Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sun. Apr. 28, 2013 (Jim Neudorf)

Jim Neudorf, in a story from Nu 15 “A man caught collecting firewood on the Sabbath...” inquired of God why a man should be stoned for this? Hard stories abound in the Bible, so Jim examined God’s justice, so different from our own, and gave us four paradigms: the first - directive - inherently right or wrong behaviour (example: thou shalt not kill); the second - utilitarian - establishes the greatest benefit for the greatest number; (until the ends justify the means) ; the third - stoic - that people of virtue will always make virtuous decisions (until they don’t); and fourth - selfish - gaining the greatest personal benefit without regard to others. All are problematic, so in looking to both general and special revelation Jim noted that justice and righteousness are the same in Hebrew (shalom), and God, the moral being, holds justice essential in his work to establish goodness and holiness in the world. Lepers and bleeding women (among other broken relationships) were restored to society through justice and healing, just as the Hebrews were restored after Egypt and Babylon. The Year of Jubilee made redistribution the ultimate act of restorative justice. But justice requires judgment, the hardest of God’s qualities to determine. Not intended solely as punishment, judgment acts to refine and restore. Thus, though we cannot divine the meaning of the fatal punishment of a man caught collecting wood on the Sabbath, we may take heart from God’s essential goodness that the intention was to restore the man and the community to God’s shalom. Jim’s touchstone passage in the message from Dt 4:29-31 “If you seek the Lord your God, then there is mercy” thus calls us not to view every punishment and blessing from God as reward or punishment for proper behaviour - that old and discredited worldview denies God’s ultimate authority. Again and again, God demonstrates the evil done in the world is not done solely to punish, but to offer the hope of restoration - shalom - to all who seek the good and just God. Will we trust God’s purpose? Or our own judgment? [AP]

Listen to the sermon audio MP3 recording from Sunday, April 28th, 2013 using your browser's preferred media player.



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