Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” – John 8:11 (NKJV)
Our town’s beautiful wooden arches, 60 feet tall and spanning 178 feet, splintered and crumpled on to the overpass just after midnight on February 18, 2022, less than a year after they were installed. No one was physically hurt, but our collective pride suffered a deep wound.
The arches were to be our small town’s facsimile of the St. Louis Gateway. The most visible icon of our $14 million City Walk, the arches connected the lake to downtown to the university. The layered wooden beams were designed to reflect our municipal motto: Life. Well crafted.
The arches weren’t well crafted. Dawn exposed 40 tons of pick-up sticks. Reactions to the collapse ranged from sadness to glee, blaming to gloating, accusation to defensiveness. And frustration—if not at the collapse, then at the blaming, gloating, accusation, and defensiveness.
The following Sunday morning, John 8 was the text in worship—the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery and forced to stand before Jesus at dawn in the temple courts. I mused aloud that the arches should remain where they fell, or better yet, be moved to our church’s front lawn.
The disfigured pile might exhibit what a church actually is. We prefer to see ourselves represented by our tall steeple, granite veneer, and manicured lawn. If we are brutally honest, we are a community of splintered wood.
Whether or not we own it, we are both the Pharisees and the woman they snared. We are offenders and accusers, abusers and victims, self-righteous and self-condemned. Only by the love of God are we being changed. Only by the grace of Christ do we find dignity and possibility. Only by the power of the Spirit are we able to stay in close enough proximity to let mercy transform us. Thanks be to God for the communion of the saints.
God, who am I today? Unloved or unloving? Don’t give up on me. Jesus, remind me of your grace that has welcomed and forgiven me. Spirit, make me a channel that pays it forward. Amen.
Bob Thompson is Pastor of Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, and President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC.