Sunday, December 15, 2013

Judging Advent

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Third Sunday in Advent 2013

You've come last in the Art Show.

Your beautiful picture of
Rochester Castle by sunset
 has been deemed "rubbish"
by Sir Alex Bouffant,
the famous art critic.

Of course,
you're naturally enraged that your picture
which has taken you 5 years to do
including hours and hours
of intensive art courses
using lots of very skilled techniques
costing you well over £6,000
has been judged to be mediocre at best.

So enraged are you
that you make the decision
to sue Sir Alex for slander.

Would an English Judge take such a case seriously?


How many judgements are being made
 in this scenario?
there is the judgement of Sir Alex
that your painting was worthless.

There is also the impending judgement
of the Civil Judge
assuming that your case goes all the way
to the courts in the first place.

What about your decision to sue?

Isn’t that a judgement too?


It's quite clear that your decision to sue
is perhaps ill-advised at best.

It was probably based on hurt pride
more than anything
more obvious.

If Sir Alex is already known for his artistic judgment,
then it’s very likely that, actually,
he knows more about what makes good art
than someone who has only studied it,
albeit intently, for 5 years.

The judgement to sue is not a sound judgement:
it is not in possession of all the facts.

St Paul has been criticised by the Corinthians
for being unfaithful to the Gospel.

They claim that he does not speak with the authority of Christ.

Perhaps they are pointing to
 his past when he persecuted Christians.

Perhaps they are concerned about
his views on whether Jews and Gentiles
can both be Christians.

Perhaps they struggle with
the criticisms he has made about their lifestyle.

St Paul makes criticisms of the Corinthians.

The Corinthians make criticisms of St Paul.

This does sound like the beginnings
of parts of the church breaking away
from each other.

Arguments lead to
squabbles which lead to
an unhealthy silence which leads to
schism, fracture and divorce.

St Paul’s reaction
to the Corinthians’ accusation
is very clear.

“But with me it is a very small thing
that I should be judged of you,
or of man's judgment:
yea, I judge not mine own self.

For I know nothing by myself;
yet am I not hereby justified:
but he that judgeth me is the Lord.”

St Paul is saying very clearly that
no man is really in any position to judge another
without first knowing
all the facts
beyond reasonable doubt.

When St Paul uses the word “judge” here,
he is using a very unique Greek word
which implies that the judgement is incomplete
– it’s the sort of judgement
you might find in a preliminary hearing,
 not a judgement
on which you could get convicted.

Of course St Paul is quite right to say that
 it is a small thing to be judged by the Corinthians
or by anyone else,
and he is quite right to say
that he can’t even judge himself,
because the results of
the preliminary hearing
are not meant to be conclusive.

St Paul is joined in this idea
by St John who says
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God,
and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”

We heard that only a few weeks ago!

As far as St Paul and St John are concerned,
we are not finished,
we are not yet what we should be.


We believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ
will come again to judge the living and the dead.

In what sense will the Lord judge us?

We have only to look at His life
to see how Our Lord operates.

The blind receive their sight,
and the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed,
and the deaf hear,
the dead are raised up,
and the poor have the gospel
preached to them.
 And blessed is he,
whosoever shall not be
offended in Him.

His miracles are very clear signs to us
that Our Lord Jesus Christ
is committed to our perfection.

“Be ye therefore perfect,”
 He says,
 “even as your Father which is in heaven
is perfect.”

We know full well that
we cannot be perfect at all
of ourselves.

St Paul and St John are both aware
that they don’t even know how
to begin to be perfect.

St Paul is very willing to admit
that he is still trying to work out his salvation
with fear and trembling.

Perfection can only come from
the One who created us and is,
in some very clear sense,
still creating us
albeit with our co-operation.

 We can choose to be imperfect
by choosing that which
God does not want of us.

 This is why every human being
is called to repentance,
 so that they can turn to God and allow Him
to make them perfect.

St Peter tells us,
 “Repent, and be baptized every one of you
in the name of Jesus Christ
for the remission of sins,
and ye shall receive
the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The unrepentant see their own idea of perfection
and believe that their own studies of life
make them competent to judge their lives
to be perfect according to their will.


We are indeed the artwork of God.

We owe our being to Him and our perfection.

This Advent-time, we look for the coming again
of Our Lord Jesus as our judge.

He is our judge not to our condemnation,
but to our salvation,
our perfection and our true selves.

Until then, we must keep faithful as
“of the ministers of Christ,
and stewards of the mysteries of God,”
being patient with each other
and with ourselves until He comes again
in glory
to judge the quick and the dead.

What better judgement is there for us than that?

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