My gratitude for the opportunity to preach @ Jonesborough United Methodist Church.  Here is a nutshell of the sermon.  It is pastoral (addressing the inner judge we all have and Jesus as judge/gracegiver) and narrative (story of Marion, woman @ well woven together complimenting 1 John passage).

Marion dreams of becoming Marion the Librarian. What’s your dream?

There is a lovely children’s book about Marion the hedgehog.  She dreams of becoming Marion the Librarian because of her love of books.  She is delighted to learn that her kindergarten library will allow her to check out two books a week.  And so she does.  But all havoc breaks loose when Marion spills jam on a library book.  First, she attempts to clean it with toothpaste.  Then she tries taking a bath with the book, submerging it in water.  Finally she fills the washing machine full of suds and drops the book in the overflowing mess.  At each failed attempt, Marion’s guilt mounts.  Throughout this story, Marion has visions of disapproving parents.  Her worst fear is banishment from the school library thus ruining her hopes of becoming Marion the Librarian. 

Like Marion, we all have an inner judge.  That internal judge is helpful.  Have you ever experienced a tight stomach or sweaty palms?  If so, you’ve probably turned to this internal voice to inform you.  This voice aids in the decision making process between right and wrong.  For me, that internal judge helped me to keep my purity until marriage, avoid cheating when college became overwhelming and currently, helps me to speak honestly to my spouse about tough issues, like in-laws or finances. 

As helpful as that my judge is, she is on spot.  My internal judge sees right through me because she is me.  She knows my inner emotions, motives, and thoughts.  Nothing can be hidden.  This produces a delicate dialogue when my judge rightly finds that I am the guilty party.

In John 4, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman about her husband, for which she answers she does not have one.  Jesus responds with knowledge about her history, she has had five and is currently in a shack-up situation.  The woman is so startled she switches the topic to a long debated religious argument placing Samaritans in opposition to the Jews.  I would switch the topic too.  How uncomfortable!

Isn’t that what we do when our inner judge passes condemnation on us?  Our worst fear is that Jesus will come along side our inner judge and concur with the decision.  In 1 John 4, the writer speaks of love being perfected (by the work of Christ); therefore we have no fear of judgment.  How can this be so when we are guilty?

Remember my friend, Marion the hedgehog?  Her inner judge was truthful.  Marion had spilled jam on the library book.  Guilty as charged.  Her fear of losing the respect of her parents and her library privileges was unnecessary.  Marion had nothing to fear because she was loved by her parents and by the librarian.  When Marion finally confessed, she had to empty her piggy bank to pay for the book.  In reflection, Marion realized that she needed to take better care of her books.  She learned a lesson.  She improved.  The guilt of the jam spill incident did not hold her captive.  Rather, she was set free because the incident made her better.

 

Why do we fear no judgment?  Because, as Christians, we know that the ultimate judge loves us.  God wants us to learn from our mistakes, improve, give grace to ourselves and others.  When we are guilty, we are not condemned, rather we learn, mend broken fences, and improve.  1 John 4:18a “There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear….”

What are you preaching this Sunday?  What sermon do you need to hear?

–Sunday’s preaching prophet–

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