Friday, August 29, 2014

Unconditional Love

There’s a video that’s been making the rounds, reportedly recorded clandestinely by a young man whose parents were upset and angered when he came out to them. I can’t vouch for the truth of this specific video, but it is accurate for far too many youth—and adults, for that matter, but adults are generally better able to deal with this level of venom. They may have heard it before from strangers and they probably have more in the way of support systems than youth—and most importantly, they are no longer dependent on their parents. The video is here., but trigger warning—it’s very harsh.

In response to that video, a gay parent wrote an open letter to the parents in the video. His letter is here.

As a parent, I really resonated with much of what the latter parent said, but I don’t think he emphasized enough what stands out to me, and it is this: Our children do not belong to us. Not ever. They are not our property, to do with as we wish, to force into our predetermined moulds, and thrown out (literally) if they don’t fit our expectations.
There are all kinds of ways kids might not be what their parents expected, from the day they are born to the day the child or the parent dies. A child’s gender, physical ability, health status, appearance, intellectual ability, athletic skills—parents naturally have hopes around each of these and those expectations are bound to be different for each parent (one parent may hope for a football star while his or her partner dreams of a tennis ace, but they both are hoping for athletic prowess). But it is not up to parents, to decide whether our child is acceptable to us or not based on our hopes and expectations.

It is not acceptable to disown a child because he prefers football to tennis—that’s not a very contentious point. Nor is it acceptable to throw a child out of the family because she has physical disabilities. A child who chooses a different career path than the parents had hoped is not a failure or to be ignored.

Our children are not supposed to fulfil all the fantasies and dreams parents have had; they are not surrogates for their parents, for the failed dreams and hopes and unfulfilled plans. They are each their own person, and parents cannot have control of them—children have their own hope and dreams. If parents cannot prevent the pain and disappointments their children will experience, neither can they—although some try—to keep them from the happiness they seek.

It is unacceptable to disown a child who is being who they are meant to be, simply because the parent don’t like or approve of it. And it really doesn’t matter if that child being him or herself means a parent is unhappy with their child playing a particular sport or not, following a certain profession or not, living a specified place or not, or loving a certain kind of person or not. None of these are real reasons for rejecting a child. There are no real reasons. A parent may not like a child's choices, actions, and decisions, but the parent still loves them.

Unconditionally.

 No “unless” or “except” or “buts” to be considered. 

Either a child is loved as he or she is, or they aren’t really loved after all. Because children are not property, no matter their age, choices, decision, or anything else about them.


They are who they are. A parent’s job is to love them and support them as they find their own way in the world. A parent can give advice but only if asked and then the parent shuts up and lets the child make their own decision, for good or ill, and continues to love them. 

Because that is real, unconditional love. 

Parental love.

Friday Five, August 29, 2014



The Friday Five for the RevGals is pretty free-form today, which is a good thing, since my mind is pretty free-form today too--I am on muscle relaxants for back pain. 

The topic is "New"--what is new in our lives, what do we wish was new, or what are we ridding ourselves of? 

1. I am working on cleaning out my home--clearing the clutter, the stuff I don't really need--the clothes I will never wear again, the books I will never reread (or maybe even read in the first place), all the tchotchkes I am tired of dusting, the CDs I don't need to keep because they are all in my laptop (and backed up both to a hard drive and the cloud)...etc. I live in a one-bedroom apartment and yet I have five throws, a comforter and a bedspread; several boxes of files/documents/photos; two full closets, ditto dressers; four full bookcases (plus miscellaneous stacks n tables, the desk, etc.)...well, you get the idea. So there's that.

2. With the blessing of the Board and other interested parties (i.e., deacons and musician) I am beginning to use the Narrative Lectionary set of readings on September 7. I have been here for almost ten years, so I have been through the Revised Common Lectionary three times. Yes, I can always find something new to say about the readings, but I would like to try a whole new approach--which the NL offers. If you're intrigued, check it out here: Narrative Lectionary information at WorkingPreacher.

