Bible Readings and Devotion for May 12, 2020
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Devotion for May 12, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
Many years ago I lived in a different community. There was a restaurant, a café of sorts, in that community. At this café the servers were pleasant enough, and they did their jobs properly. There is one thing that most of them did that both drew me in and pushed me away. They were all about other people, but for the wrong reason. The thing they did was to gossip. They would talk among themselves in full view and clearly within earshot of the customers. Most of their talk was about the local gossip. There were tales of rude behavior, adultery, drunkenness, and the like. It was a struggle for me, for I was drawn in by their stories, yet I was bothered by it as well. Who knows how true their statements were? What were the consequences of their talk? In the end, I was worried what they said about me or my family when I wasn’t there.
Gossip is all about other people for the wrong reason. Gossip is our sinful words and conversations which do nothing to build up life. Gossip is putting our attention on what wrong or messed up thing another person may or may not really be doing. It never gets a person around to dealing with one’s own sin and broken behavior. I think that is likely why so many of us in this world have fallen into the deadly pit of gossip. We can talk up a storm about another person, and walk away with the illusions of feeling good about ourselves.
Our reading from John, chapter 8, is one of my most beloved passages of scripture. It is both a comfort and a challenge for us. The passage presents a scene in which some Pharisees bring a woman Jesus. They say that she was caught in the very act of adultery. Adultery, sexual relations between two people who are not married to each other and at least one of the people is married to someone else. In both Jewish and Christian understandings this is a sinful behavior. The Ten Commandments include a prohibition of adultery. In Leviticus 20:10, we are told the punishment for adultery, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.”
The Pharisees are pretty much insisting that Jesus, a respected teacher, give them the go ahead to kill the woman. Where the sinful man is at this moment we do not know. Maybe he is one of those demanding her death? These Pharisees were focused on the woman’s actions. Jesus turns this around and demands that they look squarely at themselves. He says in verse 7, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They were not expecting this. It was easy to tell about what wrong another person has done. It is painfully difficult to stop and look at what oneself has done wrong, but that is what Jesus wants us to do.
If we look honestly at what has gone awry in our lives we will truly have no time to gossip or focus on all the sin of another person. Martin Luther encourages a daily reflection on our lives and our sin. Here is what he writes about this in the Small Catechism in the section on Baptism:
What then is the significance of such a baptism with water?
It signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?
St. Paul says in Romans 6, “We were buried with Christ through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
How people are to be taught to confess
What is confession?
Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive the absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God himself and by no means doubt but firmly believe that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.
Which sins is a person to confess?
Before God one is to acknowledge the guilt for all sins, even those of which we are not aware, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. However, before the pastor we are to confess only those sins of which we are aware and which trouble us.
Which sins are these?
Here reflect on your walk of life in light of the Ten Commandments: whether you are father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, wasted, or injured anything.
Because of the joyful and loving action of God in Jesus, we have the love and forgiveness needed to do this. We are enlivened to reconnect with God, pray for forgiveness, and to respond to his mercy with faithfulness and obedience. In fact, that is essentially what Jesus says in the end of our passage. After all the accusers have dropped their rocks and are walking away, we have this conversation between the woman and Jesus:
“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.”
We are forgiven, not to continue in our sinful action or attitude, but to live the new life we can have in Jesus Christ. God has forgiven your sin. Go and sin no more. In this, keep your focus on the Lord and on doing his will, rather than being focused on the sin and bad behavior of others.
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, but always to your glory and the welfare of your people, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Copyright © 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.