Wednesday, August 22, 2018
They said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’
Just thinking out loud
I always wondered why Jesus wrote in the dust. Maybe the gesture has no particular meaning, and there is nothing to be understood from his moment of playing in the dirt. Maybe it is just the artifice of a skillful storyteller who extends a dramatic moment to heighten suspense.
But the gesture is there, and the storyteller obviously thought it important enough to share. Why?
Was he writing her sin in the dust, knowing it would soon be kicked away by tramping feet and falling rain? Was he revealing that sin and guilt are as ephemeral as letters in the dust, especially in the presence of the great grace that is in him?
Was this a prophetic act reminding the woman’s accusers that they, like all human beings, are made from the dust—dust in the wind, destined to be blown away by the inexorable passage of time?
Not a cherry thought. But if so, Jesus’ dusty doodling remains a helpful reminder that accusers are just like the person they accuse, just as mortal, just as finite, just as broken, just as needy.
One more thought: Perhaps he was showing them that in stoning her they were trying to deny their humanity and mortality, their sin and failures, trying to convince themselves, to pretend, they were above the run of normal human beings. Lots of people believe that delusion.
All of this may be true, but perhaps it is best to cease speculating and focus on what is clear: Jesus radical and extraordinary acceptance of broken, sinful people. Every one of us.
And that is a cherry thought.
Pr. David L. Miller
Monday, August 20, 2018
Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say were so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets beginning to break. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’
He doesn’t, ever
Jesus didn’t send Peter away, nor did he leave him.
Peter felt unworthy in Jesus’ presence, like the woman I recently saw weeping during Holy Communion. She didn’t come forward to the Lord’s Table to open her hands and receive the gift of God’s loving acceptance of her.
She felt unworthy, filled with shame. Her head hung on her chest lest I catch her eye and bid her to come and receive. The self-inflicted wound in her heart is great and will not soon heal.
Deep as her wounds, the heart of Christ ached at that moment, too, as did mine. I wanted nothing more than for her to come forward so I could break the loaf one more time, place bread in her shaking hands, look her in the eye and say the most blessed of words, “The body of Christ for you.”
Jesus wouldn’t have sent her away. He would not have fled, any more than he fled Peter in his unworthiness. The warmth of his smile would have evaporated the cloud of shame that shadows her heart, freeing her from every thought of unworthiness.
We know ourselves. We know the secret sins we hide lest others discover we are not everything we appear to be. We hurt others, too, through carelessness thoughts and words and when we cannot see beyond our own selfishness and desire for comfort.
We have tasted the unworthiness and shame that threatened to keep Peter … and the woman in the pew … far from the beauty of everything Christ is eager to give.
For Christ wants to give us himself, everything that is in him, all the grace and forgiveness, all the welcome and joy, the rush of love that flows from his heart. He wants to smile on us so that we know, truly, we are forever loved and treasured … and his.
So come with open hands and open hearts to the One who doesn’t turn away, ever.
Pr. David L. Miller
Sunday, August 19, 2018
1 John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Walk in the light
We know what light is. We feel it in our hearts. We see beauty or watch the happy play of children. We hear music that lifts our spirits and makes us hopeful. We enjoy a pleasant exchange with the woman who checks us out at the store or the waiter who brings food to our table.
Such moments of light lift our hearts. Negative, cynical, sarcastic thoughts disappear, and we freely give and receive the blessings of the day.
We feel love for life, energy for living, and we walk with the light of love in our hearts
Of course, great darkness remains in the world … and in us.
Darkness is all that is un-love. It is everything that drains joy, gratitude and expectation from our hearts, all the things that weigh us down so that we withdraw and become stingy and small-hearted toward others. Darkness is the cynicism that poisons our expectations about what the days will bring and what others are really like.
Abuse power and influence, greed and selfishness, narcissism and apathy toward those in need or who suffer—all this darkens the world.
But don’t let it darken your heart. Resist the pull of doubt and cynicism. Resist the descending spiral of negativity.
Return again and again to all that is light and beauty, to everything and every face that awakens gratitude and joy in your heart. Call them to mind. Savor them all. Let Light’s living presence lift you.
And give thanks. For the Light God is shines even amid the darkness ... so that, seeing and knowing, your eyes may glow with the light of the Love who is always for you.
Pr. David L. Miller