Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jesus' Agenda of Radical Transformation

Pastor David Wendel, assistant to the Bishop of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), has produced an Advent devotional, which you can download here. The Bible verses are drawn from the daily lectionary appointed for the Advent season. Today's devotion is really worth taking the time to read:

Wednesday of the Week of Advent II
Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.” –John 7:53-8:1

There are those in Christianity today who celebrate what is called “radical hospitality.” They have read the Scriptures and convinced themselves that the Lord Jesus Christ was radically hospitable, welcoming all people, regardless. In a sense this is absolutely true. He spoke with all people—those who thought themselves righteous and those who knew they were terrible sinners. There was no one Jesus wouldn’t speak with, sit with, or engage in conversation. We wouldn’t rightly call this “hospitality,” but love, kindness, mutual respect and regard for all God’s created children. We do well in life and in our congregations to have that same love, kindness, respect and regard for all people—even the greatest sinners!

The mistake people make, however, is in thinking that Jesus welcomes even the greatest sinners without confronting their sin. In our reading for today, Jesus is in the Temple in Jerusalem, teaching. And the Pharisees bring to him a woman caught in adultery, asking the Master what ought to be done with her, as the Law of Moses commands that she be stoned to death. In response, Jesus answers with some of the most memorable words ever spoken, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” And all walk away, for they were all sinners. And does Jesus now say, “Nice to meet you— have a good day”? Does Jesus now say, “Go and keep on living as you have been living—in adultery”? No—he says, “Go, and do not sin again.”

This is certainly not radical hospitality. This is not acceptance of the woman, regardless of her sin. This is not welcome for the sinner, come as you are—remain as you are. Rather, Jesus offers radical transformation. Jesus isn’t about issuing judgments and condemnations, so much as calling people to life-changing transformation, as a result of their encounter with him.

Lord Jesus, as you come to us in Word and Sacrament, turn our hearts and transform our lives that we may go and sin no more. Amen.

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