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The Church in the Dirt

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*Adapted from a sermon preached at Pilgrims in the Park in Bryan, Texas on March 22, 2015.

 

The Pharisees caught a man and woman fucking. Under the religious law of the time, fucking outside of marriage was a capital offense. So the Pharisees brought the woman and slung her in the dirt at the feet of Jesus.

 

Notice, I said the woman. Where in the fuck was the man? The Pharisees were a bunch of pampered religious leaders who led with their own prejudices. Sound familiar? How many of you have ever felt rejected by traditional churches? With nowhere else to go, you are out here meeting in the dirt. The Pharisees stand all around you in judgment. The men and women represent the United Methodist Church, Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ and many other religious bodies. In their arrogance, the Pharisees have slung you out of their churches and into the dirt. Though they can’t legally kill you, they treat you as if you are dead. This is the nature of being a church slung in the dirt. The good news is that you have landed right at the feet of Jesus.

 

When Jesus saw the woman, he got down in the dirt with her and started writing on the ground.

 

I have no question the woman was lower than whale shit. Do you know how low whale shit is? Let me put it this way, it don’t get any lower. Have you been made to feel this way by religious leaders? The traditional church sits in judgment of people like you. You are made to feel like you don’t belong. Does anybody believe that a room full of rich white people is what the realm of God looks like? Thankfully, the economy of God is different than the economy of the Pharisees. When the Pharisees tossed the woman in the dirt, they didn’t realize that she was now closer to Jesus. When you have been thrown out of traditional churches, you have been thrown ever closer to Jesus. Exclusion equals inclusion in the economy of God. Jesus said, “What you have done to the least of these you have done to me…” So, if you are being included…that’s the point that you should be worried about where Jesus is.

 

Instead of picking the woman up, Jesus gets dirty. So often, people concentrate on what Jesus was writing in the dirt. Though I am somewhat curious as to what was being scribbled, I think the more important piece of this conversation is that Jesus was placing his body into the conversation. Jesus was willing to be stoned and die with the woman. How often do we place our bodies into the conversation? How often are we willing to die so that others might live? As far as the traditional churches go, you can’t save someone you have no contact with. The real church will forever be the church in the dirt.

 

Jesus looked at the Pharisees and said, “Whichever one of you is without sin can cast the first stone.”

 

In a world where institutionalizations and hypocrisies have overtaken the church and threatened to choke the very life and love out of the Gospel of Jesus, you sit and stare back in judgment. For those who dare raise their stones, you let them know that Jesus stands more fully with you than he will ever stand with the comfortably safe and included. Pilgrims in the Park…you are the light of the world…you are a city set on a hill that will not be hidden. On this day, you have reminded me anew that the salvation of Jesus is always in the dirt. Thank you.

 

Amen.

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