Reflection – 26 September 2021

Here’s my reflection from today

Mark

Call to Worship – based on Romans chapter 15

Gather around,

you are welcome here,

and you will hear Good News.

In a world

where there are so many

discouraging and negative voices

it is the God of encouragement

who will speak to you today.

The God of Jesus Christ.

So come in, relax,

let your tiredness roll away.

Lift up your hearts, and listen

Opening Prayer

We will start with a prayer asking for forgiveness. When I pause can you all say – Forgive us merciful God

We come before our God, who is full of compassion,

to ask forgiveness and mercy.

When in our excesses we consume more than our share

while others go with basic needs unmet:

Forgive us, merciful God.

When we are blinded by our affluence

and fail to reach out in care and concern:

Forgive us, merciful God.

When we are overwhelmed by desires to acquire

and consume more than we need:

Forgive us, merciful God.

When possessions cloud our view of you

and your gracious love:

Forgive us, merciful God

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Let’s have a song.

Deborah and I met Stephen and Jane Haward the other week and Stephen kindly sent me some hymns and songs that he had used recently. This is one of them

Jesus, Strong and Kind

Jesus said that if I thirst
I should come to Him
No one else can satisfy
I should come to Him

Jesus said, if I am weak
I should come to Him
No one else can be my strength
I should come to Him

For the Lord is good and faithful
He will keep us day and night
We can always run to Jesus
Jesus, strong and kind

Jesus said that if I fear
I should come to Him
No one else can be my shield
I should come to Him

For the Lord is good and faithful
He will keep us day and night
We can always run to Jesus
Jesus, strong and kind

Jesus said, if I am lost
He will come to me
And He showed me on that cross
He will come to me

For the Lord is good and faithful
He will keep us day and night
We can always run to Jesus
Jesus, strong and kind

For the Lord is good and faithful
He will keep us day and night
We can always run to Jesus
Jesus, strong and kind

Jesus, strong and kind

We’re going to look again today at how Jesus interacted with people on the fringes of society.

But first – time for the Café Church quiz

1Which capital city is built on 7 hills? 
2What was the title of the 7th James Bond Film? 
3Which film, released in 1960, was based on the film ‘The Seven Samurai’? 
4Who wrote the book ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’? 
5What flavour is 7-Up?   
6Who had a hit in 1999 with ‘Bring it All Back’? 
7How many years did the Seven Years War last? 
8Which countries are in the G7? 
9Who is missing from this list: ·        
Doc
Grumpy
Happy
Sleepy
Sneezy
Dopey
 
10What is missing from this list: Colossus of Rhodes,Hanging Gardens of Babylon,Lighthouse of Alexandria, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus,   

All the questions are something to do with the number 7. Why’s that?

Do you know what the seventh of the Ten Commandments is?

Thou shalt not commit adultery

Today we are going to be looking at a story of someone who disobeyed that commandment.

By the way – do you know that there was a bible printed in England in 1631 that was known as the Wicked Bible? The printers missed out just one word from the text. Not too much of a problem you’d think when there are nearly 800,000 words in the Bible altogether. And it was only a small word – just 3 letters. How much could that matter. Well that 3-letter word was not, and it was omitted from the seventh commandment so that it read ‘Thou shalt commit adultery.’

Most of the copies were destroyed and the printers were fined a large amount of money for their mistake.

Anyway it’s now time for our Bible readings. The first one is from the book of Deuteronomy and it has a bearing on the second reading which will be from the gospel of John.

Deuteronomy 22:22-28

22 “If a man is caught having intercourse with another man’s wife, both of them are to be put to death. In this way you will get rid of this evil.

23 “Suppose a man is caught in a town having intercourse with a young woman who is engaged to someone else. 24 You are to take them outside the town and stone them to death. She is to die because she did not cry out for help, although she was in a town, where she could have been heard. And the man is to die because he had intercourse with someone who was engaged. In this way you will get rid of this evil.

