|Published by David Penny on Wed, 6 Mar 2019 19:00|
Ash Wednesday - sermon notes
Readings: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; (2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:10) & John 8:1-11
Judgement and blessing
- Joel not a wildly known book - Not often read as a prophet, but some well known phases
- I will pour out my spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men see visions -
- Whit Sunday; beat your swords into ploughs and spears into pruning hooks - at MP
- And tonight - rend your hearts and not your garments
- we don’t know a lot about Joel (all we know is that he’s the son of Pethuel), nor do we know when he wrote the prophecy.
- What we do know is that he wrote at a time of crisis, a time when Judgement was about to come, and so he calls everyone to repent so that Judgement would lead to deliverance and blessing.
- Joel calls old and young alike to repent - then, some reason (known best to Joel) 3 groups of people are mentioned in particular - drunkards, farmers and priests - but i think we are safe in saying Joel’s message was for everyone - Repent so that Judgement will lead to blessing.
- “return to me with all your heart - with fasting and mourning, says the Lord; Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord for he is gracious. Who knows, he may leave behind a blessing.
- Giving things up over Lent - every years it gets more difficult to think about what to give up. How does refraining from biscuits or crisps or gin help me? Might be good for my waist or my liver, but is it good for my soul? Does it help me draw closer to God. It’s easy in a way to give up a few things (if honest we usually replace them with other things. But the Lenten call is to much more than merely giving things up. It about standing before God, acknowledging our sinfulness, and receiving his love and forgiveness. Lent gives us the space to rend our hearts, be judged by God and through it receive blessing.
- There is a wonderful image in The Last Battle (CS Lewis) where everyone comes before Aslan and they look into his eyes. In that look there is judgement, and through that look each saw the truth and therefore the place to go.
- in the Gospel of John we also find judgement and blessing.
- The Pharisees have caught someone who, under the law, deserves death. It’s all quite clear. An open and shut case. She had been sleeping around. A fact that under Jewish law was not merely circumstantial evidence, nor an accusation brought through rumour - adultery had to have been seen by someone - the very act itself seen. So a clear case. She was now under judgement. The law was clear - she should be executed - or stoned if she was a betrothed virgin.
- I wonder what went through Jesus’ mind as he wrote in the dust. Did he wonder why they hadn’t also brought the man along too? If she had been caught in the very act that would suggest they had seen the man, and would have the same opportunity to bring him too. Was he wondering why they were trying to trap him; was he reflecting on his mum - a virgin betrothed who was found to be with child, a girl who should have been stoned.
- Trap though it might have been, we see in the narrative that the woman receives blessing through judgement, and the chance to change her life.
- As we begin Lent tonight, as we put ourselves under the microscope of God we might feel a little like the woman - frightened, uncomfortable, unloved, condemned. But it is worth remembering that God judges us with justice and mercy. He doesn’t judge as we might judge (ourselves or others), but he does so with love, willing us to repent and receive the blessing he longs to shower on us. With that in mind here are some questions to ponder, not just tonight, but throughout lent:
- How does God look at you? How does it feel to come before him as Judge? As you stand before God what is the blessing/what are the blessings he offers?