March 19, 2013

Lenten Journey: A Future and a Hope

For Reflection...

Now they stand face to face, the Woman and the Judge.  He has established the terms:  "'Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her'" (v. 7).  What will he do now?

We've heard the story before.  Even if we haven't, we don't expect the Jesus we've come to know to pick up a stone.  But he could.

He is in a position to condemn.  He is right with God himself, without sin.  The law provides for this particular circumstance.  He has said that he has come not to abolish but to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17).

Here's the fulfillment:  "'Neither do I condemn you.  Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more'" (v. 11).  Not a stoning but instead a release and an invitation.

What can it mean?  Adulterers merit stoning.  But Jesus does not see an adulterer; he sees a woman with a face and a name, a history -- and a future.  He knows that she can be more, is already more, than her sin.  His hope for her transcends the limits of the law.

In Romans 7, Paul explains,
...if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin....I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.  For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. (vv 7b, 9-11)
In Jesus, we do not bypass the good law (Romans 7:7), but, rather, we move through the death that comes to us in the law into new life (cf. Isaiah 43:19ff).  In spite of our guilt, we are given a future and a new hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

For Entering In...

As you become aware of being in the presence of God, notice -- does God feel close or far?  Do you feel connected or disconnected to God?  To your own heart?  Don't judge, just allow yourself to be wherever you are today.

Reflect on these questions:
  • What laws do you feel bound to live under?  Secular laws?  Religious laws?  Which of those laws to you feel you have upheld?  Which have you violated?
  • When have you expected -- or felt you deserved -- condemnation for some wrong you have done?  What happened?  Did you receive what you expected?  Or did you receive unexpected mercy?  Either way, how did that feel?
  • Have you been in a position to judge someone else?  What would it mean for your hope to transcend the limits of the just law?  Do you feel that would be fair or unfair?  Why?
  • How has the law been death to you?  Where have you experienced some form of spiritual death in relation to the dictates of law and your success or failure in meeting them?
  • What is it that you want Jesus to hope for in you?  What is the future that he sees for you?  Can you imagine a future more filled with abundance and life than you've dared to dream of?
Spend several minutes allowing your body and mind to be at rest.  If thoughts come, let them go by.  What if the only thing that mattered was your being, not your thinking or feeling or doing?

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