Sunday, 3 September 2017

Dust and Ashes

 At dawn Jesus appeared again in the temple courts,
where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them.
 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman
caught in adultery….              John 8: 2-3

I can taste the dust and dirt.
Manhandled through the Temple gates
Pushed forward,
I fell to the ground
Dust clouding up – grit in my eyes
The taste of ashes in my mouth

I thought I couldn’t get much lower
Lying on my back
Day or night
I was wrong
I see only the feet of the crowd
But they can all see me

Hands pull me up
To stand before them all
Clothes dishevelled
barely decent
Shame weighs my eyes down
“Caught in adultery”
The words ring out around the Temple Courts
My life of shame
Lies now in the dust and ashes
But not apparently for long
“The Law of Moses commands - stone such women”
“What do you say?”

This public show – it seems - is not just about me
Something bigger is happening
Beyond my understanding

But for me - the end has come
The end of a miserable, damaged life
A life that is no life
These men are right
I am a sinner
I deserve the full measure of justice
The full punishment of a just God
According to the Law of Moses:  Death
I wish I was still down in the dust and ashes
Where I belong

There’s silence
Just my ragged breathing
My eye is caught by movement
A finger writing in the dust
A bent figure getting his hands dirty

And then -
“Let anyone without sin throw the first stone”

Still - silence
Why does no one move?
Why no sound of justice?

What are these righteous men waiting for?
I’ve always known what I am
The Law of Moses makes it plain -
Satisfy the hunger of the Law
Finish this

The finger moves
Writing in the dirt
I cannot see the words
But others do
The world hold its breath

Then, at last – movement
Not stones flying towards me
But feet moving away
First one, then another, then several

Then no more
I dare glance up
The crowd has gone, vanished
As quietly as a morning mist

I look into the eyes of the writer
He smiles
Not a leer
But the smile of a friend, a brother
“Has no one condemned you?” he asks
I look round
“No one, Sir”
“Then neither do I condemn you”

This was not to be death
But new life
This was not the end
But a new beginning

“Go now and leave your life of sin”
Leave the old ways
Leave the shame and guilt
Leave the damage done to you
By so many men
And the damage done by you
to so many wives
step away
take nothing with you
imagine a new life without all this
God’s good life
as it’s meant to be lived
fall in step with a God who will show you
what love really is

“Go now and leave your life of sin”
“Sir, my life is dust and ashes
I am dead
Show me how to live again.”

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