John 8:1-11 CEB
We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. Often, our black spot, the thing that condemns us all is collective sin. I define collective sin differently than many others. Collective sin is when the sin becomes acceptable and doing what is right is punishable. It is in collective sin martyrs arise who lose everything for the sins of others. This is why we should raise up these select people willing to lose everything for the sake of what is right, while at the same time crying out for the injustice that they lost to begin with. Collective sin is far more dangerous than individual sin because it causes good people to do bad things. When the world needs someone to stand up and speak the truth the collective urges the person to sit down and shut up or the price could be dire. Collective sin destroys what is good, corrupts what is right, and hides what needs to be brought out in the open. And we are all covered in it. There is no way to remove the stain of collective sin, unless... unless we are willing to be the one to give up everything for the sake of everyone else.
Jesus was confronted with the collective sin of the day. The temple had too much power and all the wrong kind. It was right for Jesus to take time to teach those who wanted to be taught. Perhaps the Priests were jealous of Jesus getting all the attention. Perhaps they were fearful. Maybe they were both. No matter what the Priests were thinking they find a woman guilty of adultery and drop her in the middle of this group, a group gaining something from Jesus' teaching up until that point. (Ever thought about how the teachers of the law found this woman so easily. It is almost as if they had her in their back pocket the whole time to use her when they saw fit. I repeat, they used her. They never helped her. Not directly, at least.)
There was so much wrong with the situation. First, there are the religious leaders using a person like a pawn in their mind games with Jesus. Second, there is the crowd, silent. Too silent. Finally, the good news, the teaching, is done. No one learns anymore after this moment. Remember, everyone disperses. Only the woman and Jesus stand at the end. I have no idea what Jesus was scribbling in the dirt, but that is exactly what I would be doing if I was super upset and I was trying to remain calm and collected. I would doodle. I would fold a piece of paper. I would rub my face. Something. So much is ruined because collective sin takes hold and destroys it.
We suffer from the problem today of needing someone to condemn. We openly, without any remorse place this person in the middle of the circle and raise our rocks to kill. Yes, they are guilty. Every crime we are putting before them is completely and honestly true. The problem is, we are all guilty. We all deserve to stand in the middle and face the stones and rocks. Choosing a scapegoat to take our collective sin has never solved the problem. It only allows us to ignore the problem for a little while longer. While we ignore the problem more good is destroyed, right is corrupted, and truth hidden. The problems become worse.
It is with no easy heart I tell you exactly who we have put in the middle of the circle today: George Zimmerman. We should be having a conversation about race relations. We should be attempting to restore the divide which has never been fully healed. Instead the conversation has been stopped. The lessons have gone mute and Zimmerman has been put in the middle of the circle for us to condemn. We live in a world today where the collective has named his sin, and we are the punish him. Stone him. Kill him.
But Jesus wouldn't say we should or shouldn't punish Zimmerman. Instead Jesus would say, "Let the one without sin cast the first stone." It is not the one without Zimmerman's sin. No. It is the person without sin. Sin, that which separates us from God's love and one another, melts over and bleeds into multiple areas.
This issue is deeper than the Stand Your Ground Law. Racism is wider than one man. We should see what we are doing. As angry, hurt, betrayed as we feel, it is wrong to put our sins on this one man. It might even sting to imagine Zimmerman as the sinner in the middle. The person in the middle is always someone you feel uncomfortable letting go. The person in the middle is always someone who causes you to feel the rock drop soundly in your heart when you are asked to examine yourself before you exact punishment on this person.
I hear both sides. He's innocent. He's guilty. The truth lies in between. We are all guilty. The answer lies in Jesus' final words: “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?” She said, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.” If we can put down our rocks and choose to not condemn Zimmerman, neither will Jesus condemn us. We cannot change what has happened, but we can go forward and try not to do it again.
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Matthew 26:26-30 CEB
You would never know this but I struggle with Fig Tree Christian all the time. I wrestle with my thoughts in prayer. I constantly bring my questions about what the next step is to God. Most importantly, I wonder what the heck I am doing and how I am going to do it!
So one of my humongous prayers was related to communion. Now, if you are part the Christian Church tradition, whether that's the Independent Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, or Church of Christ, communion is key. Every time you gather as a worshiping community you have communion. Fig Tree Christian, as non-church like as it is, is a congregation in formation within the Christian Church, (Disciples of Christ.) We are on the Georgia Disciples website as a congregation in formation. Fig Tree was celebrated at the General Assembly last week as a congregation in formation. Yet.... we do not have communion and I have no idea what communion would look like in this format! Even posing the question, what would Jesus do if he had the internet at his disposal has left little to no insight in regards to communion.
