SUNDAY SERMON: No time for judgment

Rev. Stephen Baldwin 

NT: Matthew 25.31-46

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along: and there is room for very little in each. That is what time is like.”

Moment by moment, and there is room for very little in each. Doesn’t that ring true? It’s impossible to know where the time goes each day, but it goes. And too often we lose the moments, while we are off in search of the milestones. 

I haven’t known what month, day, or year it is since 2020. The pandemic’s costliest casualty was all sense of time.  At least for me. 

This has been a week many folks like to stop and take stock of the milestones and moments they’ve experienced over the last year. The love, the loss, the celebrations, the mourning. 

On tough days, I think of the mourning more than the celebration, the loss more than the love. It’s an easy trap to fall into, for the pain of loss and mourning can consume us. It begins a moment, but it can take hold…and out-stay its welcome. 

But that’s a bad day, and most days aren’t bad days. Most days, more than anything else, we are overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s many blessings. 

The colors of the sunsets. The joke that still makes you laugh when it crosses your mind’s eye. The phone call from a friend at just the right time. The hug from someone who knows where you’ve been. 

Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering, what in the world do all these moments have to do with today’s Scripture? To me, they have everything to do with today’s scripture. Because…today’s scripture is about judgment. Some of the worst moments of our lives come when we feel judged. And there’s only one thing powerful enough to overcome judgment–gratitude. 

In today’s reading, Jesus says a judgment day will come. Presbyterians talk about judgment as often as we turn down going to a potluck…but Jesus says the day will come. On that day, he will separate the sheep from the goats. Based on what? Based on who lived the Gospel. If you fed the hungry, you lived the gospel. If you clothed the naked, you lived the gospel. If you welcomed the stranger, you lived the gospel. And if you didn’t, then you didn’t live the gospel.

Does that make you feel judged? Doggone right it does. It makes us think, “Why do I have plenty of food in my fridge when others have nothing? How can I enjoy a quiet life in West Virginia while other families are at war?” Thinking about the situations of others inevitably leads to self-judgment. “I haven’t done enough this year. I had good intentions. So many people need help. I wish there was something I could do.” 

But we’ve got it backwards. Completely backwards. We think we avoid judgment by doing good things. By helping others. But actually, it’s just the opposite. When we practice gratitude, we overcome judgment. Let me say that again. When we practice gratitude, we overcome judgment. 

Because gratitude is an all-consuming fire. When we operate from a place of thankfulness, we see everything as a blessing and an opportunity. There’s no room for judgment left. Which is why I saw gratitude overcomes judgment. Judgment of ourselves or others. We just don’t have the time or energy or heart for it…because we are so focused on gratitude. 

Jesus isn’t guilting us into a more Christian lifestyle in today’s passage. He’s not waving judgment before our eyes to scare us into doing the right thing. He’s not threatening hellfire and brimstone. He is simply showing that the fruits of a life of gratitude are clear. No judgment. No guilt. Just fact. What he wants for us is to practice a life of gratitude, because in so doing, every breath is a chance to glorify God. 

Today is Christ the King Sunday, when we remember that Jesus reconciled us to him not by our actions but by his. He is our king, who died for our sins. He did his job. Our job is to live out a life of gratitude in response. Because when we do, it overcomes every judgment holding us back. 

You know what it’s like to be held back by judgments. When people tell you that you’re not good enough. That you’re not smart enough. That you’re not brave enough. That you’re not holy enough. That you’re not faithful enough. That you’re not enough. Don’t you know what it’s like to be held back by the judgments of others who think they know everything about you!

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along: and there is room for very little in each. That is what time is like.”

Time is precious. Don’t waste it on people’s nonsense. Don’t waste it on their judgments of you; tell them God will be the judge of you. Don’t waste it on judging them; let God be the judge of them. Spend your precious time operating from a position of gratitude. And see how that changes everything. 

Pray with me. 

God, thank you for today. Thank you for this moment we share with you and with our church family in prayer. It’s only a moment, and yet it’s connected to the entirety of our existence alongside you. Our lives are a string of moments blessed by you in ways we can’t begin to understand. Which is why we place our trust and our gratitude in you, O Lord. It allows us to see the world from your position. Where judgment is overcome by gratitude. Where loss is overcome by love. Where sin is overcome by grace. Where death is overcome by death. Where we are overcome by you. We thank you for your presence. We thank you for your promise. We thank you for this moment we share with you in worship, and we pray in your holy name, Amen.

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