Judgy McJudgerson

judgemental-owlIt was the unpopular girl who took a risk and invited me to sit at her table at lunch when I was in 8th grade and the new girl in school.  Even though I’d only been at Virginia High School for a day, the groupings were fairly obvious.  Rhonda ran with the druggies. She was someone I was supposed to turn my nose up at or avoid or judge her particular lifestyle, thinking we knew all the rough edges.  Rhonda and I did not become friends, but I always thought highly of her, druggie or not, throughout our high school days.  She had extended a hand to the unknown new girl.  Even when she was in trouble, I always thought I knew a bigger story about her.

Have you ever met someone and judged them harshly in your own mind? A co-worker, a student in your class, a customer, a neighbor, a stranger, a son. Maybe you’ve been Judgy McJudgerson, saying to yourself:  “Huh, they’ll never be my friend.” or “What’s up with them?”  or “They’ll never amount to a thing.” But then, perhaps you’ve gotten to know them or your relationship somehow changes. And pretty soon, things changes. You see potential and possibility. You see gift. Your old illusions have fallen away.  Chances are, you’ve seen their heart and by doing so, yours has changed. So it changes the way you see, the way you hear. It changes your life.

And that’s God’s often slow and always miraculous work on our lives, on our hearts. Seemingly overnight, our opinion softens, a relationship changes, an image is wiped away.  That is the work of God.

God works on David in today’s story. God chooses David, an unlikely choice to make the next king.  He’s out looking after the sheep when the search is on by the priest, Samuel.  All of Jesse’s sons are being paraded in front of Samuel like America’s Next Top Model, and each are denied.  Isn’t there another?  David isn’t even mentioned by his father as a possible choice.  Samuel has to ask for him.

So the youngest brother is called in from the field and given the greatest promotion of all time: from shepherd to king.  It’s the original Cinderella story, folks.

Now, we’re told David is chosen because of his heart, not his looks.  Yet I love that his looks are given a few lines in scripture.  In our translation today, David is described as “the picture of health – bright eyed, good looking.”  In other translations it says David has beautiful eyes and a ruddy complexion.

Okay, so the future king of Israel is easy on the eyes, but it’s his heart that God was interested in.

Now, David was the full human package. He had his doubts and faults along with the long list of triumphs. I think this is always important to note.  Sometimes we think people from the Bible are in the Bible because they’re perfect and beyond reproach.  I think the priest, Samuel is pretty close to being a good role model in the Bible.  And Jesus, of course. Although his behavior got him killed, so think about that carefully.

We’re told today that God chooses based on heart. Yet, David later commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband killed in battle after they discover she is pregnant with David’s baby.  And God does not un-choose him.  God does not leave David. We folded in Psalm 51 today with the rest of the reading where David is asking for God to do some important heart work:  Create in me a clean heart O God and put a new and right spirit within me.

So David asks God to work on his heart.  What an important and dangerous thing to ask God to do. Because if you ask God to work on your heart, well, God is going to do it.  We do it all together each week – we ask God to work on us through the confession and forgiveness at the beginning of worship every Sunday. We ask God to change us. To clean us up. To make us new. To turn us around.  To transform us. We don’t ask God to make us perfect; we ask God to work on our hearts, our lives.

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor in Denver and her most recent book is called Pastrix. Pastrix is a term that was given to her by people who think she ought not be a pastor. After all, she is a former drug addict, alcoholic, and she speaks snark fluently.  Again and again, her story recounts God changing her heart.  But it’s not what you think.  You might think there is one moment that her heart is changed, and she gives her life to Jesus, with mountain top glory, singing angels and a changed life.  Instead, hers is a story of an always changed and changing heart.  Always being worked on, softened, enlarged. Daily, you might say.  What she consistently says about her heart is “it’s dark in there.”

A story she tells is about confronting one of the people who helped give her the name Pastrix.  Well, actually, he showed up at one of her talks a few years ago and caught her off guard.  He extended his hand an introduced himself.  Nadia took a moment and prayed that she would not be, uh, let’s say “mean” to him, “…which is about as common a prayer as I pray in my life.” (Pastrix p.112)

She goes on And with an openness that felt like spiritual waterboarding (Jesus holding my head under the waters of my own baptism until I cry uncle), I had a long conversation with my enemy.  Since we were in the middle of a fellowship hall at a conference, the crowd around us who knew about our feud perhaps expected a showdown. But instead, they saw us share a thirty-minute public dialogue about our own brokenness and need for confession and absolution, why we need the Gospel, and what happens in the Eucharist. And as he talked he cried. Twice.  I found him to be hurting and tender and really smart.  I looked him in the eye and said, “Chris, I have two things to say to you. One, you are a beautiful child of God. Two, I think that maybe you and I are desperate enough to hear the Gospel that we can even hear it from each other.”  God made my enemy my friend that day…When these kinds of things happen in my life, things that are so clearly filled with more beauty or redemption or reconciliation than my cranky personality and stony heart could ever manufacture on their own, I just have no other explanation that this: God. (Pastrix p. 112-113)

God will not define you by your sin, by your brokenness.  Yet God does not ignore it.  God transforms it.

SO WHAT?  So what in your heart, in your life, needs to be transformed?