When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”John 8.1-12
“While it is easy to imagine this Gospel scene, it isn’t comfortable at all. The woman, being publically shamed, reminds me a little of the dreadful stories we hear about from countries where women’s rights have not evolved. Certainly not as one would have hoped, over the two thousand years between our headlines and this Gospel account.
The heavy, cold, hard and uncompromising weapon of choice, a stone, sits paradoxically warmed by the holding of it by those ready to throw it. There’s something so unrefined, raw, and base, about the use of a stone. It’s immediate availability from upon the floor speaks of a thoughtlessness to the violence it threatens. Covered with the dust and grime of the ground from which it came just adds to the sting of such a brutish and brash intention.
Ash Wednesday is raw and gritty. It is a day where we come up front to some of the most uncomfortable themes, sin and death, mistakes and mortality. It is very easy to reach for the bag of stones and try throwing them at ourselves in a vein hope of dealing with either, or at least dealing with the awkward discomfort that comes from remembering that we are dust and that we turn away from Christ.
Yet, see what Christ does with the stones. In his typically parabolic transformation of words and objects, the stones which were loaded with violence and anger have become objects of reflection, mirrors of honesty. The heat and force has been transplanted with humility and self awareness. Rather than being rocks of self-righteousness, they’ve become cornerstones of conscience, stones of self awareness, flints of forgiveness.
The Reverend Arwen Folkes
Rector of East Blatchington
Image: The Unfaithful Wife, by JESUS MAFA 1973, Cameroon
JESUS MAFA is a response to the New Testament readings from the Lectionary by a Christian community in Cameroon, Africa. Each of the readings was selected and adapted to dramatic interpretation by the community members. Photographs of their interpretations were made, and these were then transcribed to paintings.