Writing in the Dirt

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 78:1-39 (Morning)
Psalm 78:40-72 (Evening)
Gen. 26:1-6, 12-33
Heb. 13:17-25
John 7:53-8:11

Writing in the Dirt

I often think of these morning reflections as a virtual substitute for a gathering of folks trying their best to understand the Scriptures. It’s almost as if we’re getting up early and meeting together before we hurry off to work. We read a passage and then someone says a few words and we listen and nod, maybe say, Amen. It’s kinda nice.

I imagine us reading the account of a woman caught in the act of adultery and used as bait to trap Jesus. I can hear (as I have often heard) someone say, Oh this is one of my favorite stories in the gospels. We nod and agree ’cause this is a good one: a powerless, guilty person with no way out is saved by Jesus with wisdom and mercy. We can relate.

And I can’t help but think maybe I’d use the opportunity to say, Yeah, but there is another version of this story:

The woman is there, cowering before her accusers, Jesus is bent down writing with his finger in the dirt, and he looks up to those who are ready to kill her and says, “Let the one with no sin cast the first stone,” and everyone stops. But then there’s a commotion in the back as an old woman pushes her way to the front with a rock in her hands and she throws it as hard as she can! And Jesus stands up and says, “Mom! You’re not helping!”

I might be the only one laughing, but I do laugh because I think that old joke is pretty funny. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing that gets a kick out of Mother Mary having no sin and being more than willing to exact justice. Maybe I’m avoiding a truth about myself: I am so ready to pick up a stone when I see someone mess up. When I read this story in John’s gospel, I compare myself to the woman who’s been caught. (“Thank you, God, for your mercy and wisdom!”) When I experience this story in my day-to-day? With my family? Or co-workers? –I’m one of those men standing there with a rock in my hands. I’m so ready to condemn anyone who just can’t get it right. I wanna push my way up to the front and throw that rock as if I’m as sin-less as the Virgin Mary.

I don’t know if you’re nodding and agreeing with me since we’re not in the same room. Maybe not. But if we were in the story, standing close enough to Jesus, I wonder what we’d read written in the dirt?

Written by Troy Schremmer

Troy works with preschool age children as an enrichment teacher in music and movement. He and his wife Jonny are both Theatre Directors for the NWA Prison Story Project.

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