25 “Suppose a man out in the countryside rapes a young woman who is engaged to someone else. Then only the man is to be put to death; 26 nothing is to be done to the woman, because she has not committed a sin worthy of death. This case is the same as when one man attacks another man and murders him. 27 The man raped the engaged woman in the countryside, and although she cried for help, there was no one to help her.

28 “Suppose a man is caught raping a young woman who is not engaged. 29 He is to pay her father the bride price of fifty pieces of silver, and she is to become his wife, because he forced her to have intercourse with him. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

We’re going to hear and see the second reading in a dramatized form.

It’s from John 8:1-11

Early the next morning he went back to the Temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger. As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she answered.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”

This is a song called scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card

Amidst a mob of madmen
She stood frightened and alone
As hate filled voices hissed at him
That she should now be stoned

But in the air around him
Hung a vast and wordless love
Who knows what loom at his lesson
He was in the middle of

At first he faced the fury
Of their self righteous scorn
But then he stooped and at once became
The calm eye of the storm

It was his wordless answer
To their dark and cruel demand
The lifetime in a moment
As he scribbled in the sand

It was silence it was music
It was art it was absurd
He stooped and shouted volumes
Without saying a single word

The same finger
Of the strong hand
That had written ten commands
For now was simply scribbling in the sand

Within the space of space and time
He scribbled in the sand
They came to hear and see as much
As they could understand
Now bound by cords of kindness
They couldn’t cast a single stone
And Jesus and the women found that they were all alone

It was silence it was music
It was art it was absurd
He stooped and shouted volumes
Without saying a single word

The same finger
Of the strong hand
That had written ten commands
For now was simply scribbling in the sand

Could that same finger come
And trace my souls sacred sand
And make some unexpected space
Where I could understand
That my own condemnation pierced
And broke that gentle hand
That scratched the words I’ll never know
Written in the sand

It was silence it was music
It was art it was absurd
He stooped and shouted volumes
Without saying a single word

The same finger
Of the strong hand
That had written ten commands
For now was simply scribbling in the sand

The same finger
Of the strong hand
That had written ten commands
For now was simply scribbling in the sand

Talk

No Easter or Christmas stories this time!

As normal on Café Church Sunday I do want you to do some of the work.

I’d like you to think about about a character or group of characters in the story.

I would like you to think about the Teachers of the Law and Pharisees, about the people in the crowd, and about the woman.

For each group consider these two things:

  1. What are these people thinking as the story unfolds?
  2. What has changed for them at the end of the story?

You might want to read the story again for yourselves before you start.

And then use your imagination

Some thoughts of mine

Teachers of the Law and Pharisees

  • We’ll teach this upstart Jesus
  • He’ll never be able to get out of this one
  • If he answers that she shouldn’t die he’s going against Moses
  • If he answers she should die he’s going against his own preaching
  • That’s a clever answer – but it won’t save her – the crowd are out for justice
  • Where are they all going?
  • We’re going to have to try again

They are annoyed – their trap didn’t work. Jesus has made them look stupid in front of all these people. But they can’t let him get away with it.

The People in the Crowd

  • We didn’t expect this when we came to the Temple today
  • We love a good stoning
  • It’s obvious what the answer is – the law says she has to die
  • Why is he writing in the dust, and what is he writing?
  • That’s a clever answer – but it won’t save her – the Pharisees are out for justice
  • Couldn’t one of the holy men have thrown the first stone? Don’t they obey all the laws?

They are bemused. They thought they understood the law but now they’re not so sure. Maybe Jesus’ new way of looking at things is right. They want to hear more from him.

The Woman

  • Why is it just me – where’s the man involved? He was telling me he loved me an hour ago.
  • Terror – I’m going to die
  • I know I shouldn’t have done it
  • I thought Jesus was a man of peace and love but he hasn’t told them not to kill me
  • Where are they all going?
  • I’m not going to be killed after all
  • I’ll never do it again

She is relieved – she’s still alive and wasn’t expecting to be. She might see it as a chance to do better in future. She thinks Jesus is a very wise man indeed.

