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18 July 2011 @ 03:29 pm
Sunday morning's sermon

Wisdom 12:13-19
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

It’s not often I preach on judgement. It’s one of those topics where I think I’d rather talk about something else. But each of these lectionary readings for this morning says something to me about God’s judgement. I don’t know how you react to the notion. Does it sound distant? Fearful? Wonderful? Long desired? Or any number of other things. I think we have in some ways sat very lightly to God’s judgement. Equally, I think there are some strains of Christianity that are ready to pronounce God’s judgement on everything they don’t like or aren’t very familiar with. As they say, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do, you can be fairly sure you’ve made God in your own image.

So what do these readings have to say to us about God’s judgement and what does that mean for us today?

The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon sets a context for our reflection. God’s care is for all people. God is righteous and just and rules all things righteously and justly. God does not condemn anyone who does not deserve to be punished. God judges with mildness and governs us with forbearance. God’s sovereignty over all causes him to spare all.

God’s judgement then is intimately connected to his goodness and mercy. I want to suggest that it is not about condemnation nor yet about sentence as we might think of it in terms of a judgement in a court of law. Yes, there will be things in each of our lives which we are called to repent of and to lay aside. None of us is yet perfect. But God’s judgement is about mercy and about restoration. “When we are judged, we may expect mercy,” the passage goes on to say. It is a judgement which seeks to bring us back, to restore us and to make us holy once again. God’s judgement is not about casting us out but about drawing us in to remake us, to reform us in his own likeness. It is a judgement that builds up, not that breaks down.

St Paul gives us the other side of this. Christians are those who live according to the Spirit. We are then led by the Spirit of God who bears witness in us that we are children of God. This too is God’s judgement – to look upon us and to claim us as his children. Not just his children, but his heirs. God’s judgement is that we inherit through the Spirit all the good things of Christ as we are drawn into the life of God the Holy Trinity. But it is not all rosy: St Paul and those he’s writing to are very aware that they live in a real and imperfect world. His reminding them of this judgement of God is about supporting and encouraging the church in Rome in responding to the challenges that they face. Face these challenges in the face of God’s judgement that you are his children, that you have received his Spirit and that you are heirs all the good things of Christ. These promises sustain us through all we face at the present time.

Perhaps what we face is a picture something like the parable of the wheat and the tares. We look out at a very mixed picture, in our world, in the church, and maybe in our own life. We know that there are tares in our field, so to speak. We know that our world, our church and our lives stand in need of judgement. We can see that what is there is mixed, the good, as always, is mixed with the bad. The parable reminds us that it was not intended to be like that. The farmer sowed good seed, but an enemy came and sowed weeds. So the harvest is not all that it might be. Jesus in explaining the parable places it in the context of God’s judgement at the end of time. All causes of sin will then be rooted out from the world. But for now, we live in this mixed world, acknowledging the mixed-ness of ourselves and our church too. So God’s judgement is something we need and something we should pray for. We look for the day when God will restore all things and his kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

As we come today to Holy Communion, we come knowing the righteousness and justice of God’s judgement, we come knowing ourselves judged to be his children and heirs of his grace and we come praying for the coming of his kingdom where all that is wrong will be set right. At this table, we are privileged to see a vision of that judgement. We are drawn in, we are restored and remade, and we are sent out as God’s servants and witnesses in the world. Through the saving body and blood of Christ, God’s judgement washes away all that is unworthy, fills us with his grace and draws into his eternal life. This is the table of God’s judgement and mercy, of God’s peace and love and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for all people. Amen.