3. This is something new I want to do, partly inspired by the previous item: regular writing. Because there are not a lot of resources out there yet for the NL, I have, in preparing for September (and in the midst of October), written my own liturgies. I had forgotten how much I enjoy this! I am going to see if it continues to be enjoyable (rather than a chore) and I may begin publishing some of them here. 

4. I have a new sense of myself, thanks to my therapist, several friends, and a lot of hard inner work. The most obvious sign, to me, is that I am absolutely comfortable being single. I hadn’t realised how much I had defined myself (and my worth) by whether I was in a relationship or not. It makes sense—I married when I was 20 and was married for 22 years, and had a committed relationship for five years after that, so I have been in a relationship most of my adult life. Now I get it, but it took me a while—I am me, just me, on my own, no need for someone else’s presence in my life to  help define me. I am rediscovering stuff I knew and enjoyed but hadn’t done much with for a long time, from books to hobbies to music to ways of looking at the world. Would I like to have a partner? Sure, but I am no longer anxious about finding one—and no longer paying lip service to “if I meet someone—.”

5. Besides the cleaning out and the writing, I want to be more physically active. I am not and never have been a runner, but I do walk, and I enjoy yoga; so I am thinking that those are two things I can do fairly easily, The predictions are for a rough winter again; these are both things I can do in spite of bad weather (I may have to walk to the store!).  

6. And one more, simply for a bonus! I am certainly eating more healthfully. I’ve cut out as much in the way of processed foods as I can, trying to eat locally-grown produce (well, this area is pretty much the truck garden of Ontario, so that one is easy), and more naturally. I have never liked diet pop, so I don’t have to give that up, but I have switched to butter, organic and/or local meat/produce, and so on. My plan is to make more changes—no more canned soup (I can make my own in my crockpot), do my own baking (a bit tricky, given the size of my kitchen, but I will manage somehow!), and so on..

So what's new with you?

“Asking the Tough Questions” (Hard Questions Series), August 24, 2014, Rev. Martha Daniels


Proverbs 3:13-18
Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.
For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold.
Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.
She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honour in her left.
She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying.
Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.

Matthew 13:3-9
Jesus told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As the farmer scattered them across the field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

***

Will you pray with me? Holy One, your wisdom is our guide. Open our hearts, minds and spirits to hear you speaking to us in that still small voice. Amen.

Today marks the last of our Hard Questions sermons series. And maybe today’s topic should have been one of the first—why do we ask these hard questions? I mean, obviously, we ask because we want an answer, but why do we want an answer? Why do we have questions about our faith—both as a group and as individuals--in the first place?

Well, much of that is just basic to our nature as human beings. We are curious about things, things we don’t know or understand—we want to know more, whether it is about the latest celebrity breakup, the plotlines of the next season of Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones, how to make better hamburgers, the best bank for our circumstances—the list goes on and on. But some topics seem to be out of bounds—especially in spiritual matters. There’s a sense that if we have questions, if we have uncertainty or doubt, then we are lacking in faith somehow.

But the reality is that we do have questions. Some of them are more factual, such as wondering about John the Baptist. Some are about how we live our faith in the world, like understanding Mary’s place in Christianity. Others get to the heart of our faith, the most basic questions of all—why is life difficult for so many people? Why do people suffer? How do we reconcile that kind of pain and grief and suffering with a loving God?

Those are the questions that, no doubt about it, test our faith. But that is why we ask them, isn’t it? We are saying, “Here’s something I don’t understand; my understanding of God tells me one thing, but the reality of the world is something else. How can I reconcile these two?”

And here’s the thing--we are allowed, encouraged, even, to ask questions, to dig deeper, to look for the answers. That is, in fact, what we are supposed to be doing. The disciples asked Jesus questions all the time—“Teacher, how can it be that…” “Teacher, why did you say..” “What was the meaning of that parable, teacher?” Constant questions. Well, that is how the rabbis taught. They would lecture a bit on a topic, then the students, the disciples, would ask questions that were raised for them, and the rabbi would answer, which often led to more questions. They were exploring the topic together through questions.

