Sunday, January 12, 2014

1/12/14 Our Favorite Verses: God Presides

Psalm 82
English Standard Version (ESV)
Rescue the Weak and Needy
A Psalm of Asaph.
82 God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2 “How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
7 nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Matthew 25
The Final Judgment
31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? 40 And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Sermon series “Our Favorite Verses”

I am enjoying hearing from some of you what scriptures you love, that have meaning for you. And I look forward to hearing more!

I said last week, that I would not embarrass you, I am not going to say Susie Q loves this verse because when she was 7...

this is a fascinating Psalm and I have really enjoyed prepping this week.
Last week Darrah told me after worship that this was his fave psalm and my first thought was 82? who likes Psalm 82? Are we playing “Stump the Pastor”? I wasn’t sure exactly which psalm this was, I knew it was in a section of psalms not written by David, songs of feeling separated from God because of mistreatment by outside forces. Darrah read the psalm and we talked about it then, and I knew immediately which Gospel lesson to use with it!

So who or what are these “gods” in this psalm? There are a few schools of thought here...Bible scholars LOVE to argue over various things in the bible, One pastor friend said that bible scholars love to write their books and then throw them at each other! and this happens to be a passage that has evidently provoked a fair amount of throwing of books!

The “gods” here may be thought of in different ways...

There are several explanations of who the “gods” are in verses 1 and 6. The first is the view which understands the “gods” to be the mythical gods of the surrounding nations. Another is that the “gods” are the human rulers of the nations which are oppressing Israel. Yet another explanation is that they are angels,...

this is what the (online) Reformation Study Bible says :
 This short psalm presents some difficult problems. Chief among them is the “gods” mentioned in vv. 1 and 6. A number of scholars take this as a reference to angelic powers, lesser spiritual beings who make up God’s heavenly council.

A second interpretation understands “gods” literally, as deities made subordinate to Yahweh.

The most commonly held interpretation is that the “gods” are human judges. --People in authority. In ancient times Judges were believed to have been appointed by God!

this psalm is perhaps a lament for unjust rulers over the Israelites, and a cautionary tale for those leaders, with a prayer at the end asking God to bring true judgment! Whatever the meaning, and it could well be more than one interpretation is correct- God presides over all and God has the final authority!

Who are our 'gods' today? Government and judges, certainly, people in positions of authority that may or may not use their power well. What else maybe in our personal lives, keeps us from following God to the best of our ability?

Jesus referenced this Psalm in John chapter 10, when challenged by religious leaders for calling himself 'Son of God'

and in the Gospel of Matthew we see a picture of 'the final judgment”..that is a bit uncomfortable. This passage challenges us doesn't it? It certainly challenged me this week, individually and as your pastor! I am quite certain I am personally not doing enough, and I am praying over whether our church and community are doing as much as we can!

This comes at the end of what is known as the Olivet Discourse, Jesus' teachings that come at the end of his final journey to Jerusalem. The next chapter of Matthew's gospel begins with “the Plot to Kill Jesus”. Jesus is teaching here about the end times. There are several parables about final salvation and what signs of the end times may be. “no one knows the day and hour”.

In this parable, Jesus links final judgment not with military might, as might be expected—he is speaking to people living under the thumb of the Roman Empire! God's judgment comes not with wealth and power, but with works of healing and forgiveness. Of care and compassion. God has the power to 'smite' evil, but Jesus helps us see that God's real work is to care for others, especially those who do not have wealth, power. In other words folks who seem to be out of favor! (the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek...)

Jesus said as you have done to the least of these, you have done to me! These are not just pat on the head to the down and out, saying I will pray for you. Jesus is in the hospitals, in the streets and the trenches, in the prisons, in the homeless shelters. Jesus lives & walks with those who are suffering, and He is with us in our worst moments, even if we are not in prison or in the hospital or homeless.

Because Jesus is God Incarnate, here to be part of our lives! Even the worst of life. Especially the worst of life.

Nadia Bolz-Weber
This is our God. Not a distant judge nor a sadist, but a God who weeps. A God who suffers, not only for us, but with us. Nowhere is the presence of God amidst suffering more salient than on the cross. Therefore what can I do but confess that this is not a God who causes suffering. This is a God who bears suffering. I need to believe that God does not initiate suffering; God transforms it.

and God transforms suffering through God's followers. Through you and me, caring for folks, visiting, clothing, feeding, sharing, walking with each other. Helping to right a system that has no cure for poverty. Through us acting not as “gods” but as human beings each trying to figure out this thing called life. Through us praying for those in need and for those who are in positions of authority to act in ways that help people- not promote selfish gain. God presides over those in authority, and God resides with us through Jesus!

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