The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

I didn’t expect the question. The conversation was the suddenness of Jesus’ reappearance – how the world will be turning and there will be eating and drinking, giving birth and dying, making love and making war, buy and selling and so on and then Jesus appears – time’s up. Then there’s the judgement and the question came, ‘What do you think about when you hear the word ‘judgement’?’ Is it scary? Liberating? Something else?

I don’t know why it caught me so to speak. But for a moment I felt nothing –yes, there was an element of the kangaroo caught in the headlights, the inevitability of it – the judgement is an event over which I have no control –but emotionally there was nothing. No fear, no trepidation but no excitement either. ‘Huh!’ I thought. It’s not that I don’t believe or I don’t have an imagination but in the absence of a ‘gut feeling’ there was a certainty – in words. I know the judgement. I know the verdict. I know I am a sinner. I know my sins shame me (which is why we all want to keep them secret as much as possible). But I also know that I am forgiven and that by God’s grace – his undeserved love – I will live with him forever. And the micro-second reverie ended and I also thought and the Lord is with me now.

I can see an advantage in behaviour modification in both the stick and the carrot – censure and reward. I understand that if you leave the eternal picture ‘up to us’ that you keep a rod on people’s backs and fear in their hearts. I also understand the slackness that can come from no accountability, the impunity and arrogance that can exist when one thinks that my reward is guaranteed or no law (or anyone) can ‘touch me’. It’s a bind. Of course that is what our understanding of how God speaks to us –Law and Gospel – addresses. That salvation is secure and a sign that this truth is understood is that one struggles with slackness! That is what the account of Jesus –his life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension – is all about – giving us a focus, a person, to help us live. Jesus is the story of a how a holy God still dwells with sinful people without them suffering the consequences. I suspect this doesn’t sound too good to many in the world –being little Jesus-bots – but the mystery is that relationship with Jesus doesn’t diminish us – our uniqueness – but enhances and enriches it. There is only one of us – even if we are a twin or triplet – and God so loved us individually so that he went to great lengths for us to live with him – lives that are responsible, accountable, serving, and full of love and joy – and forgiveness and the cross are the best path on which to live. GS