And here’s why: a faith that asks questions is stronger than one that simply accepts. Someone who has been through difficult times and questioned their faith, wandered away for a time, maybe, but still has that faith—well, that faith is strong. The person with a questioning faith has tested her beliefs and understanding. She has pushed against the edges of her comfort zone, and developed some spiritual “muscle” from all that resistance training.

If we don’t look beneath the surface, we cannot grasp the whole of something. For example, a pond or lake seems quiet and still on the surface. But when you look more closely, when you got beneath that surface, you find some pretty amazing things, both beautiful and terrible. You will find snapping turtles snatching young frogs, and you will see beautiful lake plants; fish and birds and salamanders and all kinds of things. And to use another example—when you meet a person for the first time, you notice their appearance—taller or shorter, hair colour, eye colour maybe. In conversation, you learn where they live and maybe what they do for a living. But a person is more than those basic facts—perhaps they are kind, perhaps they are angry, perhaps they are disappointed in their life, maybe they are in a new relationship—but you don’t learn that in the first conversation, it takes a deeper relationship, more conversation—more questions. In the same way, all our issues of faith are deeper than the surface, more complicated than they may appear. If we do not wrestle with them and find our own path, then when a crisis comes, we are likely to lose faith. Like the seeds planted in rocky or shallow soil in Jesus’ parable, that faith may wither and die, but the seeds that root well—that is, reach down into the depths, finding what lies below the surface, are in deep soil, well-rooted and not easily destroyed.

The tested faith is stronger and wiser—it has looked into the depths of despair and sorrow and frustration, and turned back, understanding more of hope than it did before. Like a weightlifter’s muscle, the tested faith gets stronger and more supple with exercise and stretching. A faith that is not exercised and tested may be weak and frail, liable to fail at the first test.

So we question and we wonder and we dig deep into our faith, our spirituality. It is that very questioning and testing that grounds it and strengthens it.

Don’t be afraid to ask the questions—you should rather be worried if someone tells you not to ask questions. It’s OK to have doubts—God can take it! And in fact, those questions will lead you closer to God. So ask the questions, dig deep, explore! Find the answers to the questions you haven’t asked yet, look for God in unexpected places, dive below the surface of that lake, have those deeper conversations. Your questions may not be answered, but your spirit will be stronger. In all God’s names, amen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Five!

1. True or False: You can wear white shoes after Labor Day. (Please explain to me why!)
 Well, I was taught, growing up, that unless you were a medical professional, a bride, or a tennis player, white clothing was for summer only. I have no idea why—maybe because you can leave white clothes out in the sun to bleach them? I pretty much ignore that rule these days.
2. If "the dog days" are in August, when are "the cat days"?
Oh, that’s easy! The days between Christmas and New Year’s, when you cuddle up with your cat to read/listen/watch your Christmas presents and drink hot chocolate! In front of a fireplace, if possible.
3. Share a memory from your life of going back to school.
I always had mixed feelings. I actually liked school, mostly, and I liked all the bustle and organization of getting ready to go back. At the same time, I really liked the laziness of summer—getting up when I felt like it, spending whole days reading or playing Monopoly or hanging out at a friend’s house, the special stuff we did on summer weekends, like going to visit relatives or a special attraction like an arboretum or garden or some such (my mom and I are/were gardening geeks). So really, back to school was bittersweet.
4. My dad had a rhyme he used to tell us: "I eat my peas with honey; I've done it all my life. It makes the peas taste funny, but it keeps them on my knife!" What's the strangest use for honey you've ever heard of?
A facial mask and to preserve zoological specimens.
But apparently it has had many uses…
5. Post a picture from this summer that shows us one of your favorite memories.
This is from our Pride Festival service. 
BONUS: Summer gardens! Got one? What are you growing?

