3/24/2019, God Moves… Us Over the Fence, John 8:1-11

During the season of Lent, God is on the Move.

Over the past few weeks,
we have been with Christ in the desert during his temptations,
we have heard him calling his disciples to follow him,

and today we will learn from his teachings at the temple challenging us to move over the fence.

Before this story we will read today, Jesus had been at the temple teaching and now he has retreated back now to the Mount of Olives.

The Mount of Olives as you can tell from this picture is where you can get a full view of the city of Jerusalem.

Sitting in the Mount of Olives can be similar to sitting in the bleachers of a gym.  You can see the whole basketball game play out even noticing where certain players are clearly open for a pass.

Looking out from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem helps to gain better perspective pulling away both in mind and in body.

Jesus retreats to the Mount of Olives

1- before he teaches about the destruction of the temple

2- before he walks the road on that Sunday prior to his death

3- before he and the disciples share the last supper.
4-and in this passage before he is questioned about the law.

Let’s now listen to John 8:1-11 as we view pictures from the Holy Lands and reflective images that will hopefully help bring this passage to life.

When we hear this story, we don’t want to imagine ourselves to be the stone throwers, the woman who is about to be stoned to death, or even Jesus as this is one more story that is getting him close to his own death.  So who are we in these types of stories.

Maybe we would like to play it safe and be the observer. The who peaks though a hole in the fence or the one who peers over the fence.

Sometimes those who peer over the fence have great wisdom to share, like a favorite neighbor named Wilson from the older TV show Home Improvement.

Here are 3 wisdom statements from this neighbor..
1- Wilson says to Tim, My heart attack didn’t kill me, so why act like it did? See, Tim, it was the Roman Philosopher, Seneca who said, “if we let things terrify us, then life is not worth living.”

2- In Another Show, Tim learns that Wilson is carving a canoe and says that seems hard.  Wilson’s response is Not really, you just take a big block of wood, and chip away everything that’s not a canoe.

3- And lastly in another scene Wilson says to Tim,
Parents are the bone on which children sharpen their teeth. What I’m saying is that when a boy is young, he worships his father and in order for the boy to become a man, he’s got to see his father as a fallible human being and stop seeing him as a god.

Wilson’s character is known for observing situations to impart wisdom over the fence

often we can find ourselves choosing comparison and judgment instead.

COMPARISON
We have all heard the phrase,
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

If there are two of anything, our tendency is to compare and compete instead of combine and be content.
Brene Brown writes  “Comparison is the thief of happiness.”

Comparison always makes us loose… either we feel prideful because we think we are superior or we feel unworthy because we think we are inferior.

When we hear this comparison phrase; “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,”  we feel unworthy and inferior.

So then we change it to another comparison phrase; “The grass may be greener, but boy, have you seen their water bill,” now we feel prideful and superior.

Neither phrase is very helpful is it!

What would help us pull pack over to our side of the fence, instead of focusing on the grass that is not ours?

Just as Jesus drew away from Jerusalem to gain perspective in the Mount of Olives,
we need to draw away to gain a greater perspective with Jesus who helps us to readjust our thinking and moves us toward a new way of life.

When a person asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”
We didn’t hear Jesus’ response of listing off his favorite neighbors,
he said the person no one would consider a neighbor, the Samaritan.

When a group of men in the temple tried to force Jesus to judge a woman caught in adultery, he didn’t make a judgment at all, he encouraged them to look at their own grass, their own sins and see what they would find there.

JUDGMENT

The Pharisees and scribes reference the law regarding adultery from Leviticus Chapter 20 verse 10
If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death
and then in Deuteronomy Chapter 22 Verse 22
If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die.

These laws have been established for continuing the land and the people of Israel and punishment was for two people not just one in the law against adultery. We learn through the actions of the accusers, how they are not trying to restore the land or the people, but focused on getting rid of Jesus.  Jesus is threatening their authority. The people are now questioning and challenging the religious authorities instead of following and respecting them.

The scribes and Pharisees suspected that Jesus would tell this woman that her sins had been forgiven which would mean that this rabbi, this teacher would ignore at least a portion of what was in the law. After this action, Jesus would be disgraced by the people and the religious teachers would resume their proper status.

But Jesus is here not to abolish the law, but to bring fulfillment to it.  Jesus is not dismissing the sin of the woman who committed adultery or her partner, nor is he dismissing the sin of self-righteousness of the religious authorities.  One sin is not greater that the other.   They all hold the same power, they separate us from the love of God and from loving others.

In the midst of all the sins, Jesus pauses to write in the dirt.  We all wonder what Jesus wrote as he stoops not just once but twice. Words, images, or doodles, which is it? Or maybe our focus should be more about the time given instead of the words written.  This pause in the heat of the moment gives him and others time to think and reflect.

The first time he stoops down to write in the dirt he gives himself time for reflection to discern his Father’s ways, and the second time he stoops to the ground gives the Pharisees and scribes time to discern God’s ways.

And what we see is true in this story, can be true in our story when we take time to be still, to pause, to reflect upon a situation we begin to lay aside the comparisons and the judgments to spend time discerning God’s ways.

The story ends with Jesus and the woman alone.  It is one of those holy ground moments, where we stand still in the presence of God and are in awe of all that has happened and all that will happen.

This last scene of the story reminds us all how we will stand alone with our Lord one day. Just Christ and you, Christ and I with mountains of stones all around us representing sins of the past. I believe in that holy moment, Christ will be more focused on you, more focused on I than any stone near us as he offers forgiveness, love and eternal life.

FREEDOM IN CHRIST

In Christ, we see that “The grass is always greener when Jesus and I are tending the grass on both sides of the fence together.”

Christ calls us back over to our side of the fence, to center us and challenge us toward tending our grass first grounded in repentance and watered by humility.

There are many ways to tend our own grass with Jesus through spiritual disciplines such as;
1-  reading scripture
2 – reflecting on scripture in small groups
3 – spending time in prayer
4 – sharing time in worship.

All of these ways fill us up on our side of the fence.

When we spend time daily with Christ on our side of the fence, tending to the rough places, restoring the dead spots, then we are better equipped when God moves us over the fence to not compare or judge, but to show compassion and love.  Using our time in this way, we are set free in Christ to share his truth and experience his grace.

As we begin this third week of Lent, our bodies may be weak from the disciplines that we are enduring and wonder how long it is until that resurrection day.  In John’s gospel, we find that through Mary’s tears Jesus is mistaken as a gardener.  This mistake of Mary’s helps us to reflect back to the creation story in Genesis and begin to see through Jesus, through his resurrection is a re-creation story. Here is the Gardener who will actually put the garden back right again.  And ultimately will restore it to its rightful state in eternity.

Jesus is the gardener who helps us tend and cultivate new life in us and in creation.  Every day we will face brokenness with rocks and weeds on both sides of the fences, yet with Christ he can help us see from a greater prospective that offers peace, hope and the vision of God’s kingdom for all people no matter if the grass is green, made of pure gold or purple.

As we learn in the favorite old hymn, In the Garden, joy is found not in throwing stones of judgment, or comparing our stones with others, joy is found in walking and talking with Jesus the great gardener who tells us we are his own in this life and in the life to come.

Closing Prayer

Loving Creator,

Be the Gardener of our souls
Clear away the dead debris
Break up the rough soil of routine
and stir in us new growth
that blooms
more love than hate,
more mercy than judgment and
more of you each and every day.

Amen

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