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  • Eric Marshburn

Eric's Ethereal Cereal for June 2021

3 The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone 4 and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red–handed in the act of adultery. 5 Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. 7 They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” 8 Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt. John 8:3-8 (MSG)

J Philip Newell says that in our Christian family there are some who believe that the deepest hidden parts of us carry the marks of our common sinfulness. In essence, some would say, sin is what is deepest in us. He notes that for others in the Christian family, “what is deepest in us is the image of God.” As you think about this, which of the two is closest to what you believe, and your own experience?

Christian Wiman invites us to step into the story from John’s Gospel – to join him with the others standing around Jesus and the woman.

“I hope you are brave enough to linger here just a bit longer. On an index card, or an app on your smartphone, imagine you are standing by Jesus – broken and vulnerable … in silence, without speaking a word, watch closely what Jesus is writing with his own finger on the ground – in your life. Now write with your finger what you see him writing with His… Be still, and wait with it…

What does He write? Some say He was writing down the names of those self-righteous and accusatory Pharisees standing around Him and the woman. Some say it was their sins, others that He was writing down specific verses from the Old Testament. Consider the elements. First, there’s the act itself of writing on the ground surrounded by inquisitors. Who does that? Just try it the next time you find yourself in a heated meeting. Then, too, Jesus writes with His finger, not an implement of some kind. The WORD (uppercase) inscribed the word (lowercase) upon reality itself - reenacting, I would argue, and perhaps salvaging that original moment when the Word of God became the word of man. Also, it is metaphorically suggestive that Jesus writes on the earth, not on a tablet, as if the law had come alive, as if the closed world of human religion, represented by the Pharisees had been blown open and shown to be as transient and perishable, but also as immediate and meaningful, as this glorious earth that is all around us. In this moment, Jesus “writes” something that you will never read, never “understand,” and thus maybe, just maybe, never forget.” ~from “Writing In The Sand”, Christian Wiman, Plough Quarterly, Summer 2021

Blessings & Peace,

Pastor Eric

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