coming in riding a donkey (and a foal?) he is processing as one who is coming in peace, who is coming in humility. The people are welcoming him as a military hero, as a new king, as a revolutionary.
But they say that he is a prophet. Their actions say he is coming to set things “right,” in the way they see things being set right and then they say he is a prophet. So he is one of those radical prophets who have come to stir things up and make trouble for the status quo, to shake up the regime and turn everything on its head, over throw the empire and set up a Davidic dynasty. They had a lot of expectations of Jesus. They really thought they knew what was about and what he was about to do.

What is Jesus trying to say with his entry into Jerusalem?
I think we are all away that Jesus was not trying to come as a military or a revolutionary hero, or even a rabble rousing prophet. Jesus was not telling the people that he was their conquering King coming to regain the Kingdom and set himself up of the new country of Israel. And we can know this by what Jesus does next. He does not come into town and storm the castle. He does nothing that could lead me to believe that he is a revolutionary attempting to overthrow the Roman regime.
I know this as an outside observer because, nothing he does next does not do anything to accomplish these goals. He rides into town and he goes into the temple and dive out those who are buying and selling in the market place, quoting Isaiah and saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” and then he goes on to declare, but you are making it a den of robbers. Now that is harsh.
Who is Jesus driving out? Why is he so mad?
In the outer most court of the temple merchants set up booths, to do several things, change money, and sell animals that would be needed by those who had come too far to bring their own, to make their sacrifices. For the Jews who have come to Jerusalem for Passover, money changing and having animals to purchase for their sacrifice, are much need amenities. Jesus is not upset about people needing to do this, he is upset that it is happening in the temple court.
In theory there is nothing wrong with these people doing these things. But it was also pretty common practice for money changers to short change their customers. There was no standard rate of currency exchange. There was no central body determining how many Roman gold pieces equal a denarii. So the money would determine how gullible or knowledgeable about what the exchange rate should be they believed their client to be, and would change the rate accordingly. Then at the animals stalls it was common for the price of the animals to have gone up steeply right about the time of Passover, when there were more people  “from away” who would  not know that a pigeon cost half as much last week. So Jesus is upset on hand that “robbing” people was common practice in the temple court.
But that is not all he is upset about. You may or may not remember that the temple is set up in a series of courts. The inner most section is the Holy of Holies, only the high priest went in there once a year. Outside of that is the Holy Place where only the priests were allowed. Outside that was the Inner Court where only the Jewish men came to pray and to worship. The court directly outside of that was the Outer Court, or the Court of Women, which is where the Jewish women came to worship and pray. The outer most court of the Temple was the court of Gentiles where Gentile followers of God, known as God Fearer, were allowed to worship.
All this money changing and all these animals and all these booths and all the hub bub and commotion of a marketplace and of commerce was located in this outer most court. The only place that people who were not Jews, but who had come to know God as the one and only living God of the universe, we allowed to worship. They were basically told the only place they were allowed to worship and was in the chaos and commotion out on the corner of Prospect and Mass Ave, out there in Central Square. I am sure if you or I wanted to do that we could figure out a way to worship and pray there on one of the benches, but it would not be ideal.
But that is not what is happening here, what is happening here, is that the chaos and hub bub of the square has been allowed to come into the sanctuary. Think about it this way. We host several other congregations here in our building. Bethel is upstairs right now worshipping, we can hear them singing and worshipping when we are quiet. It would be like we invited the hub bub and chaos of the square into our building and said, you can all go upstairs where you won’t bother us down here worshipping, in fact sending them up into the space set aside for others to worship. It would not be kind, it would not be polite and it would not be the right thing to do for one set of worshipping people to do that to the space set aside for others to worship. That is what has happened here in the temple. And that is why Jesus is angry. Is that some people are blatantly disregarding the needs of another.
What does Jesus do next?
After this Jesus heals people. He heals the blind and the lame. He comes into town, is received like a conquering hero and then he heals people. Again this does nothing to set him up as a the new king, it does nothing to start a revolution, or anything like that.
But then what is with the conversation between Jesus and the Chief priest and scribes?
Jesus is the temple healing people and something interesting happens. The chief priests and the scribes, who seem to not be able to keep up with Jesus, and what he has been doing, come in questioning him about what the people had been singing when he was outside. I mean he just kicked some people out of temple and they are still upset about the songs the crowd was singing. It is almost as if they are just as confused about who Jesus is and what he is all about as the crowd who were thinking they were welcoming their conquering hero.
Passover, at this time was the most volatile time period in Jerusalem. Jews from all over the Roman Empire come to Jerusalem to celebrate the time when God emancipated the Jewish people from a ruling empire. There were extra soldiers in town to “keep the peace” and there was all this pressure from the government for the Jewish leaders to keep “their people” under control. The last thing they needed was some kind of rabble rouser to incite the people to a revolutionary riot. That would not go well for anyone.
