Tuesday, March 26, 2013

sermon series for Holy Week: judgement



May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

During these last days of Lent, as we move ever closer to the death of our Lord on the cross, we are considering what it is that we will face ourselves when it comes to the end our our own lives: death, judgement, heaven, & hell. Last night we looked at death … which is, essentially, the gateway to the other three … tonight we think of judgement … the one which decides whether heaven or hell is our ultimate & eternal destination …

The topic has become particularly difficult for many Christians of late … we think of verses from the Bible telling us how much God loved the world … we're told that God is love … & it is hard for us to reconcile the image of a Loving God with one that will judge us … judge us & perhaps condemn us … because let us be honest … none of us really has a problem with the idea that God will judge us and welcome us into paradise … on the other hand, we are deeply uncomfortable with the idea he might judge us and send us to Hell for all eternity …

Perhaps it is a difficult subject for the modern world because we as a society have become so unused to the idea of openly judging the behaviour of another or having another judge ours … look at some of the 'mantra's' that have become popular in the modern age: live & let live; I'm OK, you’re OK; don't be so judgemental …

Maybe the problem is the times in which the doctrine of the Last Judgement was formed are so different from ours … earlier ages had no issues with swift judgements and severe punishments … think back to the days of the early Church and a society that had no problem with crucifying someone or throwing them to the lions in the arena … think of the list of punishments that were common in medieval times … branding, whipping, burning, amputation, blinding … and of course death …. and often for offences we would consider quite minor today … death for stealing something as small as a loaf of bread … death for expressing the wrong religious opinion … death for not being sufficiently humble before even a relatively minor nobleman … a world with such severe and often arbitrary punishments didn't wonder at the idea of God dishing out eternal damnation for the sins one committed in this life … indeed, I'm sure it was a comfort to many of the lowly that those who made their life on this earth a living hell would be repaid with hell for all eternity in the next life for their cruelty in this!

But we live in different times … softer times compared to those days … we don't torture people … the death penalty is gone in most societies … we live in democracies, where in theory even the poorest person enjoys equal protection before the law … whose vote is as powerful as the wealthiest person in the land … each person has the right to live as he or she pleases … we are autonomous … no one can tell us what to do … when we make a choice, we expect the world not only to accept it, but to approve …

And maybe that is the way for us, with our modern mindset, to understand Judgement … it is not God condemning us and punishing us … it is God respecting our choices … he gave us free will so that we might freely chose … and if we decide to make choices that reject him, then he will accept that choice … it is not what he wants … he created us to spend all eternity with him … and he sent his Son so that we might be saved from our sins … but if we deliberately decide to reject him, then he will respect our choice … he will not take away our free will …

When judgement day comes, it is not really God judging us … it is we judging ourselves … he gave us his Son to save us … he gave us Christ's body on earth, his Church, to pass on all we need to know to lead our lives as we should … and he gave us free will so that we could decide to follow his Son and his teaching or not … and if we chose to reject all that then we have judged ourselves and decided our eternal fate … and in the same way if we decide to throw ourselves daily on his mercy and faithfully decide to live as his children we also chose … God gave us free will so that we might freely chose eternal life … but he will not force us to accept it … but I pray that you, & all God's children will. Amen.

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