Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Year C Advent 2 WED 2018 Rethinking Sin No More

Year C Advent 2 WEDNESDAY 12 December 2018
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 

Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 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.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 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. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

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.
God does not want us to do the things that will hurt us. I do not want my kids to get hurt, so I make rules, I set boundaries, I make my expectations clear. I make rules in hopes of not having to use them. I make rules so that there are no surprises.

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.

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Blessings, Rock