Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Sermon after the Sermon

Text and sermon unspooled with the familiarity of long acquaintance.

The adulteress caught in mid-sin,
scribes and Pharisees conspiring to trap Jesus,
the woman their bait,
Jesus' clever wisdom turning the tables on the accusers,
eluding their snare,
freeing the woman from condemnation without condoning her sin--
the pastor worked through the text skillfully, with clear interpretation and application.

The problem did not lie with the sermon.

Nevertheless, this passage remained for me as it had been, about the Other.  I could recognize the old me in the proud and critical accusers, but the woman herself was a stranger.  After the sermon I closed my heart and put it back on the shelf.

Then the thought arose, "You are the woman."

I shrugged it off.  Me?  Really?  Merely talking to a man beyond the family circle unnerves me.  My faults and temptations are many, but to this point adultery has not been among them, by the grace of God.

The thought persisted, "You are the woman."

Then the connection dawned.  Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament, sexual immorality is the metaphor used for spiritual unfaithfulness.  When God warns His people against idolatry and later indicts them for it, He names it even more harshly: prostitution.

Law, Psalms, and prophets agree:
"You are to never bow down to another god because the LORD, being jealous by nature, is a jealous God.
    "Do not make a treaty with the inhabitants of the land, or else when they prostitute themselves with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, they will invite you, and you will eat of their sacrifice. Then you will take some of their daughters [as brides] for your sons. Their daughters will prostitute themselves with their gods and cause your sons to prostitute themselves with their gods" (Exodus 34:14-16, HCSB).
They [Israel] shed innocent blood—
the blood of their sons and daughters
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
so the land became polluted with blood.
They defiled themselves by their actions
and prostituted themselves by their deeds (Psalm 106:38-39, HCSB).
The language of the prophets expands the metaphor considerably and graphically, with key passages including Jeremiah 3, Ezekiel 16 and 23, and the central narrative of Hosea.

Both sins are breaches of covenant.  Both were punishable by stoning to death under Israelite law.

Yes, I am the woman of John 8.  Every time I look to created rather than Creator for satisfaction, security, and significance, every time I pour out the love of heart, soul, mind, and strength on that which is not God, every time I trust myself or the seen things more than His character and Word, then I am the woman, caught red-handed in unfaithfulness to my Husband and Maker.

I, too, stand condemned and deserving of it.

To me, also, Jesus says, "'Neither do I condemn you. . . .  Go, and from now on do not sin any more' (John 8:11, HCSB)."

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, NIV).


  1. @Brandee Shafer Thank you, Brandee. Any real wisdom comes from God's Word, which I seek in my flawed way to communicate well. I appreciate the affirmation.

    God bless you!


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