Not this year—no yard, not even a balcony or appropriate place for a window box…plus my cat loves to chew on green things, so not even a potted rosemary plant. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

“All Nations” Windsor Pride Fest Worship Celebration, August 9, 2014, Rev. Martha Daniels

Isaiah 56: 1 - 7
Thus says our God: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.  Happy is the human who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil.  Do not let the foreigner joined to God say, "The Holy One will surely separate me from God’s people"; and do not let the eunuch say, "I am just a dry tree."   For thus says our God: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,  I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.   And the foreigners who join themselves to the Holy One, to minister to God, to love the name of God, and to be God’s servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant-- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Mark 11:15-19
 Then Jesus and his disciples came to Jerusalem. And Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers."  And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.  And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

****
Good morning and happy Pride!  Welcome, all of you, to this worship celebration of the Windsor Pride Festival!

Will you pray with and for me? You who are, speak to us—grant us wisdom to understand, courage to act, and strength to keep on keeping on. May our words and our actions speak of your grace and reflect your love. In all your many names we pray, amen.

****
I love these two readings. Isaiah is so welcoming and warm, it was a comfort to me in the days when I wasn’t sure where I would end up, where I would be able to serve, if my call to serve God’s people had been a delusion, if there was anywhere I could live out that call with integrity. But always I came back to the final verse—“all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant-- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” For all peoples. Somehow, someway, I knew there would be a place for me—because God’s hosue—God’s true home—is one where everyone has a place. Family and reproduction was very important to Isaiah’s people—they wanted to be able to hold their own against the nations around them, and that mean population. So the eunuchs—people who could not procreate, for whatever reason—were disdained, and looked down upon—and therefore would feel they were “dry trees,” bearing no fruit, unproductive, a drag on the nation. And so God’s declaration that they will have a name better than many offspring—that is truly a revelation and a source of hope. This whole section of Isaiah is full of hope for those who feel hopeless, God promising good things to those who feel worthless. Even when we don’t feel productive or that we have anything to offer, we are still welcome in God’s realm, at God’s table of grace, in God’s house.

Matthew is a little tougher. We often think of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” who never spoke in his own defense at a capital trial—but this is a very different Jesus. He is taking no prisoners—he doesn’t hold back, either in word or action. He turns the tables over, he gets a whip and starts to use it, he uses brutal language to speak truth to power. But this too, is comforting, in spite of the violence. Why? Because Jesus is going to bat for people not like him. He was a Jewish adult male, with at least some Talmudic training. True, he is not a scribe or a priest, but he had every right to be there in the Temple, to be doing what he was doing. But he knew that others were not as privileged—they were poor and could not afford the sacrifices, or they were being gouged by the exchange rates—and even if those profits were going to the Temple, it was not right that they were made on the backs of people who were trying to follow the rules, and yet could never hope to be seen as righteous by those priests. A brief history lesson—the Jewish purity laws—for people to be seen as purified and in right relationship with God—required sacrifices. This were different depending on what someone was being cleansed from—sometimes a dove or a calf or sometimes grain. The animal sacrifices had to be perfect, so it was easier to get them at Temple, where they had been approved for sacrificial use than to try to bring a calf or dove from home. Also, only Temple coins could be spent in the Temple, so they needed to change the money brought with them into temple shekels in order to buy those animals for the sacrifice. End of history lesson! Jesus is objecting to the high fees charged for money changing and the cost of the animals for sacrifices. If a person was poor, it would be difficult for him or her to pay those prices. This is why Jesus is  calling it a den of robbers.  His anger is that people with a desire to be holy are prevented from doing so by the greed of others—and so he echoes Isaiah 56, that God’s house should be a house of prayer for all nations, for everyone.

And this is what is so beautiful about these verses--no one is turned away from God.  No one.  In Isaiah, God is inviting and including everyone into the realm; in Mark, Jesus is rebuking people who by their actions are keeping others from God’s realm, and repeating Isaiah’s message of welcome for everyone.

