Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent 2022
What was it like for her… this woman in today’s Gospel? Caught in an unacceptable act. Standing in the midst of a mob of powerful men, with no support of family or friends or no police protection? How did she feel when she heard those words, “the law says that she is to be stoned,” and the rock are visible and ready to be thrown? How did she feel, when she stood in her vulnerability and brokenness before Jesus, the one who was to decide her fate?
Well, lets put ourselves in her place. What would it feel like if our darkest secret got released to the public? What would it be like to be dragged by a nasty mob to court house in Saint John, with an angry public shouting? Oh and don’t forget and media recording it all for the rest of the world to see? And what if this secret were to condemn us to death?
Or how about this: What would it feel like to wake up every morning not worrying about past hurts or past events we couldn’t possibly change? What would it be like to stop condemning ourselves every day for the faults and failures that keep replaying in our minds, even though we have be reconciled and forgiven? Wouldn’t it be nice to begin each day with hope, renewed trust in God’s love, and the faith to know God is doing something new for us every day? So, why do we hold on to past hurts, anger, misspoken words, and the little things that prevent us from taking steps forward towards our own resurrection into life with Jesus?
While we tend to condemn ourselves, or expect others to judge and condemn us, we sometimes forget to ask Jesus what he thinks about what we have said, done, or didn’t do when we weren’t our better selves. If we, in a moment of human failing or weakness, after we have hurt or disappointed another, stood before Jesus and said, “Lord, I have really done it this time, and I am afraid everyone would judge me, unfriend me on social media accounts, ignore me, or even push me away. I am afraid no one would like me anymore including my family. I am afraid I will be alone.”
No doubt Jesus might say, “No human being is completely innocent; everyone has their stuff that they’re dealing with, every person is broken in one way or another, and still I love you and stand with you. May that love be a healing remedy for your brokenness; may that love be a stop sign for the next time sin knocks at your door.”
It is easy for anyone to say, “Forget the past, just look ahead,” or “don’t worry, time heals all wounds.” We have all heard these words of encouragement from friends, family, mentors, and colleagues. However, we all know how difficult it is to forget. It is hard to not stir up anxieties about past failings or hurts. It is difficult to strain forward while the wind of regret and fear is right in our faces forcing us to frequently take steps backwards or stand still in terror. It is difficult to move towards the upward calling of loving ourselves and others.
Look how Jesus responded to the scribes and the Pharisees who brought him the woman who had been caught in adultery, he never proclaimed the woman’s innocence, nor did he pass judgment. Jesus called their attention to her humanity and theirs. Jesus chose mercy over judgment. Jesus took the stance of vulnerability with the woman when he bent down and wrote on the ground. In doing so, he removed himself from the height of judgment, standardized punishment, and condemnation. Jesus leaned into her humanity, her imperfection, and the temporary path she had taken as he wrote on temporary ground….the dust… that holds no one’s secrets for long. Have we ever tried to lean into the humanity of those who have hurt us or disappointed us. Perhaps the first step is to lean into our own humanity and realize we are forgivable and loveable. As we draw closer to Holy Week, perhaps we could remind ourselves to trust in the Lord God, who doesn’t condemn us, but rather nourishes us, who does great things for us and always… always lifts us up. Amen.