The Last Four Things: Judgment; Advent II
Judgment is more than eight letters and two syllables. When her notes are pushed from the lungs, into the mouth, they become a force that sounds like a spit. They spray from the back of the tongue splattering what one believes is a salve. However, this sort of judgment spews into your face without healing.
When judgment is thrown about, it often places power in the wrong location. Typically, the judge is the one who has the power. However, the one receiving the spit is the one who should be empowered. Seldom is that the case. This is the dilemma we face when confronting and being confronted by judgment. Are we empowered? Spat on? Or, healed?
To ferret out judgment as a healing agent I invite you to reflect on the little riposte in Matthew 3.1-12. This narrative is an episode in the Divine Liturgy for the second Sunday in Advent 2013. Here we experience judgment through the lens of the prophet John the Baptist. However, we are invited into another model through the one John heralds, Jesus.
John’s dress and diet (a camel hair suit with a leather belt and locust and wild honey) express a commitment to the confrontation with the corrupt political and moral hegemony of his nation. His intentions are well meaning. He has placed himself in the wilderness similar to many of the revolutionaries of Judea during the first century of the Common Era. Faithfulness to Adonai, and social wellbeing, is his mission. He has chosen to escape the norm to challenge corruption. The prophet preaches in the wilderness flocked by people from all occupations, including peasants and religious authorities.
In the little vignette, we listen to John spew out repugnance toward his community. He spits on the entire lot with the judgment that they are all a brood of vipers, snakes.
Yet, John simultaneously introduces another judge. He announces Jesus who comes to baptize with the Holy Breath of God and fire. The one who baptizes with water announces that this Anointed One will deliver a judgment that even John acknowledges will be more effective than spitting out wrongdoing.
Jesus comes to gather the wheat into the granary. In so doing, Jesus cleans and allows the chaff to leave the body of the wheat so that the pure body is once again aligned with the whole community. The grain will be gathered together. No more independence. No more isolation.
The wheat, as every farmer knows, has power when blended with other wheat. By itself, it is grain and chaff. Both are part of the wheat, but the chaff is no longer needed after the wheat matures. If chaff remains with the grain each is disempowered. John announces/prophesies, that Jesus comes to cleanse and therefore empower the whole granary. He will do this with the Holy Ruah, the Breath of Adonai, and fire. They are alone no more.
The judgment of John spits on wronging. It holds the power in his eccentric voice. The Judgment of Jesus, on the other hand, is the physical cleansing of the community where the core of life together is renewed, the dross is burned, and the granary is fueled with power.
Jesus’ judgment does not cling to power at the expense of your power. Rather, his judgment empowers you, together with other grains of wheat, so that the entire granary becomes enlightened and whole. Jesus’ judgment is about renewing and strengthening you together with your neighbor. He has no need to spit at your chaff. Through Jesus, our misdemeanor is burned and we are alone no more.