Sunday, March 13, 2016

Down in the Dirt

   Fifth Sunday of Lent   C 

I don't have a full fledged homily text to give you today; I was preaching "Children's Church," so there were some questions and props involved. But here's an outline of what we talked about...

We use many different things to write. Some—like pencil or chalk—can be easily erased. Some—like crayons, pens, or markers—are much more permanent.

There are a few times in the Bible when we find God writing. One is in the Old Testament. Moses is leading God’s people through the desert, and they stop so Moses can climb a mountain to talk with God. While on the mountain, God gives Moses the 10 Commandments for the people: ten rules for loving God and loving one another. God gives this law so his people can be happy—now and forever. And so God writes the 10 Commandments down. He writes them with his finger, and he writes them on stone. Something written in stone cannot be erased. God writes his law in stone so that his people won’t forget it, and so they’ll understand that they can’t change it.

We also find God writing in this Sunday’s gospel reading. An angry crowd is pointing at a woman to tell Jesus that she has sinned—that she has broken one of the Commandments. And what does Jesus do? He bends down to write with his finger, and he writes in the dirt. What does Jesus write? [Several people gave answers…but since the Bible doesn’t say, I tell them the only way they could know is if they’d been there!] We can’t be sure what he wrote, but many have guessed that Jesus was writing sins in the sand—not the sins of the woman, but the sins of all the people who were pointing at her. They had broken God’s Commandments, too. Something written on the ground is easily erased by the wind, or people walking over it, or wiping it out with your own hand. Jesus writes our sins in the sand so that people will know God forgets them, and they can be forgiven again and again.

A trouble grown-ups often have is getting this stuff backwards. There are times when we like to think that God’s law is written in sand—so that we can change it or make it disappear. We also sometimes act like God writes our sins in stone—afraid that he’ll never forget and will hold them against us always. Jesus makes it clear which way is right when he tells the woman that he doesn’t condemn her, but that she should go and live now by God’s law, not sinning anymore.

God’s law cannot be changed. He who made us and made the whole world is the only now who knows the real path to happiness, and so God has written his Commandments in stone. But our sins can be wiped away if only we ask—like something just written in the dirt.

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