So they ask, “Jesus do you hear them out there?” You can’t do this, it is not going to end well. You need to get them to stop before this all goes south and we stuck in it and have no way out.
And Jesus’ answer is odd. He quotes a psalm declaring that even the smallest children, infants and babes will give praise to God. Jesus is choosing to interpret the singing as worship and praise. And is not too surreptitious way of saying that he is God, and is thus deserving of such worship and praise.
But then he just goes away?
Then Jesus just goes to Bethany (presumably to the house of Mary and Martha, since that is where they live and we know from other gospels that he spent some time there about this time doing something, you know mildly remarkable. But that is another passage in another gospel)  Jesus comes into town, does all these things and then leaves. Leaving those of us who witnessed these events, what has just happened? What is going on? Who is this Jesus person anyway?
We are there this series of events this morning? Who ar we most like? Whose thoughts and feelings most align with ours? If we were in the streets of Jerusalem that day, with whom would we most relate?  Are we a part of the gathered crowd who sees Jesus as a conquering hero coming to fulfill our hopes and our dreams. Is Jesus, for us, a prophet who proclaims the words we want to hear?
Are we one of chief priests or scribes; he is a trouble maker going to create a bad situation with the authorities and the powers that be, when all we want to do is to keep our heads down, be good citizens and live peacefully, making due the best we can with the situation we are currently in?
Are we money changers, trying to get ahead the best we can and see him as an impediment to our livelihood and messing up our way of living?
Are we just another Jewish person there for the Passover, who change our money and buy our Passover lamb from the merchants in the temple, not thinking about or even realizing we are participating in a broken system that is allowing us this convenience while disregarding the humanity, and the needs of others, whom we many not even realize are disadvantaged by our activities, and here is this man who is disrupting OUR lives, OUR way of doing things, making things more difficult so that others are no longer disadvantaged by our activities? Are we here to be healed?
We are there this morning; we are someone in this story. How do we see what he is doing, what he has done?
And however we see Jesus’ activities in this passage, what does it mean for our conquering hero, the prophet, the rabble rouser, the trouble maker, the weird guy over throwing a broken and oppressive system, whomever we presume him to be; what does it mean for him to die? What if he really is God as he himself more than kind of implies here? What does is mean for God to die? What does it mean for the Jesus we find in this passage, who we know and understand, or misunderstand to shortly die?
And Jesus goes off to Bethany to spend the night and we are left to wonder who do we think Jesus is?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Giving Water; Doing Faith

Matthew 25:31-46
 All the good protestant Christians, who know that the grace of God and the gift of eternal life are freely given to those who have believed and have and know that entrance into God’s kingdom cannot be earned by merit or by good works, scratch their head and begin to wonder, “when was it that the world turned upside down and how is it that everything we believed to be true about how these things work can proved to be false?” 
What is Jesus saying?  It sounds like he is saying that in order to be accepted into Christ’s kingdom we have to do certain things. Earning our way into God’s eternal kingdom is done by giving to those who are less fortunate. That can’t be right, can it?  It goes against everything that I have ever been taught, when it comes to how the grace, and forgiveness of God works.
That is what Jesus says there. I just read it, “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for 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.'. . .‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then 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; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I 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.'. . .‘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.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
It says it right there if you give food the hungry, water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, cloth the naked, take care of the sick and visit the imprisoned we will be called righteous and welcomed into eternal life. Jesus says it, so it must be true.
It is true, in that, those who love Christ and seek to live as Christ lived and be the people Christ calls them to do these things do these things. It is not true that these are the things that gain entrance into Jesus’ kingdom. Yet it is true, in that because faith and belief came first; faith comes before the actions. In fact faith is the reason for the actions. Those who live the love of God in their lives, those who accept the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and have faith in him for eternal life, will visit the sick, cloth the naked, welcome the stranger, give water to the thirsty and feed the hungry. They will do all these things because their faith compels them to, because the love they have from Jesus will not allow them to not.
I am reminded of a story that I have heard.  It is about a man who would go once a year to a monastery, were all the monks had taken a vow of silence.  The man loved the time that he spent at the monastery.  It was time that he could spend in quiet with God.  It was a refreshing time, a rejuvenating time.  He always left there with new found strength that came from spending a significant time alone with God.  One year, as he was leaving, one of the monks broke his vow of silence and said to him, "We need to tell you that this will probably be the last time we see you.  Our order is falling apart.  Nobody is committed to each other and or to their prayers.  It is a sad time for us and we will close due to the problems we are now facing."
The man looked back at the monk and said, "That is a shame, because Jesus lives among you.  I come back here year after year, just so that I can spend this time with Jesus.  I wonder where I will find him when your doors close?"  Then the man turned and left.
