“Because We Are Judged, We Conquer”                                         October 27, 2013

Joel 2:23-32 & Luke 18:9-14                                                               Stephens City UMC


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


I.                   It was an unusual experience I had yesterday afternoon.

A.    It happened because my wife, Jan, is very good at Wheel of Fortune.

1.     90% of the time she solves the puzzle before the contestants so I have often said to her, “You should go on Wheel of Fortune!”

2.     As some of you know Wheel of Fortune has a team in Woodbridge yesterday and today to “discover” potential new contestants so I drove her to Woodbridge.

3.     The process involved standing in line with approximately 2,500 other people, filling out a form, depositing it in a clear plastic cylinder that they spin from which they pull out the names of five persons at first, and then 40 in an hour period, for a tryout.

4.     Unfortunately, Jan’s name never got called even though people immediately in front of us and to the left of us and to the right of us and right behind us got called.

5.     Anyway, the crew is filming the entire time and the master of ceremony, not Pat Sajak but some guy named Marty, is up front about how they are looking for interesting persons.

6.     Quiet humility doesn’t impress them; such behavior will not cause them to open the door for you to get on the show.

7.     Before they even crack the door they want to learn a number of things about you including what you will reveal about yourself to the public.

8.     Therefore Marty asks a number of leading questions and one seemingly innocent question is “What do you do for a living?

9.     Several people brought derision from the crowd upon themselves when they admitted that they worked for the IRS.

10.             Immediately Marty would instruct the crowd not to judge.

11.             Marty did the same when a later contestant shared that he was a lawyer, however, Marty was slow in cautioning the crowd not to be judgmental when one contestant confessed that he worked for Congress.

B.     None of us like to be judged.

1.     That’s because most of the time judgment is negative.

2.     Right now I have a negative judgment about the football teams I cheer for so I’m looking forward to the beginning of basketball season.

3.     And whenever I think about basketball and being judgmental I think of Bobby Knight.

4.     When he retired from coaching he had more wins than any other coach in the history of college basketball.

5.     Eventually Pat Summit of Tennessee on the women’s side and Mike Kyzyzewski of Duke and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse went past him.

6.     Now days Bob Knight is a color commentator on television which is probably a good thing for college basketball players because he makes astute comments about the game instead grabbing players as he did when he coached, even choking one, he once grabbed his own son, and the chair throwing incident is legendary.

7.      So I couldn’t play for Coach Knight.

8.      All players need correction from time to time but I wouldn’t play well for a coach I considered to be that judgmental.

9.      I’d function better with an encourager for a coach.

10.             How about you?

11.             If I played for Coach Knight I might need protected from him.

II.                 The importance of someone making a judgment about the need for protection is one of the themes of yet another television show, this one being “Person of Interest.”

A.    This show isn’t looking for contestants, although it is looking for persons.

1.     This show is about a machine that was built for the government by Harold Finch, played by Michael Emerson who was Benjamin Linus on the television show “Lost,” and through information gleaned from omnipresent surveillance this machine can predict future terrorist attacks.

2.     Plus, it can predict ordinary crimes as well.

3.     The government isn’t interested in ordinary crimes so Finch steals the machine in order that each week there can be a show where the machine alerts him that some seemingly ordinary person is in danger and needs help.

4.     Even with the machine Finch can’t do this life saving work by himself so he enlists the aid of John Reese, a former CIA officer, played by John Caviezel, who is best known for portraying Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

5.     I mean, if your character has to save people, what could be better than to cast an actor who portrayed Jesus?

6.     Now the machine only informs Finch that a crime is imminent and does not let him know if the “person of interest” is a victim or a perpetrator, so Finch and Reese have to start out non-judgmental as they become involved with the person of interest.

7.     Maybe there’s a tax collector or a lawyer or even a congressional aid that needs to be saved or maybe there is another person who needs to be saved from the person to whom they have been alerted by the machine.

8.     That’s another way to get the show to last one hour every week and the show is now in its third season.

9.     So Finch and Reese always start out non-judgmental but eventually they have to make a judgment because that judgment dictates how involved they will get.

III.              Based on our Gospel lesson I wonder if that’s a little bit like Jesus.

A.    Jesus tells a parable about two men who go up to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray.

1.     So as we hear the story there are two persons of interest for us.

2.     One is a Pharisee who may very well be genuine when he says, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers.”

3.     Hey, those things aren’t on my list either and I’m thankful.

4.     That would be bad stuff to have on one’s resume and if you did have that stuff on your resume you’d need more than protection, you’d need to be saved.

5.     But this Pharisee takes his religion seriously so he fasts twice a week and he tithes and we pastors are all for tithers.

6.     Basically this man of faith is saying, “God, you don’t have to judge me. I’ve made it easy for you because I’m doing everything right. I’ve got this religious faith stuff down pat.”

B.     Well, enough about that guy – let’s consider the other man.

1.     We learn very little about him because he doesn’t say as much as the Pharisee.

2.     He doesn’t run through a litany of positives about himself.

3.     Instead he refuses to even look up to heaven because he knows with his list of sins he can’t look God straight in the eye.

4.     Rather, he pounds his chest as a sign of repentance and revealingly calls out for God and everyone else to hear “God – you have a right to judge me. I’ve done terrible things. I’m a sinner so all I can do is ask for mercy.”

5.     Now normally folks don’t want to be judged, but he is admitting that God has a right to judge him.

6.     Could it be that he is actually pleading for God to judge him?

C.     And after observing and listening to the two men I imagine Jesus may have thought “Very interesting.”

1.     Both men have in essence been on stage in front of an audience and one man doesn’t feel the need to be judged because he thinks himself so righteous that there can’t be any judgment against him so why even get into it?

2.     Just open the door and let me into the big show.

3.     His ego is so large it is like he is saying, “You’d be ‘fortunate’ to have me.”

4.     The other man is rather humble and not only recognizes that any judgment against him would be justifiable but seems to be requesting that a judgment be rendered.

D.    And this is where our actors from Lost and The Passion of the Christ come back over the last Person of Interest.

1.     According to Luke Jesus expresses more than interest towards the person who asks to be judged.

2.     This man knows he is guilty.

3.     This man knows that his righteousness is inadequate.

4.     This man, like the Machine, knows that he needs not only protection and rescue, he needs saved.

5.     And somebody else has to do the saving.

E.     And Jesus makes a judgment.

1.     It is like he is saying, “My, you are a bad man. I do judge you to be totally sinful. But because I so judge you I bestow upon you grace which shall not only protect you; it shall save you as only I can do.”

2.     And not only is the man able to go “home,” but from the depths of honest humility he is lifted up and exalted.

3.     Maybe nobody else clapped for the man but Jesus gave him a round of applause and more.

IV.              Now I’m not encouraging you to go out and get into any more sin than you’ve already gotten into.

A.    Let suggest that you cease and desist.

1.     But, given the situation you are already in, some honest humility would go a long way to saving you.

2.     Rather, than playing the game of self-righteousness, “Oh, don’t judge me,” instead even though the Lord already knows the truth about you, be revealing and say: “Jesus, do judge me because only if you judge me and then render upon me the needed grace can I be rescued from my sin and saved.”

3.     I know that is counter intuitive but I think that is one of the lessons from this story.

4.     You want to take steps in your life so you can conquer your sin and be lifted up to being exalted and even celebrated by the Lord?

5.     If you do, then a first step would be to call upon Jesus to judge you because he is more than the door to appear on a television show, he is the door to righteousness.