Saturday, September 08, 2012

B, Post-Pentecost 15 Proper 18 – James 2:10-13, Mark 7:24-30 “KnoW Judgement KnoW Mercy”

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How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear… may the music of your name refresh my soul in death.
Have you ever wondered why? Why does Jesus and his name sound so sweet in a believer's ear? And then again why doesn't he sound sweet in the ears of some? It's as if the ears become sealed over and the person has lost the capacity to hear. Like one who's lost the ability to taste, sweet, sweet, honey, because the sickly sweet is all they've ever tasted.
The Syrophoenician woman is a Gentile, a Canaanite considered a reprobate by the Jews, a woman unapproved under the law of God. This woman, a beggar with a demonised daughter, found Jesus' words to be as sweet as honey. And we should be taken back that she hears the sweetness because Jesus calls her a dog. Do you hear the sweetness of Jesus' words here?
If Jesus was to address you as a dog, how would you respond? Would you believe him? Perhaps only after you went away and rationalised it for awhile. Or would it cause you unbelief in his word?
Because, you and I, we are dogs, every bit as much as the woman and her troubled daughter!
Now I imagine that sounds a bit harsh to you. Why? Because our ears are taught to be super-sensitive to a judgemental word. On hearing the harshness of judgement, people in this day and age tend to seal over their ears to these kinds of words. We have grown, or better still, regressed to the point where these words are flatly rejected out of political correctness. But what if the words of judgement are true? What about when they're Jesus' words to you?
Why would Jesus say this to me, and be so harsh? Who do I consider the dogs of society? The underbellies of the underworld, the whoring beer-swillers at the pubs and clubs on Friday and Saturday nights! Perhaps the warmongers, the violent, the sexual abusers, the substance abusers or the welfare winos! Every one of us is able to picture someone we believe to be far more of a dog than ourselves. Right?
Now that you've pictured the person, someone real in your life, in an event that's not fiction. Know what you are doing right now is being judgemental.
How is it we find it harsh when Jesus judges righteously and truthfully when we ourselves judge others with a self-righteousness which is all things but right? How is it I and my fellow brothers and sisters have become so mixed up that the sweetness of Jesus' word has become wrong, and the opinions of the secret sour self have become so right?
What is the difference between Jesus' judgement and our judgement that so often leads us astray? The clues begin to drop into place as we hear from James chapter two…
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:10–13 ESV)
One who is a transgressor of the law is side stepper. Transgressor literally means to go across by the wrong means. The Greek word here for transgressor is parabate or one who walks parallel. You and I transgress the law if we break just one tiny section of it. Haven't we just broken it in our judgementalism? Aren't we now parabates, seeking to walk around the law of God? Yes! And it matters not whether it's accidental or a deliberate fracture of the law!
Therefore, James then says, "So speak and so act as those who are to be judged…" It's good for us to hear this first, "we are to be judged" before we hear "how" we are to be judged. In a society which asserts that one must not judge, this is countercultural! So it's right to judge in as far as we know we too are to be judged.
This judgement is not under a law that ends in condemnation. It's a righteous judgement that calls us the reprobates and parabates that we are. This is the law that names us as unapproved side steppers of the law, unrighteous in the sight of God. But it's a judgement that has to occur in order for mercy to be directed by the King. A stay of execution, as it were, a reprieve for those who are honest about their wretched lack of righteousness. For those who believe they need to receive mercy from whom they stand before, He who is without sin.
You see the problem of condemning judgement in this world is that the gift of mercy is lost. Yes we hear plenty of time in the bible not to judge, but a deeper investigation will reveal we are not to judge if its motive is something other than that which ends in mercy for those who have received judgement and repent. This is the law of liberty. We judge knowing we too are under the same judgement, we are merciful knowing we are under the same mercy, and we forgive knowing we too need to be daily, hourly, and momentarily forgiven!
Here we also know if we judge without mercy, we will be shown no mercy. And similarly Jesus tells us "…if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14–15 ESV)
This law of liberty is not a new law of death; we no longer forgive and show mercy because our sin has made us guilty. No! Rather our sin now makes us aware of our old nature and we freely confess that which once kept us in darkness but now has no power when confessed in the light of God's forgiveness and mercy.
Another way of looking at it is we now no longer "have" to forgive, we no longer "must" show mercy, we have no longer "got to" hear God but rather we "want to" forgive, we "love to" show mercy, and we "get to" hear the Word of God.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. (Psalm 146:5–7a ESV)
Why Jacob? Why are we blessed when our help is the God of Jacob?
Jacob was one who executed his own selfish justice over others; he gave food to Isaac his hungry blind father and stole the birth right from Esau. He was nothing but a downright scoundrel, a reprobate, a parabate and yet God still helped him.
We too are the same as Jacob. Your struggle with others is really your struggle with God. He judges you, you deserve death, but he lets you limp away having had Jesus' blood poured out in death on the very cross which should have killed you.
As we endure in this life with the limp of Jacob this may not seem to be very merciful, but walking with the limp means that you and I, reprobates and parabates, are blessed by God's help. This help now comes as we willingly hear the Word of God, knowing we are judged, believing we need to be judged so we get to and want to live under the love of God.
Instead of being parabates—transgressors of the law, those who side step the law—we now are helped by a paraclete, one who walks beside us, the Holy Spirit, constantly showing us our limp, our sin, and even more the mercy of God.
When the Syrophoenician woman came to Jesus she knew she was a Gentile. In fact, she believes she was a dog, a reprobate. But she believed in the mercy Jesus had in store for her. She didn't turn away from Jesus' harsh judgement, she didn't seek to transgress or side step the law. But this Canaanite appealed for mercy even as a dog eats the children's crumbs from under the master's table.
…the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:25 ESV)
Believe your judgement, receive mercy. You judge anyway so now put on Christ, go and show mercy to those whom you have judged. Be not just hearers of the word, but be doers of it. Persevere in asking God for the love to do it, and be blessed in what you are free to do. For Jesus' sake! Amen.