Over the summer here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, I've been preaching a series about "Jesus and Individuals," taking a series of snapshots and observing how Jesus reacted with both individuals and groups of people. We saw a sinful woman at the home of Simon, we saw how He dealt with a group of Scribes who came from Jerusalem to contend with Him. We saw an encounter He had with a disturbed man in a graveyard and the reaction of the townsfolk when He healed the man. (Sermon Here)
This coming week we hear about a woman caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:1-11) There are many things the story does not tell us. Who was the other party involved? Who was it who felt it necessary to bring only her before the authorities? Was this an act of coercion or truly a moral failing? Was the whole thing a set up, designed to use a person who had no right to defend herself, to cast darkness on the claims of Jesus? What was the woman's name, her background, her social status? So many unanswered questions.
One thing is clear. Her accusers were without compassion. They had absolute zero care or respect for this lady and their only interest was in winning an argument. Sadly such is often the case in today's world. People will disparage others (sometimes whole groups of people) in an effort to boost their own position of privilege.
On the other hand Jesus acts with both rebuke and compassion. His rebuke is found in the words “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” It is then that He stoops and begins quietly writing some words in the sand. I wonder what He wrote? Was it the names of some of those around Him? Did He doodle pictures representing some of their sins? Maybe He was writing something to the woman, words of hope or comfort. We don't know.
But we know how He dealt with the woman. He tells her, after everybody had walked away, that as nobody else condemned her, then neither did He. Her sins were forgiven. He adds the phrase “Go and sin no more.” Maybe these words are the most important in the whole passage.
You see it is easy to make our passed failings, or even our present predicament the focus of our lives. Yet the gospel message encourages us to be future focused. To not dwell on what has been or even is happening to us right now, but to look to a future where God's grace is given a rightful place. To ponder what could be, if love were allowed to reign.
To me that is the power of the Holy Spirit. God's ability to take what life throws at us and create a new opportunity out of it. The ability of God's renewing love to make something good out of our glaring failures. The whole resurrection experience; taking what is broken and making something beautiful from the ashes.
Let us all seek for the Spirit's renewal to be at the heart of our own experience of God's love. For some music Mark Shulz sings “Broken but Beautiful”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.