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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, November 6, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 96:1–13

O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations,
“The Lord is king! The world is firmly established;
it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth. (NRSV)

I don’t know about you, but I have trouble being all that excited about the coming of God’s judgement. Of course, I may be in the minority. You never have to look very far to find people who are really gung-ho about Judgement Day. I mean, they’re pumped about it. “Whoo-hoo! The Lord is coming to judge the world! Yay!”

It reveals something true about all of us—we want the good people rewarded and the bad people punished. That’s universal. And we all like to see ourselves as the good people, so that just reward is ours and the punishment? That’s “theirs.”

And where is God’s love in all of this? In this “You’re gonna get it now!” definition of justice?

In Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, the nun Isabella confronts the corrupt judge Angelo, who has sentenced her brother to death for a crime that he did in fact commit. According to the law, it’s justice, but Isabella reminds Angelo:

“How would you be, if He, which is the top of judgment, should
But judge you as you are?”

The thing is, we will all stand in front of that judgment seat, the “we” and the “they”; that justice we will face is not our justice but God’s. And God’s justice is rooted in God’s love for us, and it is an expression of God’s love for all of us. God’s mercy and forgiveness is the outcome of God’s justice.

And how does mercy come? Through humbling ourselves in the knowledge that we have failed and failed again, that our failures far outnumber our successes, and that often the “wrong kind of people” do a better job at God’s work than we do. Humility and mercy go together.

My advice is, when you stand before the judgement seat of the Lord, plead guilty. Like the Prodigal, plead guilty and allow God to show love and forgiveness.

Lord, remind us that following Christ demands our humility and that our arrogance and entitlement proclaim nothing but our guilt. We look for the time when we may be gathered into your love, though we know we do not deserve it. Thank you for the mercy that we so need. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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