Seven Essential Questions – Lent 2020
8 1 While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 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. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 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. 7 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.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 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. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (John 8:1-11, New Revised Standard Version).
An art buyer went by a butcher shop and saw a kitten lapping milk from a saucer. It wasn’t long before he saw the saucer, a valuable piece of pottery.
He entered the shop and offered the owner two dollars for the kitten. “Sorry, no,” said the proprietor.
“Look,” said the collector, “that kitten isn’t a good pet, but I like kittens that. OK, ten dollars.”
“Deal,” said the butcher pocketing the ten-dollar bill.’
“For that sum, I’m sure you won’t mind throwing in the saucer. The kitten seems happy drinking from it.”
“No way!” said the butcher. “That’s my lucky saucer. I’ve sold 27 kittens with that saucer!”
The buyer wasn’t interested in redeeming unwanted kittens. He wanted pottery. We can be like that. We have more interest in the thing than the life.
Sometime back I read an interesting article. In Japan, when a piece of valuable pottery breaks they hire a goldsmith or a pottery specialist who mixes a lacquer resin with powdered gold and use that to put glue the pieces together. Instead of trying to hide cracks, likely impossible, they use the cracks filled with gold to enhance the pottery’s beauty.
Translators say the Japanese technique is “golden repair.” The result is a process making a piece of art and a philosophical statement. The Japanese say the break and repair is part of the object’s history. Most of us would toss it. To a good eye, broken becomes beautiful.
We need golden repairs in our lives. We hide brokenness. A friend hurts us, we retreat into our core. We lose a job or have a pay cut and pretend it’s OK. A marriage begins with hope and ends with alienation. A spouse, relative, neighbor, friend becomes abusive to us. We are silent.
We have a drinking problem but embarrassment denies help. Or, we turn to alcohol or drugs to mask pain and problems.
Life can break us in painful ways we often deny. We’d rather disguise cracks than get a golden repair. We think, “Look at me. I’m a mess. There’s nothing desirable here. I can’t be desirable to God. God knows all I’ve done, every mistake, every sin. God can’t forgive me. I’m useless.” I am also wrong.
We don’t understand. We’ve never been so run down, run over driving our thoughts to a useless destination. People are that way. They are broken, trying to navigate life with as little pain as possible.
He was in worship every Sunday but refused communion because of a past sin. He never said the sin, only that he wasn’t worthy. Jesus served Judas the Last Supper. Have we done worse than Judas?
He couldn’t go to worship. God hated him. He was a thief. With “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” He wasn’t forgiven, was he?
She tried suicide three times. A trusted professional abused her. It was her fault. She was an adulterer. God can’t love her. It was better to die.
Too many believe they are worthless. They see brokenness. They can’t be loved. They are worthless. Even a dog couldn’t love them.
We began the series, “Seven Essential Questions” by asking, “What matters most?” Next was, “Who is God?” Today we ask, “Am I Accepted?”
There is good news and bad, the bad news is, no, not on our own. The good news? God’s grace accepts us, good news for people of faith in Jesus.
Many people tormented the Woman at the Well due to her lifestyle. She drew water in the heat of day, avoiding people. Jesus saw past her sins and brokenness. He offered acceptance.
Matthew and Zacchaeus, tax collectors believed to cheat people to make a living. They had no friends. Jesus changed these two. One became a \ disciple. The other, brings him home. He accepted and redeemed both.
There was a woman caught in adultery. Adultery was a sin. It was also a capital crime. It meant death by stoning. They dug a vertical hole wide enough so the convicted could stand and deep enough to expose the head. They forced the convicted into the hole, filling it with sand and dirt. People took rocks and threw them at the convicted until they died.
The Sadducees and Pharisees made this more than an execution. They try to trap Jesus. If he says stone her, where is the grace he advocates. Saying not to stone, spoke against the law. Either way, he loses credibility.
Jesus said nothing. I can see the scene play out. Jesus squats and writes in the dirt. We don’t know what he wrote. Some say it was the accusers sins. Others think he asked, “Where is the man?” It takes two for adultery. If the woman was caught shouldn’t they have caught this guy? Where was he?
Either is possible. He likely wrote one of the two. What if, he also wrote, “You are loved by God. You are accepted?” It’s a possibility.
It fits God’s love of broken people. It fits spreading grace and love.
God’s acceptance is this story. If Jesus accepted her, guilty of a capital crime. Should it not seem that the rest of us have acceptance too?
Want more proof? Acts 10. Peter has a dream of unclean food. He says he won’t eat unclean food. God says he shouldn’t call unclean what God cleans. He awakens, meets three men coming on behalf of Cornelius. Peter goes with them to Cornelius’ home. Peter wouldn’t usually enter. That’s what the dream meant. Gentiles came to Cornelius’ home to hear Peter. “I am learning God doesn’t show favor to any people. But in every nation, those worshipping God and do right are acceptable to God (Acts 10:34b-35).”
“…those worshiping God and do right are acceptable to God.” Think about that. It doesn’t say, “Whoever worships, does right and doesn’t sin is acceptable.” For the adulterous woman, it doesn’t say, “Whoever worships, does right and doesn’t commit adultery is acceptable.” There are no other conditions, worship God and do right. That’s it. That makes one acceptable.
Last week the Trinity our subject. One God, three persons. Jesus, God the Son says in John 14, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” Acts 10:35 doesn’t change John 14.
John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, speaks to Acts 10:35. We’ve talked about Wesley’s “Acts of Piety” and “Acts of Charity.” Acts of Piety include worship, the sacraments, generosity, and sharing with the community of faith. We find Acts of Charity in Mathew 25, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, etc. People are acceptable who know God and do what matters most. It’s about love God, and love neighbor.
We don’t get there all at once. We live part of our lives before accepting God’s gift of grace. We accept that gift, but our lives don’t change overnight. We still sin. We still fall short of God’s glory. The difference is, we allow the Holy Spirit to work on us, to mold us and change us. That is God’s redeeming work in us. While we live out those acts of piety and acts of charity, God takes us from unacceptable and redeems us, making us acceptable to God.
John was a sea-going man like his father who arranged for John to go to school. He wasn’t interested, going to work on a merchant ship. Later, he was forced into the Royal Navy. Sailors grabbed him. They forced him to duty. He tried to escape. He was flogged for the effort and almost died.
Eventually, his captain traded John to a slave trading ship. He didn’t get along with the crew and that captain traded him to an African tribal chief for some African slaves. John became a slave himself.
The chief’s wife treated John horribly. Here he did escape helped by a merchant his father asked to watch for him. John joined the merchant crew to get home. A rough storm threatened to sink the ship due to a hole in the hull from the storm. He decided to pray. As he did so, a large piece of cargo slid into place, covering the hole. It saved the ship. John knew it was God. He became a Christian and studied anything Biblical he could find.
He didn’t give up the slave trade. He captained a slave trader. He carried two loads of slaves to the Americas before he retired from the sea.
He went to school to be a priest. He came to understand slavery’s wrongs seeking its end it in the British Empire. He saw it end before he died.
He also wrote this, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
John Newton, as a Christian he enslaved people. Because of his work people died. God redeemed him to write the most beloved hymn in history.
God can’t redeem you? What’s so bad God won’t accept you?
If you never hear another word I say, hear this!!! You are loved by God who wants a relationship with you. No matter what you did, God can and will redeem you. You, yes, even the likes of us are acceptable to God.
Thank God for grace. Praise God! Could ask more than that?
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
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