That was until I was sucker punched in the stomach with a blog posted last week:
The Myth of Extending the Table by Anderson Campbell
It is a really good read and it hit me hard. I knew it was something important to my personal faith journey when, this morning, I came across it for the fourth time! Even though it was never Campbell who sent me the link nor do I even know the man, I wanted to email him this morning and tell him, "Hey, I get it. Can you please stop beating this message into me?" But, it hit different this morning. It hit in a way where it was a K.O. and I saw it with another perspective. The first three times I saw it for what it was. You cannot just pull up chairs to an already established table. The "new" person is still the outsider no matter how much you want their voice to count, or how much you want them to be equal at the table. That was dramatic enough when someone like me, who professes an open table where everyone is invited, realizes an open table is really only as open as the community sitting around it. Even if the outsider is invited in, if the table isn't rebuilt for inclusion, it is still excluding them. And, as I wrote on my personal facebook page:
Three times I realized the table becomes exclusionary the minute it is set for guests. Every Sunday we limit the table the second we come to it. No. That wasn't true either. The table is limited way before then. The table is limited when the community serving and worshipping at it decide what it is going to look like and builds it. So many churches decide the table in the beginning. The fourth time I saw the post it hit me. Jesus waited to build the table at the end, not the beginning.
Jab. Jab. Jab. Right hook. K.O. Oh, it got me good. What I'm going to say next is going to sound crazy coming from a fourth generation Disciple of Christ. Brace yourself.
Jesus built the table through the journey. As he invited the disciples, and others, to join him he was building the table. As he healed and taught he was building the table. It was only as Jesus' journey was coming to a close and the real work was about to begin the table was finally set and communion happened. Baptism first. Communion last. Fig Tree isn't at a stage to begin communion because we are still building. I suggest any new congregational start should refrain from communion. Walk Jesus' path to grow and learn. Build the table with teaching and healing. Once that is done. Once a congregation is no longer in formation, celebrate with communion. Otherwise you are jumping into something before it is ready. I would say the same is true with congregations going through renewal and redevelopment. The table has to be dismantled and rebuilt. Stop communion until the community knows who and what they are. Otherwise you are never truly in redevelopment because you are still serving communion built at a table meant for a congregation 10, 20, 50 years ago. See where I am? See how huge this is for a Disciple who yearns for weekly communion?
The table is always limited. We cannot change that. Yet, if we are willing to build the table correctly, from the journey, and not just throw it together at the beginning, we will only be excluding those who are not there. We will have a place for everyone who wants to participate. Fig Tree Christian does not have communion yet because we haven't finished building the table. As we grow and learn we will move from a congregation in formation to a worshipping body of believers. Pray with us as we try to understand what that is.
It was Saturday morning in Panama City, Florida. I had arrived three days before with my husband, children, and my in-laws. Every morning we waited until 9:00am to get into the pool located just outside our back room. I wondered why we waited until 9. Across from the pool was a dilapidated old sign which said the pool opened at 8am. Why were we waiting until 9am? I just didn't know. Then Saturday morning came. We all rose early because my toddler woke extra early waking the whole motel room. My husband informed me everyone was just waiting for 9am to hit so we could get into the pool. That was when I finally revealed the sign I had been staring for the past half week. He followed by pointing out a newer sign at the far side of the pool that showed the pool opened at 9am. How did I miss that? I just didn't know.
Listening in on our conversation that morning was the pool guy, quietly cleaning while we talked. I was back in the room he turned his attention to the others and said, "The pool is clean if you want to go in." So at 8:15am, 45 minutes before we were technically allowed to go in and 15 minutes after I thought we had permission, we went to the pool. Oh it was fun. No one dared to enter with us. Kids begged their parents. We saw at least a dozen, sitting on their back porch staring at us. They would turn to their parents and ask to swim but the parents told their kids we were breaking rules. They had to follow the rules to be better than us rule breakers. For 45 minutes the pool belonged to only us. It was glorious.
It made me wonder about the bible. (Which isn't a stretch for me, everything eventually goes back to faith and God when my mind is involved.) Our biblical understanding typically comes in three forms. None of these forms are completely wrong and none are completely right. They are just something to think about.
So I guess that is what I learned. Just be more open. Maybe we will teach someone something new through our openness. Maybe we will learn something new by being open
2 Kings 5:1-14 CEB
An Israelite girl. This entire story hinges on the actions of one girl. A girl ripped from her homeland and put into slavery. A girl who probably witnessed death and loss first hand. The comfort and future existence of Naaman, the Arminian, rests in the hands of this girl. She sets the whole story into motion, and during every step it is almost undone by nearly everyone.
Unlike most who read this miracle and see everyone living happily ever after, I feel this is one of the tales that doesn't end well. Follow me and I will explain.
This brings me to the point for today. Every and any person has the possibility to be a player in God's master plan, or to be blessed by God's grace. There is a possibility part of God's plan in the healing of Naaman was the release of this Israelite girl. Even thousands of years separated from this girl, she deserves for someone to cry out for her. So many characters in the bible deserve our attention, even for just a short meditation. They deserve more than just to be relegated to the part of the pawn in God's plan.
All I am suggesting is to heighten our awareness to the small voices in the bible. In turn, it will help us hear those small voices in real life. The small voices in the world is where we meet God's need. It is in meeting God's need the real miracles can occur.
This meditation is part of a synchroblog with The Despised Ones on the topic of solidarity. If you would like to read other posts about this topic check out the Facebook Page: The Despised Ones.
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