Sermon: He shall not judge…

HE SHALL NOT JUDGE

ISAIAH 11:2-4

2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth…

December is upon us in Panama – with its terrible traffic, frustrations as you try to get more done than you have hours in the day, and little patience for all the barriers you may find along the way.

  • There are school functions, plays, ballet performances, and all kinds of events that require your time and attention.
  • Mothers’ Day presents to buy and dinners to plan.
  • Christmas parties for the office, with friends, PTA and end of year celebrations.
  • It’s that time of year when you may well find yourself seated next to that difficult person: the complainer or the proverbial GRINCH of Christmas!
  • If you have children, they may be adding to the stress of the season with their demands for presents and the heightened anxiety of “I want”.

Everything clamouring for your attention and adding extra stress to an already busy schedule. And we are, as Christians, expected to put our right foot forward – with the Christmas Spirit-being the bearers of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, as expressed through our Advent Candles.

Our Gospel reading this morning in Matthew 3 indicates that Jesus’ coming promised a baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire – that will sift through the wheat (or good) in our lives and a fire that will burn through the chaff (or that which is not productive or of any value).

And how will God know what is good and valuable in our lives, versus that which is not productive? Well, as we see in the verses of Isaiah 11:2

…the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah goes on to say in verse 3:
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear

And as Christ’s followers, we are all called to follow this example!

Not judge by what our eyes see or decide according to what our ears hear, but rather with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, that Spirit of counsel and might, and that Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON?

If I could sum it up in one word, that one word would be simply this: “empathy”!

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about!

Kindness is a wonderful way to let another struggling soul know that there is still love in this world.

We are not to judge others simply by the impressions of what our eyes see (or our perceptions or misconceptions) or what our ears hear (whether that be gossip about a person or even what we think we heard them say)… But rather, we are to allow the Spirit, through wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord guide us to what is right.

Our opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge: It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy – it requires that we suspend our egos and for a moment to live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding. (Bill Bullard).

Empathy is:

  1. Seeing with the eyes of another;
  2. Listening with the ears of another; and
  3. Feeling with the heart of another.

So, what would be wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord look like at Christmas time?

The Spirit of Wisdom at Christmas time might be as simple as:

  1. looking after yourself, making sure you’ve given yourself enough time to get where you need to be, without being overly stressed about running late;
  2. having snack food in the car with you or in your purse, so you’re not in a bad mood from low sugar levels;
  3. taking a moment before you get to the mall or a shop to speak with your youngsters about what you will or won’t buy for them, so that they have clear expectations and are prepared for the “no” when you have to give it to them; and
  4. thinking through the obstacles (traffic, queues at the cashier, etc.) before you get started, so that you are already prepared to face them and take them in your stride as they appear.

The Spirit of Understanding at Christmas time manifests itself as simply:

  1. as giving your child 10 extra minutes of cuddle time when they are upset, realising that they need to feel heard, even though they are being completely irrational or unreasonable, because you care (even if the answer is still no);
  2. planning “alone time” or “down time” for the introverts in your household that need to recharge their batteries after being overwhelmed with too many sights, sounds, people and stimulations of the Christmas season;
  3. identifying that person that’s sitting off in a corner by themselves, and sitting down with them to have a one-on-one conversation for 10 minutes, because you realise that they are overwhelmed by crowds, but love to have one-on-ones, without trying to “draw them in” to the crowd, but rather meeting them where they are at; and
  4. giving the extroverts in your family the party and group time that they need to enjoy the festive season, even if you are feeling up to it.

The Spirit of Counsel at Christmas time requires that we take time to listen to God:

  1. It’s sitting in the car for 2 minutes, outside your home, and, before you get out, breathing deeply and allowing yourself to relax and be present:
    a. Identifying how you are feeling and why you are feeling this way;
    b. Breathing your way through leaving the day you have just had and any frustrations you were bringing with you, so that you don’t take those negative feelings home to your loved ones;
    c. Identifying who and what will be waiting for you inside, so that you are present with them when you walk in the door; and
    d. Praying for your loved ones before you walk in.
  2. The Spirit of Counsel is putting before God your concerns and worries, and then listening to God’s response – this means clearing your mind so that God can speak with you.

The Spirit of strength at Christmas time recognises that you are strong enough: Whatever today’s challenge is – you are strong enough – God promised to give you strength for today. If you will focus on today and today’s struggle and stop trying to deal with tomorrow’s struggle and adding tomorrow’s stress into the mix, you are strong enough! They say:

Depression comes from living in the past.
Worry and Anxiety come from living in the future.
The only place of peace is living in the present.

The only place you have any strength and power is in today – you cannot change the past and you cannot act in the future. Your spirit of Strength, this Christmas season, is when you are present in each day. When you focus your daily energy on what you need to get done today: therein lies your strength. If you need to have a conversation with someone today: have that conversation. If you need to have a conversation with someone tomorrow, program it today, and then leave it in tomorrow.

Give us this day our daily bread

It doesn’t say: give us this week or this month… just one day. Remember that this Christmas season – you are only given this much. The person standing or sitting in front of you is only given that much. All either of you have is today.

The Spirit of Knowledge at Christmas time –

  1. It’s using Waze to find out how long you are going to spend in traffic to be able to get to Atlapa for the Ballet presentation by 4.00 p.m., and leaving 2 hours beforehand, and having downloaded onto your iPod or phone on December 1st 12 hours of new Audiobooks, podcasts, meditations and other uplifting material so that you don’t feel like being stuck in traffic is a complete and total waste of time;
  2. It’s knowing the quirks of each one of your kids, nephews & nieces or other kids that you will be spending Christmas day with, and preparing yourself how to deal and interact with them to be a blessing to them; and
  3. It’s reading an article or book on a subject very close to the heart of a person that you will be spending time over the Christmas season with, so that you have a topic to talk to them about.

And finally the fear of the Lord is remaining humble… realising that you are no better than anyone else, that you are the product of all your experiences, decisions, and the people that God has put in your path each day of your life, that have made you into who you are today.

The fear of the Lord is what reminds us “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.

  • You are that child that is having a temper tantrum in the shopping mall;
  • you are that mother that doesn’t know what to do with her child who is hungry and tired and over-stimulated by all the sights and sounds;
  • you are that old man who’s in a bad mood and grumpy because he’d rather be somewhere else;
  • you are that young man behind the wheel beeping the horn because he’s in a hurry and frustrated that the traffic is not moving.

Whatever you are faced with over the coming weeks, remember that you are filled with the Spirit of the Lord: and this Spirit does not judge by what your eyes see or decide by what your ears hear.

You are called to be the light of the world – be LOVE this Christmas season.

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