St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Rethinking Sin No More”
Collect: Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
John 7:53 - 8:11
The Law of Moses. Was Jesus going against the Law of Moses? It was clear. Adultery, with 2-3 witnesses, meant death. [Deuteronomy 19:15, Leviticus 20:10]
So, in a way, it was yes. He was going against the Law of Moses, if the law of Moses is about condemnation. But the rules are their for us, we are not here for the rules.
Jesus’ response is fascinating. Detached. Non-anxious. He’s doodling. When confronted, he doodles some more. I have heard a pet theory from some that Jesus was listing the sins of the woman’s accusers. I do not need Jesus to be magic here. But it is always fun to think of the looks on her accusers.
But here we have Jesus in an interaction with as clear a situation as could be in our ordinary understanding of the Law of Moses.
It was clear. It was blatant. It was undeniable. Death was due. (And the man should have been there, too, according to the Law.)
And what does Jesus do? And what do Jesus’ actions tell us about God?
He says that the one who is any different from she is may fulfill the Law. But all of them know, they are she. She is they. According to what we say we believe, the one who could condemn does not. Jesus could have thrown that stone, by the parameters he has set. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’”
Jesus does not condemn. I think of the ones the church condemns, or rather elements of the church condemns, and it is heartbreaking. Jesus does not condemn blatant sinners, literally caught in the act. What does that tell us? What does that say about God? The last part is where we are going from Grace, to Grace, to Grace, to Grace. But when we get to this last part, I have too often heard people jump back to Law.
“Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” You got your chance, now change your ways! I do not hear Jesus saying that. Think on it this way. Jesus modeled Grace. Jesus taught Grace. But Jesus was in his final days. Jesus loved this woman. While he wanted for her to do her best and live according to the laws set up for her benefit, she was never going to have this Grace extended again. Ever. He wants here to live, and live it abundantly.
“Go your way, friend, and for your sake and mine let this never happen again. I will not be here next time.” I do not hear the legalism switch on. I hear a hesitant and fearful one who loves her and knowing the nature of all our hearts.
I believe that God is like this. Extending Grace after Grace after Grace. Not so we can get away with stuff, but Grace from Love. For that is the nature of God. That should be the Nature of Us. Go your way, and from now on do not judge, or sin, again. Amen.