Forthcoming Events Services Thursday 7th April 9.30am, Stations of the Cross followed by Said Mass at 10.00am. Sunday 10th April Palm Sunday will be a joint Benefice service at St Peters commencing at 10.30am.
Coffee Morning As usual from 10.00am on Tuesday, every-one welcome.
Sermon for Lent 5 Two women were brought in to stand before a young king. They were prostitutes and they shared a house. Both had given birth and the son of one of them had died. Now they were both trying to claim the living son as their own. This was in the days before DNA testing, so there was no conclusive proof as to who was really the mother. It was one person’s word against the other’s, but the king had to make a judgement on this. Bring a sword, he said, and cut the boy in two. Each woman could have half of him. The immediate reaction of the two women told him the truth. One of them agreed with the verdict whilst the other begged that the boy might live, even if the other woman was allowed to keep him. There was no doubt as to who was the true mother. You may well by now have realised that the king was Solomon. The story is told in the first book of the Kings. This was just one example of the ways by which King Solomon earned a reputation for wisdom. Those who first heard the account of the woman caught in adultery may well have been reminded of this passage about Solomon. Although the circumstances were different, Jesus, like Solomon, found himself on the horns of a dilemma and it wasn’t immediately obvious how he would resolve it. The Jewish religious leaders tried hard to catch Jesus out and here they were trying to set him up once again. Having caught a woman out in an adulterous affair, they wanted to know whether Jesus would uphold the law of Moses. These men were unlikely to stone the woman because the Jews were forbidden under Roman law from applying the death penalty. Only the Roman authorities could do that, which was why the Te mple authorities would have to appeal to Rome to put Jesus himself to death. It seemed that Jesus had to choose either to condemn the woman and to fall foul of Roman law, or otherwise to declare her forgiven and to be seen not to observe the Mosaic law. Either way he would be trapped. So Jesus takes a different approach. If the woman had been caught out in adultery, it seems fair to say that the men who brought her in had been caught in the act of hypocrisy. The challenge that Jesus gives them seems to cut through their judgemental and self-righteous attitudes: “If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, beginning with the eldest, they walk away. We see a striking contrast between the condemnation offered by the religious elite and the compassion and mercy of Jesus: “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you – go away and don’t sin any more.” Jesus knows that sin is real and that it can have destructive effects in our lives. He does not condone sin or try to minimise it, but he meets the sinner with God’s redeeming love. The woman is set free from her accusers and from the burden of guilt and is able to go away and begin a new life. The words of Jesus hold up a mirror to us too. This is not a message of condemnation for the ways in which we have stumbled or lost our way. It is a reminder that when we point a finger at other people, we have three fingers pointing back at us. It is so much more tempting to project our own darkness onto other people than it is to recognise it in ourselves and to bring it before God so that he can shine his light and warmth into it. Pride is the obstacle that prevents us from seeing ourselves as less than perfect and in need of forgiveness. Let’s remind ourselves that our attitudes and our words as well as our actions have consequences for ourselves and for others. We don’t have to pick up stones to throw, because our words can be damaging enough. Jesus shows us a better way, in which we leave behind our human judgements and instead look to Jesus as the source of forgiveness and new life. The woman in the gospel expected to be condemned but instead of this she encounters forgiveness and grace. Lent, especially Passiontide, is a wonderful opportunity to seek these gifts for ourselves in the sacrament of reconciliation. It is never easy facing up to our own sinfulness, but the freedom that lies on the other side of this is far greater than our own wounded pride. No one has the right to judge another person when they themselves are in need of forgiveness. God gives us the channels of grace in which we find freedom from the tendency to judge and to be condemned ourselves. How wonderful to hear those words of Jesus echoing through our own lives: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”