9am Worship Service – Sunday 31st March 2019
Theme: Reckoning

Series: Lent & Easter 2019 – Reimagine
Bible Reading: Luke 12:1-11
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain

I know it is a little weird that I am having the Palm Sunday reading two weeks early … but we often pack so much into the Psalm Sunday service (being the beginning of Holy Week) that we don’t have time to look at some other perspectives that arise.  So today, we are exploring this issue of Jesus the revolutionary…

It has been interesting exploring different perspectives of the Easter Narratives from Luke.  Today our RE word is RECKONING.  The idea of a time when our actions will be judged or held to some sort of account.

I sort of knew that this idea of Reckon featured a bit in the Easter narratives but I never realised just how much.  In Luke’s gospel from chapter 10 to 20 – from the point where Jesus turned his face towards Jerusalem through to Maundy Thursday … have a guess the percentage of verses which are

teaching on the end times; the day of Reckoning or that our actions will be held to account.  33%  Can you believe it?  Chapter 12, 16,17,19,20, 21 … large slabs about the judgement, about Jesus return, about being not ready, and the idea that we will stand before God, or the master, or the king and our actions will held to account.   I reckon that huge chunk of writing.

In our bible reading, we had what I thought as a teenager was the scariest line in the bible.  Luke 12:2-3, “there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

As a teenager, really did not like this idea of having the things that I had done brought into the light or shouted from the roof tops.  So – I started to reason.  Maybe, Jesus is talking about the non-Christians here.  For those who have not accepted Jesus – yes, their actions will have the spotlight shone on them, they will be held to account … but I had accepted Jesus.  Surely this doesn’t apply to me, does it?

In the bible study for this week, the warm up questions was about an old man on his death bed who thought that it didn’t matter that he had been a mean-spirited, heartless, cruel man who told lies, cheated on his many wives, swindled the poor out of the little they had and crushed anyone who got in his way because he had said the sinners prayer as a boy – where he confessed all sins and invited Jesus into his heart … so it didn’t matter what he had done after that – he was going straight to Heaven.

We want to say … no, that is not how it works.  Our actions matter. But if God judges our actions … then what does it mean when we say we are saved by God’s grace – not by our actions.

This is a classic dilemma which people have struggled with for 2000 years.

On one hand – Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear,  “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.”

We are saved by grace – therefore our works are irrelevant. 

But on the other hand, we have passages like Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus separates the sheep and the goats … and will either reward you or send you to eternal punishment depending on how you have treated those less fortunate than you. 

So … what is it then?  How do these hold these two things together.  To explore this, I want to step through a really interesting passage from 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

In this passage, St Paul is using an analogy of a building to talk about a person’s spiritual life.  He starts this analogy by saying that we are all builders and that we “should build with care”. (v10).  And most importantly we need to make sure that our house is build on the foundation of “Jesus Christ”. (v11)

Then it gets a little weird.  Let me read from verse 12…

If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

Here is this reckoning idea again … that on THE DAY our work will be brought into the light, or put to the test.  And then it gets even weirder… v14

 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

So … how do we understand this.  Our works – the way we live out our faith – are like a house which we get to decide how to build as long as it is on the foundation of Jesus … and on THE RECKONING DAY … our house will be assess and if it survives, we will be rewarded and it is it destroyed … we will suffer loss but still be saved???

Have you ever heard of the theory of “the two reckonings”?  It is a theory that some theologians have put forward to try and understand this passage (and also to ponder how the we are saved by grace but our actions are held to account dilemma).

The theory goes like this…

Reckoning #1 – Our Faith is held to account.

On the day of Reckoning … we will stand before God and our faith will be held to account … but as we go to speak, Jesus will come beside us and be our advocate – declaring that we are saved by Grace through our faith and friendship with him and deserving of eternal life!  This is the good news of the cross – which we are just about to celebrate at Easter!  But then…

Reckoning #2 – Our actions are held to account.

After we have been gifted eternal life, we will then stand before Jesus our saviour and have our actions held to account.  This is when our works will be tested, or we hear the words about “to the least of these”.  This reckoning is not determining whether we are saved or not … that has already been determined in the “faith” reckoning, but rather will determine our reward. 

(Which then raises another huge issue of whether how rewards work in heaven … which is a really interesting topic which I am not going to go into today, but you can read about in the bible study for this week).

Now this is just a theory … something that theologians ponder … but it does highlight for me that while we are saved by grace, our actions are important.  The way we live out our faith is important to God. 

Which is both good news and bad news.  The idea of standing before God and having our actions called to account can be both incredibly scary and yet somewhat hopeful.  

The scary part goes back to our bible reading again.  I am not sure that I like the idea of having my actions held to account … especially the idea that the things that are hidden or done in secret will be revealed … or worse shouted from the rooftops.  My actions are not always good, or pure … this idea of a reckoning is horrifying.

But someone at the Coffee and Chat yesterday said in response to this … but where does forgiveness fit into this.  It’s a good point.  Scripture affirms that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and WILL forgive our sins.  (1 John 1:9)  Not only that, when God forgives our shortcomings, God forgets them.  Hear the good news of Hebrews 8:12, “For I will forgive their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.”

So … on the day of Reckoning when we are so scared what God is going to reveal … God cannot reveal what God has already forgiven, because God does not remember it.

Wow – this sermon suddenly has gotten much better. Eh?

Sort of reminds us why confession is so important!

So while for some people who do not yet know the love, mercy and forgiveness of God, Luke 12:2 is scary – for those of us who live under God’s grace, it can actually be hopeful.

Malachi 3:16 says,

“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honoured his name.”

God knows what we do in secret.  Any act of love or service – no matter how small or hidden … God see and notices.  God remembers the cup of water you have shared in his name.  God remembers when you feed the hungry or clothe the naked etc.  God remembers all the prayers you have prayed, the times you suffered for his name.  God remembers.

All the times when you have gone above and beyond and nobody noticed … God noticed, and has written it all down in the book of remembrance.  And on the day of reckoning – when we stand before Jesus … and Jesus holds to account all the things that we have done.  God will look on you with such a sense of a proud father and say … I saw, I noticed.  Your love and generosity are not forgotten.  Come and receive your reward …

And then … we will be rewarded … with the biggest eternal reward … and really the only reward that I most desire. 

On that day of reckoning, God will say to us,

“Well done, Good and faithful servant.”  (Matt 25:23)

So whether that reckoning comes at the end of all days, of whether that reckoning comes at the end of each day … let us follow the example of Jesus the best that we can and let us live in such a way that makes God proud.