The Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost

Two weeks ago I had the chance to worship with the Sisters of St. Mary in Sewanee.

 

I seem to uncover a new blessing they have planted in my life with increasing regularity.

 

About three years ago, an old priest stood up to give the Sunday sermon in the convent chapel.

 

He had been preaching for a long, long time.

 

The old priest, who always wore the same, green polyester leisure suit said:

“If everyone read the letter to the Hebrews we would have a transformed church.”

 

Just today’s passage gives us a lot to consider.

 

“Jesusis able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.”

 

Judgment is a gross word.

 

Many of us know what it’s like to be judged by mean people or people who don’t have the whole picture.

 

One of the main sources of judgement in our lives is our employer.

 

They have the unilateral privilege to tell us what they think about who we are and what we do.

 

But Jesus, who we believe has similar privilege, will hopefully be better.

 

Maybe he’ll be like one of those undercover bosses.

 

The show undercover boss features CEO’s and other kinds of bosses who disguise themselves and work entry level jobs in their own companies.

 

During the course of an episode you might see the CEO of McDonalds cleaning the toilets or President of General Motors on the assembly line.

 

The hope is that these bosses might gain new perspective or better yet, develop empathy for the position of their employees.

 

Usually the episodes end with a boss saying: I have now walked a mile in your shoe and things will change!

 

The audience is left satisfied at this change of heart.

 

Maybe the boss will be a better judge!

 

But a quick Google search will glean a different tale.

 

In reality, the cathartic moments of the TV show are forgotten as things go back to normal.

 

All the changes the bosses planned to make lose traction and are forgotten.

 

I think a flaw in this is that the bosses never have to truly give up power.

 

They always can pull the ripcord on their golden parachute.

 

So, I guess we will have to look outside the canon of reality TV for who Jesus is and how he judges us.

 

Judgement canbe understood in a legal sense.

 

Innocent and guilty. Right and wrong.

 

But it can also be understood in a medical since.

 

Sick and healthy. Ailing and well.

 

Those nuns I like so much are kind of famous.

 

150 years ago, some sister from the same order became the Martyrs of Memphis.

 

At this time Yellow Fever epidemics we’re sweeping the cities of the South.

 

During one outbreak, Memphis saw 40,000 people die.

 

In between these outbreaks, the Sisters of Mary set up shop right by the Cathedral in downtown Memphis.

 

Right as they got on their feet, another outbreak happened.

 

When rumor of the epidemic got out, people panicked and poured out of the city.

 

As these folks trampled each other to get out, the prioress of the order, Constance, came into the sickness of the city to minister to those who were ailing.

 

She and her companions, knowing they would likely die, came into the chaos, sickness, and death of the city to serve as Christ would serve.

 

They ultimately paid their lives to this service.

 

This is Christ’s love, that he, knowing the sickness of our world and likeliness that he would die, came into it anyway.

 

He came so that he might save us.

 

One of the instruments of salvation is judgement.

 

We have to know we are sick if we want to get better.

 

We have to have a diagnosis before we can start treatment.

 

Christ’s judgment for us is like a doctor’s exam.

 

He wants to show us where we’re sick so that we might be made well.

 

He is not a CEO coming to walk a mile in our shoes only to forget later

 

But like a nun who is willing to die if it means making others well.

 

This is our God.

 

So, when we talk about divine judgement:

 

We should not think of ourselves as unsatisfactory employees going before an ignorant boss

 

Nor should we think of ourselves as squirming defendants before a judge,

Especially if we try to postpone our trial until the statute of limitations has expired.

 

No, the reason the writer of this letter says we should go with boldness before the Lord for judgement is because he wants to heal us.

 

He will judge us perfectly.

 

Like any bad diagnosis, it might be hard to hear at first.

 

But if we accept it, we are promised that we can be made well again.

If you’ve never thought of divine judgement this way, experiment with it.

 

Ask yourself how you are sick.

 

What might the great physician want to treat in you.

 

 

And next week or the next time you are here at chusmlanrch,

 

As we make our confession of sin again,

 

Ask God to heal that part of you.

 

Ask him to put whatever it is into remission.

 

See how that goes.

 

And see me if it gets any worse.

 

I’m here to help with that too.

 

Amen?

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