In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
I am a curmudgeon. I delight in complaining and judging, in gossiping and belittling. But I am a “good” Christian man, so I’ll never admit it. Instead I want to lift myself up. Cast myself to the world as good, merciful, accepting. Great virtues for us Christians, and even supposedly according to our society. But that is not so. I accept my kids. I make excuses for them. For love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). As a pastor I am accepting of the kids I’ve gotten to know and care about in catechism classes. You are accepting of your kids. You make excuses for their bad behaviour, their disinterest in Lord, for your love covers a multitude of sins. You are accepting of your grandkids. But what about tattooed “wierdo” who walks in off the street?
Judgments happen. Sometimes you judge rightly. Sometimes wrongly. Pretending that you are not judgmental is to lie to yourself and to everyone around you. But to judge without compassion, without getting to know someone, to sit in your pew, in your comfort zone, talking only to those you know, having no interest in the person who walks in off street, or the person who has been attending for six months, or two years, and then make judgements about them is Pharisaical! It is to not love them. To not desire salvation for them. It is to resent Jesus because He is merciful. To resent that He welcomes cheats and sluts, whore-mongers and drunks who have been loved and found by Him. Repent.
For that’s what our God does. He judges rightly. Which is to say in light of His death and resurrection. His judgement does not deny the problems in your life. No it gets out of the pew and does something about them. It dies for them. And declares them forgiven. That’s why loose women and seedy men flocked to Him. He welcomed them into His arms of forgiveness.
Do you recall Zacchaeus? (Luke 19:1-10) A notorious cheat. A white collar criminal. A traitor to his own people. A Roman tax collector. He was not respectable. He was not a good Jew. He had traded in his birth rite to slum it with the hoochy mamas, and poor man’s Kim Kardashians of his day. He was a classic disappointment to his mother. Sure he was rich. But no respectable person would be seen with him. He was beyond the oiliness of a used-car salesman. He was an untouchable for them. But Our Lord reached out to him. Came to his house. Ate at his table. Which was to say, we are family, we are the same. Jews thought “bad company corrupts good morals.” You can’t be seen with let alone eat with such a loser. If they don’t literally pollute you then you’ll definitely be cast out of good society. You’ll be ignored and rejected by all your friends. You’ll become unclean, a pariah by contact with him.
But Christ our Lord goes to that man. He finds him. Being found changes him. He turns from his ways (Luke 19:8). He rejoices in his Lord’s gifts. (Luke 19:6, 9-10)
For Christ the sin-sucking-sponge is not made unclean by contact with sinners. His contact with sinners judges them righteous. It makes what is lost found. What is dead alive. Zacchaeus was dead in sin, and became alive in faith.
He judges sinners forgiven. In our judgmental eyes its bad judgment. He’s a corrupt judge. A crazy cat lady. A moronic shepherd who is willing to lose 99 found ones for one lost one. Who is willing a day’s work to find a coin worth a days wage. And willing to spend more than days wage celebrating his having found a day’s wage. Salvation is not logical.
But the point of the parables is that God is not like us. What we think makes sense is foolishness to Him. What we think is good judgement is completely wrong with Him. No, God is not illogical. He is the author of logic. But salvation is not a logical equation. It is not an economic exchange between you and God. It is His action entirely.
So when you and I are judgmental about who He should save we are playing God. We are dethroning Him, and making ourselves God. It is the age old temptation from the Garden. “You can be like God.” But that is a lie. You can not be like God. God is God. You are His creature. You have cut yourself off from Him who is your source and life. You are dead to Him. You are lost to Him. So He who is life seeks you, finds you, raises you, by coming to earth, being delivered up for your trespasses and raised for you justification (Romans 4:25). His justification of you is right judgement. Compassionate judgement. Saving judgement. Loving judgment. He has declared you forgiven in your baptism. Fed you His justifying body and blood. Declared you forgiven in your hearing this day.
You may remain a curmudgeon who forthrightly speaks what is right. But His forgiving judgment of you changes you to speak honestly, graciously, and loving to others.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON