By: Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
We continue our Via Transformativa theme of “You Crack Me Up!” During this quarter, we’ll be exploring how the Holy “cracks” us open to reveal the true divine, spirit that dwells within each of us.
This week, we explored how seeing the world through the eyes of the Holy can crack open that egoic shell and help us emerge into our true, divine self.
From the Hebrew Scriptures: Exodus 23: 1-5, 9: You know the heart of an alien …
From the Jesus Story: John 8: 3-11: Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone
From A Course in Miracles, Chapter 19: It can indeed be said the ego made its world on sin.
Song used in the sermon: In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
In traditional Christian teaching, today’s Jesus story is read as a lesson in guilt. The crowd had every reason to stone the woman they had found committing adultery. In fact, the law said that this was, indeed, the proper punishment for such a crime. In the minds of the crowd, they were not only doing God’s will by stoning her for her sin, but they were following the proper law laid out for such a crime.
Nothing, of course, is said of the man who committed adultery, so misogyny isn’t really a new development in the course of our history – but I digress.
The scribes and the Pharisees – like many of modern religious leaders – knew the law was on their side, but they also set up this spectacle for Jesus in bad faith. They knew he knew the law, so if he told them they were wrong to stone her, they knew they would have him trapped breaking the law and they would have the excuse they needed to arrest him. The believed it was a sure win for them.
But, Jesus doesn’t deal in win-lose scenarios. Instead, like he always did, he turned this situation inside-out and on its head, and contrary to how this passage is traditionally taught, he didn’t use guilt to do it. When he said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone,” he was not, as is tradition teaches, trying to shame the mob into self-reflection about their own sins. Instead, he was lifting the veil of the illusion. He was telling them how the trick had entranced them – and the best part is, they got it.
Follow me, now, because we’re going to wander into some deep, uncharted theological waters. The traditional reading is right when it teaches that the crowd dropped their stones because they realized they were no better than this woman – but not because they believed they were equally guilty. Instead, in this moment, their eyes were opened in love and they saw her as innocent and in turn saw themselves as innocent. This is the real miracle! They had their perception changed! Not through guilt but through love because Jesus allowed them to see this woman through his eyes, to see her as he saw her, not guilty of anything, but as an innocent and beloved child of God.
If we’re willing to see this story differently – to allow the miracle of a new perspective – then I believe this story has a lot to teach us about how we are to live in the world. We are to look into the eyes of Jesus, as these people did on that day, and see the reality of this world that we are all one, all beloved and innocent, and without sin.
That is not to say we do not miscreate in the world. We often use our free will to hurt ourselves and others but none of those things will condemn us to an eternal hell – which is the traditional idea around sin. Instead, those misdeeds put us in an immediate hell. They trap us in the illusion that guilt and sin are real and our belief – our faith – in that illusion does indeed torture us.
We make the choice between heaven and hell in every moment. When we choose to be in hell, it’s because we’ve made a mistake – and those mistakes can be corrected.
The ego, however, “has made its world on sin” as A Course in Miracles says and seeks to keep us trapped in that illusion: “For sin has changed creation from an idea of God to an ideal the ego wants; a world it rules, made up of bodies, mindless and capable of complete corruption and decay. If this is a mistake, it can be undone easily by truth. Any mistake can be corrected, if truth be left to judge it.”
This means that we can escape the ego’s illusion because redemption is available in every moment. We can forgive others and ourselves, because while the damage created by our mistakes in this bodily world may seem all too real, in the realm of the spirit, we all remain innocent, beloved thoughts in the mind of God – that one consciousness.
This is what those people saw as they surrounded that woman with their stones. They no longer saw the illusion of sin. They saw the world through Jesus’ eyes which only sees love and innocence. At the sight of this truth, they dropped their stones – not out of fear or guilt, but because of love.
“It is impossible to have faith in sin, for sin is faithlessness,” the Course tells us. “Yet it is possible to have faith that a mistake can be corrected.”
Hear the good news this morning, Jubilants, you are not sinners in the hands of an angry God. You are innocent spirits in the hands of a loving and forgiving God that gently opens our Holy eyes and corrects all of our mistakes through the truth of love.
Here’s your assignment this week: I invite you to remember your place in this world – not a sinner in the hands of an angry God, but as an innocent thought in the mind of God, held, loved and joined forever in union with the Holy and all of creation. How you live that out in this world is by being willing to see the world differently – to see other human beings as holy and innocent – a source of eternal light, no matter how their ego tries to shield that light. We live out this knowledge that we are innocent by extending our love to everyone, and dropping any stone of judgment we may be tempted to throw. When you can drop your stones of judgment, Jubilants, not out of guilt but out of love, that’s when the whole world gets to say: “Oh, Yeah!”