Acceptance from God

Grace and peace to you through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Growing up my family and I lived in small town Kansas.  Long time ago it was full of shopping centers, a horse track, and several grocery stores.  The town was booming, but right before the time I was born, the town hit its peak and quickly started to go downhill.  The shopping centers were vacant and later destroyed, the horse track closed, the population was a quarter what it used to be, and all of the grocery stores closed, except for one.  Aldi, the last remaining store that held everything you would need, but as a kid there was only one aisle that I ever wanted to go down; the candy aisle.

As a child the candy aisle was massive.  Endless bags of sugary goodness.  Oh course my mom being the loving mother that she was and still is never let me get anything from the candy aisle, which most likely saved my teeth and her sanity.  Oh by that temptation never ended, I desired that candy more than anything.  So one day, the stealthy child I was, accidentally got separated from my mother, ran across the store, to……. the candy aisle.  I had finally made it.  Knowing that my mother would soon realize that I was missing and would soon find me I grabbed a few individual pieces of candy, shoved them in my pockets and quickly ran back to my mother before she knew I was gone.  Looking back I am sure I was pretty close to her the whole time, seeing as the store wasn’t that big, but she took her eyes off me for a second and that candy was mine.

We left the store and headed home and knowing what I did was wrong I hid the candy in my dresser hoping that she wouldn’t find it, but a few short hours later she did.  Guess I wasn’t so stealthy after all.  Just to teach me a lesson, my mother took me by the hand, grabbed the candy, and drove me back down to the store and made me confess to the general manager that I stole the candy.  Embarrassing to say the least.  I don’t remember exactly what he said when I confessed but I will never forget the manager’s reaction to my confession.  He said something to the extent of, “Son, thanks for your honesty.  You are forgiven, in fact, keep what you have and have another.”  Not quite the result I thought I would receive.   This grace and forgiveness that I was shown by the manager that day may not have saved my life, but it saved my rear end from my mother.

Where my biggest concern was my embarrassment and owning up to the truth, our woman in our story today faced a much more serious fate.  This woman was a sinner, caught in the act of adultery and thus seen as unclean and one of the worst of the worst in their society.  According to the book of Leviticus her sin means that she should suffer death by stoning.  Death by stoning that is what she deserves, because after all she is a sinner, and no longer fit to live, a disgrace to society, it is best to get rid of her forever.  To follow through with her punishment she was drug out into public thrown into a corner and as they were about to throw that first stone, they saw Jesus sitting there drawing in the sand.  I can hear them thinking, “well there is Jesus, the teacher that knows everything, let’s see if he know what to do with her.”  Jesus, knowing that it was a trap, continued to draw in the sand as if nothing was going on, but when He was asked again he stood up to address the crowd that was starting to form before him.  I would expect this loving Jesus that we know to stand before the crowd demanding that they stop their persecution and walk away after he gave some jaw dropping evidence to support love verses hate, but He doesn’t.  Jesus never once tells them to leave the women alone, instead He proclaimed that the person in the crowd that had no sin could and should throw the first stone.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we deserve to be stuck in that corner with that woman; trembling with fear for the punishments of the sins that we have committed.  The same book that instructs that this women should be put to death also tells us that we are in sin when we use the Lord’s name in vain, breed two different types of animals together, plant two different types of plants in the same area, and my favorite that will count almost everyone out of perfection, wear two different types of material.  On top of those four sins we can’t forget; idolatry, lying, stealing, hate, distrust, lust, coveting, wrath, pride, and evil thoughts.  The list goes on and on.

I can see this women standing there, scared, crying, and trembling as the realization hit her that she was about to die for her sin, and then……… relief, relaxation, and comfort, as the mobs stones fell to the ground one by one.  Jesus, who went back to drawing in the sand stood back up and looked at this women knowing what she had done and instructed her to go home and sin no more.  Jesus, the teacher that knew the law just as good if not better than everyone else in the mob, let her walk free from her crime.  Jesus accepted this woman for who she was even though she was a sinner.  His love for this woman reached through her sins and mistakes and saw her for the person she truly was.  She was a beautiful creation of God.

Although Christ told her not to sin, He knew that for this woman to maintaining perfection would be near impossible and likewise Christ knows that we are going to sin, our perfection is near impossible.  It is a given, but God wants us to do our best at modeling the perfect image that God placed before us; Jesus Christ.  We do our best knowing that when we do fall a little short and sin, that God’s unconditional love is there for us and accepts us for who we are.  It doesn’t matter what you have done or will do, Christ is accepting of all people, even the worst of the worst.  Even though we are broken sinful beings, it’s through our baptismal waters, that we are accepted as perfect, beautiful creations of God.

I was on Facebook the other day and I was scrolling down the screen I saw an update from the news station back home.    They reported that a pastor from Kansas, Fred Phelps had passed away.  As a Kansan this struck close to home.  Not only because it is my home state but because my father works with one of his daughters.  In just a few short hours of it being posted, just over 700 people liked the status and commented on it saying quote “I think this is awesome news” and “Good riddance.”  I will not stand here and say that I agree with the message his church, the Westboro Baptist, proclaimed, but what I will say is that we have become that mob saying that we should picket his funeral, and he and his family are the woman scared in the corner for her life.  Christ loved and accepted this sinful woman through her mistakes, and likewise I believe Christ loves and accepts ALL creation through their wrongdoings.  Although it may be tough, we should be accepting to ALL people regardless of their past actions.   By claiming that we should picket and protest a funeral we are refusing to show the acceptance that Christ would had given.

We are God’s Church so we should model God’s image of acceptance through our love of others.  If it is something as small as opening the door with a smile, or the forgiveness a child thief stealing candy from a grocery store, we are accepting others.  Or maybe something much larger.  Something as large as Christ standing up for a stranger who was in danger and saving her life from an angry mob, we are accepting others.  We are able to spread God’s love throughout the world.

We are not all the same, nor will we ever be.  We all have flaws and failures yet we have been accepted into Christ’s Chruch, and we are to model this love, compassion, and acceptance, which was shown to this sinful woman. This acceptance is for all creation regardless of their flaws and mistakes.  When this happens, God can shine throughout the world, reassuring others that they are loved and accepted by a very loving God.  Amen.

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