          The monk immediately went to tell his brothers what the man had told him that Jesus lived among them.  The monks, not knowing which one of them was the Christ, began treating each other with love and respect.   They became more dedicated to their prayers, to their ministry and, to the community in which they lived.  The next year, when the man came for his visit, the monks’ enthusiasm toward their God and the love they had for one another was so great it was hard for him to imagine that just a year ago they were going to close the monastery.
          What made the difference?  The difference was that they realized that Jesus lived among them and they, not knowing which one of them was the Christ, began to treat each other as if they were Jesus. Their attitudes toward one another revolutionized their relationships with God and with each other.  Think what it would do, if all the Christians in the world started to treat everyone else in the world as if they were Jesus Christ.  It would not only completely change how we treated others, but it would also change how others treated us.  What if God was one of us?  What if we acted like God was one of us?  Any of us?  Some one among us?
Faith is a strange kind of belief. Faith is a belief that is lived, it is a belief which can only exist in action. You can believe that a force called gravity keeps us firmly stuck to the ground. You can believe that the world is made up of tiny electrically charged particles whose properties dictate how our world works but those kind of beliefs require nothing of us. We either believe that these unseen forces are at work in our world or we don’t. There is nothing that believing or not believing in electrons requires of us, but faith in Jesus Christ, requires something of us. It moves us, it changes us and spurs us into action.
Once you know the truth of the gospel, once you come to and understanding of the God of the universe and that God’s love for each and every one of us, that love, that truth changes who we are, it changes how we live. It compels us to move in our world in loving ways. The love of God is a love that requires us to then in turn love those around us. If we truly understand that God loves us and calls for us to love the world around us, we cannot see one who is hungry and desire to feed, see one who is thirty and desire to quench that thirst, we cannot see one whom God loves and cherishes in pain or in need and not desire to reach out with the love that God had given to us and share that love by soothing that pain or meeting that need.

If we truly believe that God loves us. If we truly believe that Jesus Christ showed that love in his life, teachings, death and resurrection and that love calls us into relationship with the God of the universe and then we cannot help but be filled with that love, that love fills us, lives in us and is worked out in our actions and interactions in this world. The love we have for Christ is manifested in our love for those around us.
Christ, the king of heaven, knows that if we truly love him, then that love will be lived out in how we treat those around us. When we love Jesus we will treat each and everyone we meet as if that person were Jesus. As Christians we should see Jesus in everyone we meet, in everyone with whom we interact. We should treat our boss, our siblings, our parents, the stranger we pass on the street with the love, the dignity and the respect with which we would treat them if we truly believed them to be Jesus Christ himself.
Although it might be easy to get the cart before the horse, so to speak, and think that Jesus is telling us that it is the doing of these things which gets us into Heaven. But in fact this passage is not putting forth this kind of works related righteousness. Jesus is not telling us how to earn our way to heaven, instead he is describing what a life lived in love with God, a life living out that love will look like. They are the mark of one who is sanctified. They are the outward signs of Christian perfection. This is what holy living looks like when lived out by God’s people. 
This is not a prescription of how to get to Heaven, feed three hungry people, take a cup of cold water to one who is thirsty and call me in the morning. This is a description of what a life lived completely and totally given over to God will look like; if you love Jesus. This is what a holy life looks like. When the people of God are living out God’s holiness in this world then, the hungry will be fed the thirsty will be quenched, the stranger will be welcomed, the naked will be clothed, the sick will be taken care of and the prisoner will be visited. Those who are in need around you will be provided for. You will live a life of compassion. You will love each and every person as if they themselves were God. You will speak to each person you meet as if they were Jesus Christ. Everyone you meet will be treated with the kindness, the respect, the love you would give if they were Jesus. You will honor everyone as if they were you king. When you love God, you will love your neighbor. When you love Jesus Christ you will love the outcast and the lonely. The love of God will be the hallmark of your life. When people encounter you they will encounter the love of God in you, because you are loving them as if they are God. This is what it means to be holy, to live out God’s holiness in your day to day life.
We love because God loves. We love because we believe. We love because our faith compels us to. We cannot love Jesus without loving those around us. We cannot be people of faith unless we are feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, taking care of the sick and visiting those in prison, because that is what a life of faith will look like to one who is observing it from the outside. It will be a life marked by action, a life marked by love moving; a life marked by someone who cannot stand by and to allow those around them to suffer.
Our faith moves us in ways that will not allow suffering to continue to go on around us in this world. A true believer in Jesus Christ will not go unmoved when another is suffering. A true adherent to the faith cannot but help but be torn apart when someone around them is hurting. We, as follows of Christ will be forced into action by our faith and by our love for Jesus to mend the broken, and be balm to those who are hurting. The love of Christ compels us, moves us and transforms us in ways so that we are ruled by an over powering, outreaching love that will not stop until we have loved all those we touch and are moving to right the wrongs that Jesus himself came to this world to right.