September 4, 2016: Has no one condemned you?

Posted on : Sep 1st, 2016 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Most everything Jesus does and teaches us is about compassion. In fact, it is probably fair to say Jesus “is” compassion. This Sunday and next we will focus on two of Jesus’ questions about compassion. This Sunday we will explore a familiar story, the story of a woman who is accused of adultery.

As I began studying this story, I came to realize that from one perspective the moral shame of adultery is changing, and changing quickly. That is because our norms and values around sex and marriage are also changing rapidly.

About a month ago I heard someone use the phrase “pre-marital sex.” I was shocked. I haven’t heard that phrase used in a long time and I had forgotten what a strong impact those words used to have. Very few people in our culture use that language today. There’s sex and there is sex. For most of us today, marriage no longer governs the legitimacy of sex. However, this is a very recent development in our cultural norms and values. Even fifty years ago, sex was only acceptable within marriage. In our earlier years as a Presbyterian Church we were reminded of that at every turn in the road. Using marriage as the arbiter for sex was unfair and unjust for gay and lesbian people who could not be married. That sure changed fast once equal marriage was secured.

In the world in which Jesus lived, sex was only acceptable within marriage. Yet, even at that, there was a huge difference in what marriage was. Marriage in Jesus’ time was not necessarily about love. Girls and young women were literally the property of their father until they were married. Marriages were arranged by fathers and based on economic exchange. A woman who was not married was an economic burden to her father, and a woman who was not a virgin was of no economic value to her father (family). So, the religious laws that governed the culture were extremely strict concerning sex and adultery.

This is the context of the gospel story in which a woman is accused of adultery as told by Miriam Therese Winter in WomanWord:

A woman caught in the act of adultery is brought to trial by the scribes and Pharisees. They make Jesus the judge and jury. She has already been condemned to death according to the Law of Moses. The penalty for adultery is execution. Married women were usually strangled. Betrothed virgins were always stoned. Witnesses against the accused were supposed to initiate the execution. However, the Law clearly states that both the woman and the man who commits adultery are to be put to death (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22-23). No mention is made of this fact by those who make the accusation.

Going for “blood,” the scribes and Pharisees dragged a woman into the presence of Jesus, and in full view of everyone, made this accusation. “Rabbi,” they said, “this woman here has been caught in the act of adultery. The Law commands we condemn her to death. The Law says we should stone her. Tell us, what do you say?”

Now this was a test, for they were seeking something to use against Jesus.

But Jesus ignored their question, and with the tip of his finger, started scribbling on the ground. They persisted until he broke his silence. Looking up, he said:

“Let the one among you who has not sinned be the first to throw a stone.”

Then bending down, he scribbled some more, as one by one, those who condemned her silently slipped away.

Jesus was alone with the woman. “Where have they gone?” he asked her.

“Tell me, has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she answered.

“And neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go now and sin no more.”

Frank Rogers, who is a professor of spiritual formation at Claremont School of Theology and will be our fall retreat leader (Yes !) teaches that this story reveals to us who Jesus is and who God is: the embodiment of compassion, of love, of grace, of goodness. Frank believes all faiths insist that compassion is the test of true spirituality and the core of Christian spirituality pulsates with compassion. He says, “Jesus had a presence about him, the aura of man on intimate terms with God. He had a kindness about him, an understanding of the plight of the suffering and care for the weak and discarded… The path of Jesus – summed up as loving God with every dimension of our being, cultivating an authentic love for ourselves, and loving our neighbors as ourselves – was, at its core, a way of radical compassion.” [The Way of Jesus: Compassion in Practice by Frank Rogers, Jr.]

So, what if this story is not just about a woman who is (wrongfully) accused of adultery, but a story about us and our lives today?

More on Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan

 

Jesus & the Woman

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 8: 2-11

To a woman accused of adultery, Jesus asks:

“Has no one condemned you?”

 

At daybreak, Jesus returned to the Temple.

People crowded around him as he began to teach.

The scribes and Pharisees dragged a woman into the presence of Jesus,

and in full view of everyone, made this accusation.

“Rabbi,” they said, “this woman here has been caught in the act of adultery.

The Law commands we condemn her to death.

The Law says we should stone her.

Tell us, what do you say?”

 

Now this was a test, for they were seeking something to use against Jesus.

But Jesus ignored their question,

and with the tip of his finger,

started scribbling on the ground.

They persisted until he broke his silence.

Looking up, he said:

“Let the one among you who has not sinned be the first to throw a stone.”

 

Then bending down, he scribbled some more, as one by one,

those who condemned her silently slipped away.

 

Jesus was alone with the woman.

“Where have they gone?” he asked her.

 

“Tell me, has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir, “ she answered.

“And neither do I,” said Jesus.

“Go now and sin no more.”

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