1 Thessalonian 2.9-13
One of the quirks of the liturgical calendar and year is that the festival of All Saints’ may be celebrated on both November 1st (today) and also on the following Sunday. When this happens, as it will in most congregations, the usual Sunday readings are displaced by the All Saints’ readings. So since we’ll all be sitting through an All Saints’ sermon, I thought I’d reflect on the readings we would be reading otherwise.
The short version of the readings is Micah is declaring the sin of Judah and the transgression of Israel (see me for a longer conversation about the prophets, I love the prophets); Paul is writing words of comfort the Thessalonian Christ-community as the first generation passes on and Jesus has still not returned; And Jesus is giving the religious authorities a brow beating for not practicing what they teach.
The readings from Micah and Matthew bring up for me questions about judgment. What is judgment? It it the same as condemnation? Is there any hope if I’ve been judged? The word has a very negative connotation in our culture these days but I think there is room for a more complex and nuanced view of that word.
Judgment does not have to be a condemnation or a “value judgment”. There is room in judgment for repentance and amendment and for reconciliation and new life. There is no room in this judgment for shame and guilt. It is usually painful to hear, but this loving judgment is also liberating. The kind of judgment I am thinking of is the judgment of our friend who’s love for us is so profound that they will ask us examine lives and our choices when we’re on the wrong path. It is the judgment the friend who has been with us so long we don’t remember life without them. They know us so well that they can call us to account without a value judgment on us. This is the judgment God pronounces through the prophets. This is the judgment of Jesus.
To be honest, I’ve rewritten the end of this reflection about seven times so far and there is no good way to end it. Judgment is difficult and painful, but it also provides us room to grow into mature disciples of Jesus. It gives us a chance to become more fully human like Jesus was fully human. This judgment can help us on the path to becoming our truest, deepest selves.