Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Have you ever really messed up? Has there ever been a moment in your life when you needed a mulligan or do-over or second chance? Unless your name is Jesus and you were born in Bethlehem, of course you have. We all have, that’s one of the things we have in common. We’ve all made our messes and we are looking for a chance to start over. We’re looking for the kind of place described by Louise Fletcher Tarkington:
"I wish that there were some wonderful place
In the Land of Beginning Again;
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door
And never put on again."
The truth is that there is a place just like that. You are in it. Every time we gather for worship we are reminded that this is the Land of Beginning Again. This is a place of do-overs and second chances through the forgiveness offered to us by Christ Jesus our Savior.
The passage from the Gospel of John may be the most beautiful and profound example of what that looks like. Dr. Bill Bouknight wrote, “No other incident in [Jesus’] life, except his death, so clearly revealed the heart of God.”(1) Let’s look at that passage from John 8:3-12.
 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,
 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.
 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"
 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
 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."
 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
 Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
 She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."
 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."
Just to make things clear, A posse of self-righteous, vigilante Pharisees, dragged a poor woman to Jesus. They had caught her in the very act of cheating on her husband. But the Scripture says they did it in order to test Jesus and trap him. They weren’t outraged by her action. They only wanted to use her as a pawn. If they had been outraged, the man, the other participant, would have been dragged there, too.
But Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and challenged them with the words, “Whichever on eo fyou is without sin, can cast the first stone.” The Bible says those Pharisees slipped away.
When they were all gone, Jesus told the woman, "I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more." The original Greek means that Jesus deferred judgment. He didn’t say to her, “Forget it. It's no big deal.” To do that would have been to trivialize or dismiss what she was accused of.
What Jesus was saying was this, "I’m not going to pass judgment on you, either. Instead, I can hit the restart button. If that’s what you want. If you want to start fresh, then come out of the darkness and into My light. Then filled with My light, Go, live a different life; a life that proves you’re a new person."
Jesus called her out of the darkness and shadows of sin into the light of New Life.
I. OUT OF THE SHADOWS:
A. There’s a great scene in the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance which illustrates that point. If you remember the story from a few weeks ago Bagger Vance is about a mythical golf match in the 1930’s between golf legends Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and a hometown ace Rannulph Junuh. As a teenager Junuh had Tiger Woods kind of skill and was destined to become something huge. But after a tour of duty during World War I, he comes back changed and haunted. He tries to exorcise his demons through a reclusive life of alcohol and gambling.
His former girlfriend persuades him to join the match between two greats, even though he keeps saying he has lost his swing. While hitting practice balls one night, a transient caddy by the name of Bagger Vance enters Junuh’s life, offers to help get him ready for the match and in the process helps him rediscover his passion both for life and for the game.
In this scene Junuh has found his swing and things are going great for awhile until he slices one into the woods. As he enters to find his ball, he is drawn back into the battle which scarred his life so deeply, the battle in which he was the only survivor. It all comes crashing in on him and as reaches to pick up his ball and call it quits, Bagger breaks the spell and asks if he’d like a different club. Junuh says, “I can’t do this. You don’t understand.”
Bagger says, “What I’m talking about is a game. A game that can’t be won, only played. Ain’t a soul on this earth ain’t got a burden to he don’t understand. You ain’t alone in that. But you been carryin’ this one long enough. Time to go on. Lay it down.”
Junuh says, “I don’t know how.”
Bagger says, “You’ve got a choice. You can stop. Or you can start. Walkin right back to where you always been. And then stand there. Still. Real still. And remember.”
Junuh says, “It’s too long ago.”
Bagger says, “Oh, no sir. It was just a moment ago. Time for you to come on out the shadows, Junuh. Time for you to choose. You ain’t alone. I’m right here with ya. I’ve been here all along. Now play the game. Your game. The one that only you was meant to play. The one that was given to you to you come into this world.”
“Strike that ball, Junah. Don’t hold back. Give it everything. Now’s the time. Let yourself remember. Remember your swing.”
Of course, it’s the movies and Junuh does. He makes a fantastic, unbelievable shot and in so doing steps out of the darkness of the shadows of his past and into the light of a New Life. As the person God created him to be.
B. That is exactly what Jesus told this woman caught in sin; this woman used as a pawn to trap him.
“It’s time for you to come on out the shadows. It’s time for you to choose. You’re not alone. I’m right here with you. I have been here all along.”
That’s what Jesus tells each of us. “It’s time to come out of the shadows and into My light. I’m right here with you and I have been all along.”
“It’s time to walk in the light of life.”
II. INTO THE LIGHT:
A. What does that mean, to walk in the light? Well, I think it means you have to let go of the past. You have to let go of the shadows and darkness. That’s the only way we can step into the light.
Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t let go of the shadows. Sometimes the light seems too bright. We’re afraid to step into the light because we’re not ready to see ourselves as we really are. We’re afraid of what we’ll see and what God might see. We’re looking at our life through a mud spattered windshield whose wipers quit working years ago.
What we don’t realize is that thinking like that has tied heavy weights around our hearts and the ankles of our life. The weights inhibit our ability to travel this journey of faith. The other thing we don’t realize is that because of what Jesus did on the cross, God sees us through a sparkling clean windshield. All that muck and mire of sin that has blocked our view for so many years has been cleaned off by Christ.
B. Consumer Reports put out a little book titled “How to Clean Practically Anything.” It tells you, what solvent to use for nearly every kind of stain. Here’s a few. Glycerin will remove the stain from a ball point pen. Boiling water will remove berry stains. Vinegar will remove crayon stains. Ammonia will remove blood stains. Alcohol will remove grass stains. Hydrogen peroxide is good for magic marker stains. Use bleach on mildew stains. Lemon juice works well on rust stains. But, you know what, the book lists absolutely nothing for the stain of sin. (2)
And the reason it doesn’t is because there is only one person who can do that. As the old Gospel hymn says "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus."
I really like this simple little video because it expresses what Jesus did so well. Watch this.
So, as we prepare for Easter and the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection and final triumph over sin and death, the question for today is “What is it that is still weighing you down? What is it that is still keeping you in the shadows? What is it that you haven’t let go of?”
It’s time to come out of the shadows and into the Light of Christ, in the Land of Beginning Again.
This is the Land of Beginning Again. This is a place of do-overs and second chances through the forgiveness offered to us by Christ Jesus our Savior. Step into the Light. Step into New Life.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
2. Preaching Vol. 16, #2
Other References Consulted