Preaching judgment is the easy part. Sometimes we know other Christians who are ready to announce this judgment on people or other faith denominations; sometimes those people are us too. When people talk to others who aren't interested in the church, it's almost always because they believe that the church is more interested in judgment than it is in peace, acceptance, grace and salvation. Sometimes, we have communicated really clearly about sin but not so clearly about the love of Christ. What an indictment of our core message! Perhaps Christianity has given the impression that our sinfulness is more powerful than the saving One, Jesus Christ, who is the heart of God beating in the world. The one who is coming is more powerful than me, even more powerful than my brokenness. It is only the relentless and ongoing announcement of love and peace coming that will inspire us to change and to live from its power.
Jesus is the one who enters into the heart of human life, takes into himself all those things that separate us from God. He steps into the gap between our inner life and our external behavior. His work ends, not in self-righteous satisfaction of letting sinners have it. It ends at the cross. And then, on Easter morning, what the broken get is new life. Judgment may burn us up, but grace ignites us to be alive again.
(From Pastor Randy's Sermon)
From Pamela: Lutheran homiletics (the art of preaching) always teaches a balance of "Law" and "Gospel". The Law part impresses upon us the high priority God's will should have as we make choices about behavior and relationships and priorities. (That part usually makes us squirm, because we feel judged, yet we know we really can't effectively ALWAYS toe the line -- at least I can't). Then there is the Gospel that says, you know what? God knows you can never fully abide by God's Law, so therefore God sent His unconditional Love and Acceptance (in Christ) to complete the gap between God's Law and God's fulfilled promise that we are utterly forgiven and eternally reunited with God.
I think about the flow of any given worship service -- greeting, confession, forgiveness, scripture, sermon, prayer, offering and then Holy Communion. Lots of Law and Gospel stuff.... and the Gospel wins! We are sent out as Gospel People, children of God free to love abundantly and serve others with lavish generosity.
Yet, even before we walk out of the sanctuary we often kick into judgement of some sort -- and often the worship leaders are the worst --
(That didn't work, won't do it that way again, note to self: next year ...... )
Let's promise to let the Glorious Gospel of Christmas linger, at least for a while, this year. Let's resist the temptation to pay attention to anything that disappoints, annoys or (in worst case) offends. Let us not be ones who gather around critique or analysis of a better way to do Christmas! Let us hear the amazing news -- the reign of Love has broken in -- no more judgement, no more bondage.