Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Holy Trinity - Luke 6:36-42
Judge not lest ye be judged. America’s favorite phrase. Don’t judge me. Probably the most overused statement, and the only sermon of Christ even non-Christians know. When we order three Big Mac’s at McDonald’s and our friends look at us funny…don’t judge me. When we sit down with a bucket of ice cream, a serving spoon, and Netflix…don’t judge me. When we go to a white tablecloth restaurant and order a Coors Light…don’t judge me. When we spend too long out in the sun and get a brutal mailman burn…don’t judge me.
When I was in college, I worked in building services, eventually getting a fulltime job after college as a custodian because that is what you do with a degree in history. I still remember to this day, working during the summer as a student on deep cleaning offices and classrooms, we would take our break in one of the lounges where there was a TV. I got sucked into watching Days of Our Lives with the young ladies who were part of my team, so much so that our lunch break was something I always looked forward to. One day our supervisor came and found us and told us to turn off the TV and go eat in a backroom because if people saw us wearing uniform shirts, and sitting around (even on our lunch break), the perception would be that we were lazy and not working. He didn’t want that perception of us. Perception, seeing what we see and then deciding on what we think we saw.
That is the danger of how we are connected to our judgements. Discernment is one thing. Judgement another. Here in Luke the word connotes a legal aspect. A courtroom. A place in which we make ourselves the magistrates of the world and we decide not on investigation or evidence, but on the perception of what we think the reality is about someone. Living in the realm of condemnation and punishment rather than mercy as our heavenly Father is merciful. Walking around and looking at the splinter or speck in our neighbor’s eye rather than the person themselves. Looking at the sin rather than the sinner. Not carrying a mirror with us to check and see what damage we have done to ourselves, instead we only see what is before us in someone else. Judgement and condemnation being brought upon another because our definition of a person often comes from what we think we see of them, what we think we know of them, how bad we think they are. A court case, in which the verdict is always guilty, and we cast the deciding vote.
You don’t have to deal only with what we can term “real” sin either. How often have we felt judged over how busy we are staying? Busyness being the veil that hides our fear of not being important. Or how about our looks and romantic prospects? Worried if someone hasn’t settled down and found Mr. or Mrs. Right. Or having gone through the trying times of divorce and loss, we can feel judged most definitely. Add to that parenting. When was the last time you looked at another parent with an upturned eyebrow because “I would never do that.” Try on body image. Overweight. Underweight. Too little clothing. Frumpy clothing. Don’t get me started on politics, or worse, the church. In our religious communities, our understanding of mercy usually starts with a necessity for life change. For repentance to be evidenced by remorse and transformation before we say – I forgive you.
Christ turns the tables though. The picture of the construction beam in the eye. I love that. A beam from a house jutting out of our eyes, that is how Christ talks of our sin. Here Christ speaks of us as blind. In Romans, Paul says that we are waiting with groaning for a revealing. For a redemption to come. Revealing being the apocalypse, but not in the end of the world destruction sense. Apocalypse being a word for the pulling back of the veil over the brides face at the wedding. A seeing things clearly or anew. Christ takes our sin of judgement and condemnation of fellow sinners and he pulls back the veil that we might see ourselves for who we are before ever seeing others. He opens the door for us to see that we have this gigantic log in our eye that keeps us from seeing clearly to be of any help, let alone sound judgement.
Pretend you are at the eye doctor for me. Cover your left eye with you hand. Look straight at me. Now, without moving or turning your head, try and look at the person to the left of you. What do you see? Your nose perhaps. You don’t see the person.
That is us. We have this veil, our own sin that entraps us. That causes us to see only what we want to of any person we meet, and then we think we can perform eye surgery to help remove a speck of dirt from our neighbor’s eye, as though that speck is life threatening.
If you take the time one day to read the Gospels, you will find that a repeated miracle that Christ performs is the healing of the blind. Opening the eyes of the blind being one of the promises from Luke 4 and Isaiah 61, where the Spirit of God is upon Jesus for the healing of the blind. In John 9 he confronts the religious folks, after healing the man born blind – “I came into the world for judgement so that those who don’t see will see and those who do see will become blind.” The religious folks ask him, “We aren’t blind too, are we?”
Christ responds, “If you were blind you wouldn’t have sin. But now that you say, ‘we see’, your sin remains.” Blindness being more than physical. Blindness being this spiritual thing, when in fact we think we see we are cursed because we look at the speck in our enemy’s eye, without counting the log of our own. Our sin being the first and only sin we should confess. That being the blessing of saying I am blind, I am lost. Without that confession we allow our pride in self to creep in and become the Pharisee in Luke 18, praying, “I thank you God that I am not like other people.”
But with this despair of this log that blinds us, that causes us pain and an inability to see and love the other, Christ reaches out his hands, as he does to all the blind he heals, and removes that log. As the preacher, Norman Nagel says it, “Jesus takes the logs out of our eyes. He drags them to Calvary, and on the timber that blinds and kills, he is killed. Jesus dies for our sins, and the wood we have supplied becomes, by his death, a declaration of that sin’s forgiveness.”
Here in Luke 6 is the evidence that the very crossbar of the cross is our sin bought and paid for by Christ. Its origin is us. Christ removing that beam from our eyes so that we might free our brother and sister from the speck which is in theirs. Where in Jesus we are shown a greater mercy than we dispense, able to grant that mercy to those we meet whose sins need forgiveness. Seeing the speck for the purpose of mercy, not pride.
The reason for Christ and the beam in our eye being removed is so that we might not judge or condemn, but give and be merciful. To forgive the sins of others because they too have a beam which constructed the seat of death that became the redemption at Calvary. Every man, woman, and child having in themselves the need to have the cross come again and again. To remove that sin so that it might be forgiven and they might be healed and whole.
Again, from Norman Nagel, “When the logs from our eyes have been through Calvary, we see. We see Jesus on the cross supplied by us, for us. We see ourselves as forgiven sinners. Then, when we bump into another sinner, we are able to help, for love comes sideways. We know the things that contradict Christ and the pain and ruin they work. We want each person we meet to be freed of them, and we are there to help him or her.” Love being drawn from the well of Christ for the salvation of the world, the redemption from sin. Condemnation be damned. Thanks be to God. Amen.