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Who judges who? 5 December 2016

Posted by Dr Moose in Advent, Faith, Life, Theology.
Tags: , ,

If you ever count the days in Lent, that other penitential season of the Church’s year, I’m reliably informed that you’ll end up with too many days for a season that’s meant to last only 40 days (‘only’ may seem an ironic term if you’ve been suitably diligent and mortified the flesh by abstaining from such staples and caffeine and alcohol). To square the numbers with the aspiration you are not meant to count the Sundays – which then become rest points, oases in the life of abstinence.

I’d like to say that such a clearly formulated line of logic can explain the lack of post yesterday. The logic may also apply to Advent (but I’ve never thought about it and so have never researched any further), but the simple truth is that by the time I realised I hadn’t blogged I was totally lacking in both motivation and inspiration. I know full well that I’m far better in the mornings for this sort of thing (and today even 1045 is beginning to push it!)

The challenge yesterday’s sermon started to address (I think, I must admit I wasn’t totally there yesterday) was that of seeing God at work through Prophets (those who speak and reveal his will and intention in words and actions) as demonstrated in the teaching of John the Baptist in the set reading from Matthew’s Gospel. (I will confess to being a little hazy on this as I’m sure the primary focus this week is the prophets and on John the Baptiser specifically next week, but they have a tendency to blur in my head anyway – and I’m far from sure how the sermon got to where it ended from the readings it started with, but it could have been me, rather than the preacher at fault!)

Anyway, the challenge is not so much of seeing the work of the prophet, but in recognising it and, from recognition, doing something about it. His language to the religious leaders to the time is wonderfully disrespectful and his admonition pretty pungent. To tell the leaders and experts of a faith group that placed so much emphasis on orthopraxy (“doing it right”) that their actions need to match their words is hardly lacking in directness!

They, of course, were out there to judge him, to see if they could give him their official approval (and the holy books of Judaism, and Christianity for that matter, do have their fair share of prophetic writings). Whether there was sectarian rivalry there too, over which faction could claim The Baptist as “one of them”, is another question. As far as Matthew in his writing is concerned what matters is the welcome they received from John, and the way John points to one who is to come after, understood as Jesus.

Jesus. The one in whom I believe we see the fulness of God revealed in full humanity. The one to whom as Word Incarnate I attempt to give praise equal with the other members of the Holy Trinity. (The one sometimes extolled in contemporary chorus of unpalatable sweetness, and the tackiness that goes with it). The one, along with Thomas, who I attempt to praise as “My Lord and my God”.

And the same Jesus that we believe will come not just as the child of the manger, but also “to judge the living and the dead”, leaving me with the same challenge as issued from the lips of John the Baptist, to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, in keeping with true faith. I hope and trust that I do, but not without that slightly disconcerting need to stop, think, examine. To remember, like the Pharisees and Sadduccees in the presence of John the Baptist, that I’m not the one in a position to give approval (or co-option of divine ways to validate mine), but instead come as the one in need. Once I’ve got that bit right, I can do my best to follow in faith, and encourage others to do likewise.



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