Writing in the sand

(John 8.1-20 continued)
My Church, my denomination (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), only a small corner in the larger Church, yet insistently connected to the whole, is seized with pain. And much of the world, believer and unbeliever, is watching, pointing, shaking heads, cheering, jeering. It will make headlines. Pithy slogans on cable news. Slashing ink on newspapers. Then forgotten by most. But not forgotten by the people with whom I worship every week. Because now some will walk away from us, and the rest of us will need to sew where the fabric is torn. We will be the wounded body of Christ. We already are.

But the true Church has always been the wounded body of Christ. I think of Jesus writing on the ground, silent, discerning, while an accusing crowd circled around him and a trapped, accused woman, demanding to know what he would do with the law of Moses. Demanding what he would do with her? How would he vote?

I think of our presiding bishop today asking the crowd to remain seated after the results of a painful vote were announced, to be silent and pray, pray with a neighbor if desired. I, watching from afar, felt the silence stretch across many states into my room. I saw the prayer candle writing quietly in the air. Any in that Minneapolis crowd would have preferred Jesus tell them in person what to do with Moses’ law. Instead he has written the law on our hearts to search and then invited us to trust the Spirit has been working.

But many won’t trust that the Spirit was working at all. How can Jesus write in both yeas and nays? Perhaps because God’s ways are deeper, more multitudinous than our simple minds can express. I am proud of every single one in that Minneapolis auditorium that wrestled and prayed and voted the best way they knew. I trust God guided both yeas and nays today. I’m convinced God’s grace can be found in both, both in the accused woman and in the judging rabbis, both in the people who voted yea and the people who voted nay.

The litmus test for my denomination is not how we voted, but what we do in the silence with Jesus writing in the sand. We prayed God’s will be done. It does not stop with the vote. Will God’s will make us gentle and humble, grateful for God’s grace and a trusting determination to make a beautiful patchwork quilt from the yeas and nays? Or will we hurl judgments at one another and divide ourselves into yet smaller little corners? I urge quietness and prayerful silence for awhile, maybe even a little writing in the sand. I know some of us are breathing in fresh air and ready to run. Yet God’s direction doesn’t end with the assembly on Sunday, and we still need to be listening, as if we were standing and watching Jesus write in the sand for a very long time, enough time to hear God’s larger will in our yea and nay hearts that still worship together.


  1. Thank you for humble and patient words.