Friday, August 24, 2007

Jesus teaches us to build communities of grace

This article was in the Journal-Gazette today. They have an area to comment as well. The link on the title will take you there.

By Pastor Brian Miller: the Crossover, Mattoon

Barbie was sitting upright with her perfect hair and her somewhat disturbingly happy smile pasted across her slender face.

Molly had placed her in a rectangular Tupperware dish. Her shoulders rose above the edge, and she wondered if she would be surprised to find out what was about to happen. Molly’s mom was on the phone in the kitchen. Before the phone rang, she had been repotting some plants on the dining room table.

Molly looked at her Barbie and listened to her mother. “I can’t stand that woman. I have to bite my tongue every time I see her!”

As Molly listened, she noticed the small hand shovel sticking out of a bucket of fresh dirt. The one side of the phone conversation continued. It seemed to only need one side at this point.

“She only has that job because of who she married. Marrying someone doesn’t qualify you for a job.”

Instinctively, Molly grasped the handle of the shovel. She stood on tip toes and looked down into the bucket. The dirt had a fresh smell to it. It was almost black, but something made it sparkle in the light.

Her mom took a quick sip of her coffee and went right back to dishing the dirt. “She isn’t perfect by any means. I went to school with her brother. I could tell you all kinds of stories.”

Very carefully, Molly lifted the handle, balancing a perfect scoop of fresh dirt on the blade. Slowly she brought it above the rim of the bucket and then turned her whole body to the right until the shovel was directly over Barbie’s head.

The tone of her mom’s voice told the point of the story. “Her husband’s going to get caught one of these days, and she’ll find out just how valuable she really is once he’s out of the picture.”

Molly’s action demonstrated the rest of the story. She slowly turned her wrist counter-clockwise until the dirt began to pour steadily on Barbie’s head. The dirt poured over her shoulders and piled around her waist.

Her mom continued to talk. Molly continued to pour, careful never to spill a drop outside of the container. When her mom was finished, Molly had filled the container evenly, burying her Barbie to just below her plastic, but perfectly molded arm pits. Her mom almost spilled her coffee.

“Why did you pour dirt all over Barbie?” Her mother was at a complete loss.

This is where Jesus finds people — buried in dirt. When the religious people brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus (John 8), they wanted to stone her, bury her with rocks.

Jesus said, “If anyone here hasn’t ever had dirt on their face, go ahead and throw.”

Today’s religious people don’t throw rocks, but they do dish dirt and throw dirty looks. But Jesus tells the church not to condemn her. It saddens me that as they dropped their stones, they walked away. I guess that was a lesson for another day.

Jesus didn’t walk away. He came with grace and truth. But the grace comes first.

With no condemnation, Jesus tells the woman, “Clean up your life.”

It was an encouragement to live free and full. She had been living in fear. When you have something to hide, you don’t want community. It’s too risky. People might find out. People will make it harder.

Jesus teaches an amazing lesson here, about building communities of grace that can then find effective ways of helping people into the truth.

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