Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Judging Judgement (2)

So I'm breaking the silence ... thanks to Mr Slater's nudge. I think I can write something because I just preached on this on Sunday. I came away thinking, "man, why did you mumble and grunt it that way ... if only I'd thought a bit more and said it this way" ... so here's my chance to say some of the things I wish I'd said! (But not the whole sermon ... there's just not time!)

So in Ezekiel 22:30, Ezekiel talks of God looking for a man to stand in the gap and build up the wall. Ezekiel is tough stuff to read, full of God talking about waves of judgement (not heard a worship song use that line recently). Waves that will break down the walls the people of Jerusalem are foolishly relying on. Whats the wall? ... from Ez 13 its the words of the false prophets ... God will not punish, be at peace, God's not like that. Its a flimsy wall. By Ezekiel 22, its a breached wall. Who can stand in the gap and protect the people from the waves of judgement. Its interesting that God is seeking someone to stand in the gap, because, (and we can see it Ez 20 also) that means that God's ultimate goal is salvation. God is God who saves ... (Jeshua even!)
Where other god's might be glorified by the immediate punishment of dissenters, God's name is glorified by salvation. But if people will not accept salvation, then what they are being saved from inevitably happens. (Salvation can only happen if there is something to be saved from and something to be saved for.) Ezekiel is full of this tension. And by Ez 22, there is no solution. God seeks to save but there is no-one to stand for the people and save them. Instead they rely on a wall of false hope. The tension wants to explode.
But elsewhere in Scripture, the answer to the question (who is worthy to stand in the gap) is given.
Isaiah 41:28 .. "I looked but there is no-one" - 42:1 .. "Here is my servant .."
and in
Revelation 5.. "I wept because no-one was found who was worthy to open the scroll" -
"See the Lion of Judah ... is able to open the scroll ... I saw a Lamb ... as if it had been slain ..."

But in the context of Ezekiel, this Lamb who was slain, this Servant, this Jesus, who is therefore the only one able to stand in the gap, resolved the tension, not so much with "kiss of righteousness and peace (Ps 85:10), but in an a gut wrenching rupture of the Godhead. The person in the gap built up the wall with truth instead of falsehood, and in the shadow of that true and worthy one, we stand protected when the waves of wrath and judgement are let loose at last. This truth does not ignore God's wrath, but it is the truth of the love of God to save. The Godhead is ripped apart in that moment of crucifixion, "My God My God ... Why have you forsaken me", the fellowship of Father and Son is torn apart, the Father loses his Son, the Son is rejected by his Father, the sent out Spirit, has no united Godhead from which to emanate ... maybe even as the agent of God's power, the Spirit is turned on the Son to let loose the waves of wrath ... a moment of such cosmic greatness ... earthquakes happen, the sky darkens, the temple curtain is torn in two... its only because Christ stood in the gap that the whole of creation was not annihilated by the power of that moment ... yet in that moment the Godhead saved those who would be saved from judgement. God is glorified because salvation happened. God becomes the Father of many, the brother of many, the Spirit has a church to be sent out to. It is the moment that defines God (borrowing heavily, and less elquently from Moltmann here).
The truth stands firm as a wall. Reconciliation between man and God happens because the truth of what stood between man and God was addressed. It was painful. It cost God everything and yet defined God.
Following from this, we see something of the truth of this pain in communion/ the Lord's supper when we tear apart the bread that in rememberance of the tearing apart of Christ's body, (thanks to Mr Sargent for the thinking there ...) but do we also see in the breaking bread, the tearing of the Godhead?
Also, applying this to our own lives. (Now borrowing from Miroslav Volf)... Maybe we find forgiveness tough, and think, "...forgive others as God forgave us, well if God can do it so easily why can't I ... " It wasn't so easy for God, forgiveness needs to confront the truths behind why we are hurt, whether we confront those who hurt us, or we confront ourselves in acknowledging we are wronged and that receiving the wrong is painful, without being vulnerable to truth, forgiveness does not really happen.
Without judgement as a reality, what is reconciliation? So you say, "God wants to be a saving God, but he need judgement so he's got something to save people from?". This brings us back to the context of Ezekiel's prophecy. Look at what was going to be wiped out in Jerusalem. Priests who knew nothing of God or his way, but took the money and kudos anyway. Princes who shed innocent blood to bolster their own need for power (and presumably there were all sorts of people prepared do the actual blood-letting), Prophets who saw all this, knew it was wrong, but were too weak to say so, so condoned it instead by there refusal to condemn. Those in power denied the truth. The gross injustice experienced by the poor and ordinary cried out for judgement of a God who cares.

(As always there is a hole in the argument ... were the poor and ordinary saved from the judgement? It seems not, so obviously the judgement involved more than correcting injustice. I'll leave that one unresolved ...)