Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

My bishop once appointed me to The Investigation Comm. The job of the committee was to investigate ministers charged with inappropriate behavior. I protested the appointment. I told the bishop I wouldn’t be any good at it. He said, “I want you on the committee because every sinner should have at least one friend.” He knew I could identify with sinners because I’ve had so much experience at it.
            If Jesus had been more directly available, I’m sure Bishop Hodapp would have appointed him to the committee. Jesus was infamous for being a friend to sinners.
            Remember that time when the woman was caught in adultery? The people dragged her before Jesus, as sort of a test case. “The Bible says we should stone her to death,” they said. “What do you say? Are you for the Bible or against it?”
            Jesus didn’t answer. Instead he bent down and wrote in the sand with his finger. But they kept at him. “Come on. You claim to know everything. Give us an answer. Are you going to be a Bible-believer or not?”
            He straightened up and said, “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” Too often we stop the story there, but after the mob members had slunk off, he said to the woman, “Go, and sin no more.”
            I think this is the only story in the Gospels where Jesus writes, and we don’t know what he wrote. I suspect he was writing love letters in the sand, love letters for that poor woman, and for the people who despised her, too. Maybe it wasn’t words he wrote. Maybe he just drew a circle. The mob was drawing a line in the sand to keep the woman out. Jesus drew a circle to take her in.
            Sand writing is very temporary. As the song says, “How you laughed when I cried, each time I saw the tide, take our love letters from the sand.” [1] As soon as the tide changes or the wind comes up, the words written on the sand are gone. That’s why Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more. Each sin—each time we break a relationship with God or the world or another person or with our own true self—requires a new act of forgiveness. His love letter in the sand was impermanent, good only until wiped away by the next sin.
            Love is so impermanent, yet it is the only thing that lasts. “Love is the only rational act.” [2]
            Jesus wrote love letters in the sand twice in this story. The first was to save the woman from condemnation and humiliation and death, and to save her accusers from their hatred and fear. The second time was to save her from sin. The reminder to sin no more is as loving as the refusal to condemn.
            When I told my family I was on the Investigation Committee, teen daughter Katie said, “What if you have to investigate one of your good friends, like Jack?” That was a good question. Could I really do it? The next time we were with Jack and Joan, I asked Katie’s question. “Don’t worry about an investigation,” Joan said. “Just tell me and I’ll take care of it.”
            That method works, too.

John Robert McFarland

1] 1931. Lyrics by J. Fred Coots and music by Nick Kenny and Charles Kenny.

2] Morrie Schwartz, of Tuesdays with Morrie.

 The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where people are Yoopers [UPers] and life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

You don’t have to bookmark or favorite the CIW URL to return here. Just Google Christ In Winter and it will show up at the top of the page.

I tweet, occasionally, as yooper1721

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