Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of December 1, 2019

Our First Sunday of the month evening service, focuses specifically on a “Renaissance of the Heart” matter.  We base our service on a “red-letter word of Jesus.  To date we’ve focused on “receiving”, “abiding” and “forgiving” in hopes of seeing and experiencing the Lord’s transformative power at work in us and through us.  Our focus on January 5th at 6:30PM will be “Giving.”

On nearly a dozen occasions, the Gospel authors tell us that Jesus has “brought to Him all the ill and infirm that He might reach out and cure them.”  The authors of the Gospels also record more intimate events.  Jesus has brought to Him: a paralytic on the mat, a man who was possessed and could not speak, and a demonic who was blind.  Jesus also has little children brought to Him so that He might bless them.  On one occasion an author of a Gospel, John, tells us that Jesus has brought to him a woman….not with hopes that He might cure her but that He would condemn her.

It was a trap to be sure!  She had been caught in the act of adultery.  The trap was this:  IF Jesus releases her then He is guilty Himself of ignoring the commands of God!  On the other hand, if He calls for her punishment He’ll no longer be seen as being any different from the scribes and Pharisees. 

Unique to this story is that as Jesus has the woman brought to Him we find Him doodling in the dust.  Jesus bent down and started writing in the ground with His finger.  What was He writing?  Probably ought not to get too lost in conjecture as it is conjecture and we have no clear indication what it was that He was composing. 

Some have suggested verses from the Old Testament…blessed is the one whose sins are forgiven; The Lord is full of compassion and mercy; He will cast your sins as far as east is from west…the thought being that perhaps it was faith in God’s goodness that led to their actions.  Others suggest that Jesus was jotting down sinful actions of the crowd…Mary coveted Martha’s mule; Adam stole Aaron’s anchor; Naomi gossiped about Nathaniel; Rueben lied about Rachel…the thought being that perhaps the fact that they too had broken the law might break them of their zeal for punishment.  Others suggest that the woman was caught “conducting business” as she was employed in that oldest profession and Jesus for His part was simply compiling a list of names…each fella who had ever done business with her…and out of fear their name might be written down (there were a lot of “johns” in that world) they drop their rocks and walk away.
Whatever it was He was writing, it is what we find Him saying that is utterly compelling, “You who is without sin cast the first stone!”  One by one they dropped and walked.  “Has no one condemned you?  Then neither do I, go and sin no more.”      

Though they were ultimately angling for Jesus’ condemnation…Jesus ends up compelling them to not even condemn her; and in so doing this episode bears witness to how our God operates.  He forgives, time and time again, and calls His disciples who have been forgiven, though themselves guilty, to do the same.  Grace and mercy, mercy and grace are the trade in which our God works! 
Grace is to receive what you do NOT deserve; mercy is to NOT receive what you DO deserve.  Forgiveness is the union of both!  Jesus forgives!  Note that Jesus does not say, “Well, I can’t condemn you either.”  Rather Jesus says, “NEITHER DO I condemn you!”  There was one in that crowd who was in fact not guilty of sin.  One who could have cast a stone at her, instead He chose to lie behind one for her.  And for us…for the times our guilt has been publicly exposed, for the occasions we’ve managed to keep our sins secret, for the days we’ve wanted God to condemn those no more sinful than ourselves and the days we’ve ‘hurled stones’ at others.   

Jesus thus was, and is, known for being forgiving.  Interesting how His followers are often known for the exact opposite?  Merciful or judgmental, which narrative do you think the world uses to describe those who read the stories about Jesus, and make them their own? 

Admittedly some of that may very well be false equivalence...a trap the world set for Jesus’ followers if you will: the notion that if you’ve sinned you can’t speak out against sinning…that a false equivalent.  Some of it is though a trap we set for ourselves: the notion that our sins are not as significant or serious as those of others.

For us who read the accounts of our Lord and make them our own and see ourselves in them, this one compels us to extend mercy, even when we have the right to not do so.  Forgiving one another, just as through Jesus, God forgave you! 
-Pr. Kevin Kritzer


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