You know us Christians.
They are not holding back. They say what is on their minds. They are blunt:
“Christians are so judgmental.”
“You Christians, you are so judgmental,” they say.
That should give us pause.
Many years ago I assisted at a parish that was trying to rebuild its Sunday school. “Go see Mrs. B they told me. She used to run the Sunday school and she is the only one who can bring it back to what it once was.” So I found Mrs. B’s address in the old directory, put on my pastor collar and off I went.Mrs. B had stopped attending the church before I had arrived, though she lived only a few blocks away from it. I stopped by one afternoon and introduced myself. After some chit chat about the weather, life and health, you know, the usual and safe things, I got down to it: “We are rebuilding the Sunday school,” I told her. “And I want you to run it.” Her face was unreadable.
“I don’t even attend there anymore,” she said.I was curious about that, so I asked her to tell me what had happened. She asked me if I wanted something to drink and after filling a tall glass with ice water, she began her story.
You see what Mrs. B used to do when she ran the Sunday school in that congregation was to collect and feed children. On her walk to church Sunday morning she would run into all of these neighborhood children and invite them to come to Sunday school and have breakfast. She bought a lot of the food and others donated some and the children of this poorer section of the city received a good breakfast and learned about God’s love for them in and through Christ Jesus (and I would add, through the faithful work of Mrs. B.
Let us recall the words of Jesus from this morning’s gospel reading:But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.
Mrs. B walked those harvest fields every single day with her eyes wide open, taking it all in, and saw all of those hungry and unsupervised children and she got them off the streets. She got them off the streets and not only filled their stomachs with breakfast, but fed their souls with the good news. She kept her eyes open and she saw the potential for her faith to be active in love and then went to work.
Just like Jesus, what truly fed her faith was simply as Jesus puts it: to “do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” That is what she was doing on Sunday mornings collecting up all of those children: completing the work of the one who called her, saved her, and sent her out into the harvest field.
You and I might judge Mrs B. a saint to be honored and emulated – and for her passion for these children to be multiplied and repeated over and over again. But at her parish, you see, that is not exactly what happened. Some folks from the parish got wind of her ministry and began to feel uneasy. They began to see those children like stray cats – if you feed them, they might keep coming back and then you are responsible for them. And they complained “Do we really want those children hanging around our children and our church?” And they grabbed the ears of those in authority, those who would listen, and breakfast was cancelled and the children stopped coming and Mrs. B., in anger and shame at what some in her congregation had done, left the church and the Sunday school fell apart. And so there I was on Mrs B’s couch listening to her story and finding my own heart aching and shameful. Now I understood why that congregation’s Sunday school had collapsed. Not through neglect, but through failing to do the work of the one who had saved us, who had gathered us together and sent us out in mission.What feeds our faith?
Is it doing “the will of the one who calls, gathers, saves and sends us out for the up-building of the Kingdom?
Doing that holy will of God may be understood broadly as fulfilling the two great commands of Jesus: To love and to make disciples.That is “the Main Thing” in our lives as Christian people. Problem is that all too often folks who bear the holy name of Jesus fail to keep the main thing, the main thing. Out in the harvest field – the one ripe and ready – the one in which Jesus invites as fellow harvesters for the up-building of the Kingdom – instead of delivery God’s word of promise in love, they bring a word of judgment and condemnation. Trying to help someone grow in their walk with Jesus who does not even know Jesus by bringing words of judgment and condemnation, is let’s admit it, neither loving, nor faithful.
Jesus sits down with this woman from Samaria – the Jews hated the people of Samaria – they didn’t have anything to do with them – these Samaritans didn’t know how to worship God in the right way – they had their own holy places, their own worship places and didn’t follow all of rules of the faith like the Jews did. But here is Jesus hanging out with this woman on a warm afternoon out in public where everyone could see them. Then we come to find out that this woman has been married five times and is now living with someone who is in fact not her husband. The shame of it! And we wait for Jesus’ mighty hammer of judgment to come down upon her with some guilty anticipation, but it does not come. We wait for Jesus to point out the error of her ways, but Jesus does not do this. He does not condemn her life or praise it – rather he keeps the main thing, the man thing. He is building a relationship so that she can hear the good news. He is building a relationship in love not judgment. He does this so that the walls of doubt might come down and faith might dwell richly in her heart. He does this so that she might become his disciple and enjoy the fullness of the Christian life in relationship with God through him. Jesus keeps the main thing, the main thing.Out in the harvest field when we lead with judgment, rather than love as the foundation of our relationships with the people we find there, we deserve the scorn that we receive.
You Christians are so judgmental they say and they are correct, when we fail to lead with love.
Let love for God and neighbor guide our every moment, every word, every action, taking upon ourselves the very manner of Christ, so that we too, may with gracious and generous hearts do the will of the one who calls us, and gathers us and saves us and sends us out into the harvest. Amen.