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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Just Deserts

2017-11-26 Ez 34 11-16 Mt 25 31-46 Just Deserts


"I will feed them with justice."

In Ezekiel, God says,

"I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice."

What goes around will come around. And they'll get their just deserts.



Just deserts.

Last week, a user known as @momTruthBomb tweeted,

It's almost Thanksgiving, so that means it's time to buy a bunch of food your kids will stare at for 10 minutes before asking for pie!

So much of holiday meals are just a given. They're tradition. Heaven forbid you tweak a recipe. Do not bring out frogeye salad (apparently much-loved by Mormons) if they're expecting great-grandma's mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows. The world may change, but holiday menus must stay the same. Some things are sacred. Food is sacred.

The decision at our house is not, "What are we having for dinner?" We know that. The question is, "What kind of pie shall we have? Did I say, "Pie"? I meant, pies. It's important that each person in the family have her or his favorite dessert. And then the eating of said pies becomes like a church supper: You wouldn't want the pie chef to get their feelings hurt. You have to try a slice of each. It's the Christian thing to do.

It's like the signs at the hospital gift shop: "Life is short. Eat dessert first." (Kinda scary to see that on your way to surgery. Just sayin'.) But it's true. The main course may be sacred, but dessert is sweet. It is always a temptation to skip the supper and have a whole meal of just dessert. 

Ezekiel rails against what God calls, "the fat and the strong." God is sickened by those who want to skip the sacred and gorge on the sweet. God is sickened by those who feast on generations of wealth and power. God will feed them instead with justice. They'll get their just deserts.




The other deserts.

The good word nerds at Dictionary.com are smarter than you. Challenge them and you'll get your comeuppance.

They write:

Several months ago, Dictionary.com featured the word comeuppance as a Word of the Day. Comeuppance is defined as "deserved reward or just deserts, usually unpleasant." More than a few devoted users wrote in to inform us that there was a typo in the definition.

[They had spelled desserts with ONE s, which spells "deserts" (like, Sahara).] The users said, just deserts [with one s] should be just desserts with 2 esses, or, actually 3, if you're counting.]

[The word nerds ask:]

Were our users correct? Was an s left out of this expression by mistake?

What our hawkeyed users spotted was not a typo, but an unfamiliar sense of desert, one pronounced the same way as the more familiar (and more delicious) dessert with a double s. These two terms, though only one letter apart and pronounced identically, have different etymologies.

The particular sense of desert that appears in just deserts ultimately derives from the Old French verb deservir meaning "to deserve," and has been around in English since the late 1200s. Dictionary.com defines desert as "reward or punishment that is deserved." The idiom get/receive one's just deserts means "to be punished or rewarded in a manner appropriate to one's actions or behavior." …

Dessert with the double s ultimately derives from the French desservir meaning "to clear the table." Dictionary.com defines dessert as "cake, pie, fruit, pudding, ice cream, etc., served as the final course of meal." While it is certainly true that a meal of cake, and cake alone, could be called "just desserts," this is not the spelling or meaning of the phrase that has been around in English since the late 1300s.

[They conclude:] Next time you're talking about someone's comeuppance make sure you use just deserts with one s.



It's easy to confuse your deserts with your dessert. It's a problem of biblical importance. The Bible asks – over and over and over – Is it fair to feast on the sweet stuff of life while others are hungering and thirsting? Is it right to consume, to devour, to become – as Ezekiel says – fat and strong while the weak become weaker? Is that right? Is that just?

You see, the difference between comeuppance and lift-uppance is all a matter of perspective. If you eat nothing but desserts, you may, after a while think that's all there is that's worth eating. If you've never had anything but wealth, and power, and privilege, you will see it as normal. And if you see it as normal, after a while, you'll see it as what you're entitled to. You'll start to see it as God's gift sent down to you, that God is lifting you up to be fat and strong. It's just order. It's just right. It's YOUR right. And by God, let no one will take your rights away.

Ezekiel says,

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide…

Out of sight, out of mind. Out of housing. Out of food. Out of health. In jail. Who cares?

Who cares?

Who cares about those people?

God does. Jesus does. Jesus cares about those people. Just deserts will be served. To them, and to those who don't care. Whether that's good news or bad news, comeuppance or lift-uppance, all depends on your perspective. And on the sound your belly makes when you go to bed at night.




Jesus says:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?'

And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

[Now, I don't know if you caught this, but the sheep don't know. They don't know they're the sheep of the Good Shepherd. They weren't looking for reward. They were just doing what was normal.]

Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'

Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'

[Now I don't know if you caught this, but these animals didn't know what they were doing either. They were just doing what was normal. Normal for them was having their pie and eating it, too.]

 Jesus says:

 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


On one hand, God feeds justice with comeuppance. On the other hand, God feeds justice with lift-uppance. Christ does not give as the world gives. Christ serves what isn't normal. Christ serves hope. God lifts up the put-down, and gives them hope.

For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land.

I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak….

I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. …

 I, the LORD, have spoken.

Hope. Hope, not in the normal. Hope, not in the seen. Hope, for Jesus coming to set things right. Hope in God's just deserts for anyone denied justice, anyone denied love, anyone denied a place at the table.

Let us feast on God's hope. Let us taste the kingdom so that we may do God's will, on earth, as it is done in heaven.