The reality is, we all are welcome in God’s realm

When have we felt left out, pushed aside, ignored, barred? I know everyone of us here, no matter your age, orientation, race, origin, ability or faith—all of us have at some point, for some reason, been told, thorough words or actions or even the law, that we are not good enough in some way. But all God’s good gifts are meant for all people, not just the ones who look like us, or speak like us, or live where we do, or love the way we love, or even worship God the way we do. In the book of the prophet Micah, God asks that we do justice and love mercy and be humble before the power of love in the universe. And this is not exclusive to any faith tradition—every one that I know much about directs kindness to the oppressed, mercy, and acknowledgement of a power greater than we are.  So not only the people we know, the people like us, but every person is welcome in God’s realm

That means you and me—every member of the LGBTTIQA community, we who so often have been told we cannot hear God speaking, we cannot be good parents, we cannot marry the person we love, who makes our heart sing; we who have been barred from God’s love so many times. It also means our sisters and brothers who are of another skin colour, or age or ability or nationality—and us again too, because we too are all ages, all colours, all abilities and nationalities. It means the people who have hurt us, who spread fictions about us, who gossip about us, who just don’t understand.

Every one of us here—you here in the chairs, you listening from your booths and around the edges of the plaza—every single one of us is beloved of God and invited to God’s realm. No one is ever turned away from God’s love. Some of us may feel we don’t need God’s love or that God doesn’t even exist. And that’s OK. If and when we open ourselves to the possibility of God’s existence and God’s love for us, God will welcome us. If we have been told by other people that we are sinful, or blasphemous, or evil, or just plain wrong; if we have internalised those messages telling us we are a huge mistake, a plague; if we have ever been afraid to reach out to that sense we have of something greater than us—whatever name we use—Grandfather, Grandmother, Creator of the Universe, Divine Source, Allah, Ground of our Being, Higher Power; if we believe we are unacceptable as we are, in our innermost self—that is not truth. We are not mistakes, we are not evil or sinful. The One who created us simply loves us. We are all welcome in God’s realm just as we are—there are no requirements of productivity or purity or wealth.


Remember this, my friends—God loves you, as you are, in spite of what you may have been told or perhaps even believe. God hates no one. God loves us all, as we are—in all our wonderful diversity of faith, colour, gender identity, origin, ability, sexual orientation, age, or anything else that is used to divide us. We are all God’s beloved children, and all are welcome in God’s house of prayer and in God’s realm. In all God’s many names, amen.

“What Does God Require From Us?” Hard Questions Series, July 27, 2014, Rev. Martha Daniels

Micah 6:6-8  With what shall I come before God and bow down before the Holy One? Shall I come with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will God be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? God has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Holy One require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

John 8:2-11  Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."  And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"  She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."

*****

Will you pray with me? God of Grace, open our hearts and spirits to your wisdom; may our speaking and our hearing be a blessing. In all your names, amen.

As we continue with our hard questions series, today we are looking at the idea of sin.  What is sin? How do we recognise it? How do we avoid it? Is it even real? How can we be free of sin—if we can be?

Sin is a very loaded word. So many things have been called sinful, so many different actions and beliefs and lifestyles—and even identities and individuals. Some of us may have been called sinful because of—well, lots of things. For some faith traditions, tattoos or divorce or the use of birth control or loving a person of the same gender are all sinful—to them, I am personally very sinful. It’s a hurtful word that has been used to separate some people from their faith community—because they had a child without being married, or they went through a divorce, or they wear clothing that is deemed inappropriate or because of the work they do, or because of who they love.

So what is a better definition of sin? I offer you this--sin is anything that separates us from God. Anything that violates what God calls us to do is sin. And that begs another question—what does God expect of us? Hear again the wonderful words of Micah: “God has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Holy One require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Justice, mercy, humility. Beautiful words, but how do we understand them in our own lives? How can we live those out? God expects these things, but what do they look like, in an everyday, real and concrete sense?