Just a few more words from me to finish things off.

I love this story. Interestingly the story doesn’t appear in the oldest manuscripts. And in the ones where it does appear it isn’t always in this position. It even sometimes appears in Luke’s Gospel! Why should that be – I don’t know. It sounds like it’s a story that someone added later.

But I’m so glad it was added because it really adds to and fits in with what we know about Jesus doesn’t it?

Jesus doesn’t judge. Elsewhere in the gospels when he is asked how often people should be forgiven, should it be 7 times he says No – seventy times 7. Which is effectively saying an unlimited number of times – not that you can choose not to forgive on the 491st time.

And it’s good for us that he doesn’t judge us. Looking just at this sin of adultery do you remember what he says in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart.”

Well I’m guilty. I can’t speak for anyone else here but I’d suggest we might all fall short on this and wouldn’t want to be judged. Women as well as men.

Another thing Jesus said in the Sermon on the mount was this

“Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true.’ 

But look at that list of laws we heard from Deuteronomy. Do those laws really fit in with what we know about Jesus, what  learn about Jesus from this story? That people are put to death for having sex? That if a man rapes a young woman she has to marry him? Jesus’ version of justice is very different to that isn’t it?

And what does all this forgiveness mean? Jesus is keen at the end of the story to tell the woman – do not sin again. Would he forgive her again if she does though? Well Yes – I’m sure he would. So does that mean we can just carry on with impunity, doing as we please, going against what we should be doing and being forgiven every time? Is Jesus saying that’s OK. I don’t think so. We need to raise our eyes from just being concerned about our own standing with God and think about what the laws are all about. They are about trying to achieve a just society for everyone. The woman (and the man) who have committed adultery have not just affected themselves they’ve harmed others too. Their respective partners, any children they might have, will have been harmed by their actions. They’d be harmed again if they did it again.  And while God will forgive this won’t cancel the harm already done. As we read the other night in our Book Club book – this is an amnesty – it’s not amnesia. The act of transgression has already happened and the clock can’t be wound back. The harm’s been done and we need to be aware in our forgiven state that God really doesn’t want us to keep repeating our mistakes and causing further harm to other – that’s what the laws are for.

Finally what does the story mean to us in our reaction to others. Surely this – if God is going to forgive then we can too – and we should. If someone steps out of line then we shouldn’t stand in condemnation – we should forgive. We shouldn’t talk about them and what they’ve done wrong – we should forgive. We shouldn’t bear a grudge – we should forgive.

Then in our turn we might be forgiven too.

Time for Prayer


We have reflected on our own weaknesses

and on the frailty of others.

Jesus says ‘Go and sin no more’

So we go,

no longer accusing ourselves of sins that have been forgiven

nor condemning others for the sins that God has forgiven them.

As receivers of God’s grace

we ask for help to be grace-givers in the week ahead.

In the name of Christ .  

Amen.

Our final hymn today is a familiar one that we can sing along with. The words will appear on the screen

My Song is Love Unknown


My song is love unknown,
  My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
  That they might lovely be.
    O who am I,
    That for my sake
    My Lord should take
    Frail flesh, and die?
 
He came from His blest throne
  Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
  The longed-for Christ would know:
    But oh, my Friend,
    My Friend indeed,
    Who at my need
    His life did spend.
Sometimes they strew His way,
  And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
  Hosannas to their King:
    Then “Crucify!”
    Is all their breath,
    And for His death
    They thirst and cry.
Here might I stay and sing,
  No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King,
  Never was grief like Thine.
    This is my Friend,
    In whose sweet praise
    I all my days
    Could gladly spend.

Finally we will close by saying the grace:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

evermore.

Quiz answers

  1. Rome
  2. Diamonds Are Forever
  3. The Magnificent Seven
  4. T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)
  5. Lime and Lemonade
  6. S Club 7
  7. 7 years (of course)
  8.  Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US
  9. Bashful
  10. The Great Pyramid at Giza

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