Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Throwing Stones

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:7-11

We used to spend hours trying to skip stones on the water. When I was small and the water was relatively calm, we would pick up shiny flat stones, polished by the sand, and see how far we could get them to go along the surface of the water, and see how many jumps they would take before disappearing in the surf. It is an intoxicating game. Watching and hoping that the results are the best yet, standing barefoot in the gentle surf, listening to the gulls and the crashing waves. There was something important about the heft of the stone. It has to be flat and solid but not too heavy. It had to be able to dance. I never threw stones at people, or other animals, though I admit I did contemplate taking out a gull or two. They wouldn't leave us alone, hoping we had food. The same things that can be innocent, time marking fun can become destruction when turned on other people.

A gathering of men, each with hands full of stones, were set on carrying out judgment. They were set on using their skills with stones. They wanted to punish her for her humanity and for the fact they knew her all to well. Our first instincts, when shameful and common behavior is revealed, are to try to kill the one who brought it to light. We will do everything we can to shut them out, kill them if we must, rather than to admit our own duplicity. And we are loath to move to forgiveness and reconciliation. And that is exactly what Jesus brings to the hostile crowd. Not condemnation but forgiveness. Truth and compassion slung side by side.

Today I want to put down the stones and try to respond with compassion and forgiveness rather than condemnation. I want to remember how vulnerable we can all be, and like the woman who was being stoned, can at any moment be a target when truth is told. I want to live today, knowing my own faults and foibles, and thanking God for forgiveness and reconciliation. And I want to be able to offer that to others. I pray we can all know our humanity, recognize the gift of forgiveness and live without judging others today. Maybe we can help turn some swords into plowshares, some weapons of mass destruction into power for the world. Just maybe we can help rescue one vulnerable today. For God's love invites us to use the gifts we have been given for the life of the world.

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