First, justice. Justice is fairness and equity, or making sure everyone has what they need and that no one takes from others what is not theirs. So injustice is one person or group taking something away from someone else or another group, or preventing them from getting something that is rightfully theirs. So it is obvious that theft—robbery and burglary—are injustice, because one person is taking another person’s property (camera, car, cash, etc.), but so is unfair income distribution, or violating personal covenants, because some people have what rightfully belongs to another, or have more than they need but not giving that excess to someone who needs it. Denying education to women, or access to civil rights is injustice—whole groups of people, whether women, the LGBT community, or ethnic minorities are kept from what is rightfully theirs—education, work, safety at home or in their community.  Justice, then, is the work of reversing all this—ensuring equal rights for everyone, working towards that goal in whatever way we can. We do justice on a personal level too—the integrity of our everyday lives, from not taking someone else’s lunch from the office refrigerator to awareness of the language we use and how it can hurt or divide. Anything that makes someone less than another is injustice; those who do justice seek to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and according to their needs.

Mercy is accepting each other as we are, allowing each person the dignity to be who they are, even allowing them to make what we may think are mistakes; it is caring for those who are hurting in any way. It means feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, supporting the ones who are vulnerable for whatever reason. It is knowing that you could walk away, but instead choosing to stay and help and support another person. It is a lack of judging another person who has made—or been offered—different choices than we had. That cuts both ways—sometimes it is easy to see how we judge someone who is homeless, but more difficult to see how we judge people who are wealthy.

Finally, walking humbly with God, or humility, is acknowledging that there is a power greater than ourselves in the universe, knowing that there is something larger and more powerful than we are. Humility is the opposite of arrogance, which assumes that we are the centre of the universe, of everyone else’s concern and care, and that nothing and no one matters more than we do. Humility recognises the value of each person, no matter who they are or seem to be; it does not mean thinking less of ourselves than we are worth, or treating ourselves badly, but understanding that we are all in this together and no one person is more important than any other.

Humility may be the most important of these, because when we are humble, we can recognise more easily how others need mercy and justice. So recognising the presence of God, being humble, is the first step.

What does God require of us? Mercy, justice, humility. Violating any of these is what is meant by sin—it separates us from God, we are not acting out of our best selves. So greed for example, which is one of the classic deadly sins, leads to taking from others, whether on a corporate level (such as poor working conditions that endanger the workers in order to increase profits), or on a personal level, like indulging oneself while denying the same things to one’s children, or even a legal level, such as giving one group rights that another is forbidden to enjoy—segregation, apartheid or marriage rights, anyone?

We all have sinned, by these definitions, because we are all human. We have not acted as we know we should—we have been arrogant or unjust or unmerciful. Please note that who we love is not a sin—whether our beloved is a person of the same gender, a different race or faith or of a different nationality.  We have all, at some point—probably many times—failed to live out of our best selves and not been merciful when we could have, or denied God’s power over us. We are indeed human, and fail even when we are trying so hard to do what is right.

That doesn’t mean we give up trying to do better. Like the accusing people in the reading from John today, we can acknowledge our errors, and turn away, to do better. Those people who wanted to stone the woman were guilty of injustice—because they were only attempting to punish her, not her partner; and of arrogance, or lack of humility, because they decided they could pass judgement on her, and they showed a lack of mercy in their insistence on her being punished. And when they realised that, they slunk away. But Jesus, while he shows mercy and humility and even justice to her, also does not let her off the hook. He accuses her of nothing, but he tells her to sin no more—he’s not making a judgement, he’s accepting the facts of her life, while at the same time, offering her an opportunity to change. “Go and sin no more.”

This being human thing is not easy; but this is a principle we can live by—do justice, love mercy, and show humility. That is what God requires of you.


In all God’s many names, amen.