Sunday, October 16, 2016


Is it just me or does the US presidential election seem nastier than usual? 

The interesting thing, or disturbing thing, or sad thing, use your own adjective, is that both Candidates would say they were at least brought up in the Christian tradition.

When asked about her faith Mrs. Clinton responded with a trinity of faith statements. “I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist”

Not to be outdone the Donald said “I’m a Protestant; I’m a Presbyterian.” He elaborated by later stating,  “When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.”

And both candidates attended Sunday school, Trump at 1st Presbyterian in Jamaica Queens and Clinton at First United Methodist Church in Park Ridge, Illinois.   

And while I wouldn’t want to question the personal faith of either of them, apparently even though they may have heard the teachings of Jesus from an early age it would seem that some of them didn’t stick, in particular how to treat those who treat you badly.

It seems as if have forgotten some of Jesus’ most important teachings.   You know, the section we call the Sermon on the Mount. 

This is week 3 of our “Hashtag This” series at Cornerstone as we take a look at words and phrases that could use a hashtag.  Week one was #gointoalltheworld  last week was #castthefirststone and this week we are going to delve into the Sermon on the Mount, all of which would probably carry the hashtage #sermononthemount

Most of this section of the Sermon on the Mount is summed up in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

This is kind of interesting because there is nowhere in the bible that we are told to hate our enemies.  This particular command comes from Leviticus 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.  Somewhere over time the oral law decided that if you were to love your neighbour then it only makes sense that you should hate your enemy.

The Love your neighbour part would appear to be a New Testament favourite because Jesus mentions it five times, Paul quotes it twice and James quotes it once.  You might assume from that, that it was important concept. 

But it wasn’t “Love your neighbour” that Jesus was concerned with at this point, instead it was the second half of what was said the “Hate your enemy” side of it.

What Jesus is talking about here ties in with what he said a little earlier in this passage, when he stated in Matthew 5:38 You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’

His listeners would have heard this in a variety of Old Testament scriptures in particular in Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21 and Exodus 21:24.  This is the oldest law in the world, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.  That law was referred to in the ancient world as Lex Talionis, but it might have been more aptly referred to as the “law of tit for tat.”

It appears in the earliest code of laws and that was the code of Hammurabi, who was a Babylonian King who lived 1800 years before Christ.  The main principal is clear; if a person inflicts an injury then he would receive the same treatment.

There are some who would call this harsh and blood thirsty, but in reality it was the beginning of mercy, for two reasons:  The first is that it limited Judgement, if someone knocked out one of your teeth then you can’t knock out all of his.  Secondly it took judgement away from the individual and gave it to society. 

Probably the greatest example of the why and how of this law was capital punishment.  If someone killed your child they would be sentenced to death, that was their punishment, you couldn’t go out and kill their children and their spouse.  This type of law was indicative of the society in which Christ lived.  It was very much a retaliatory society. 

And it still is through much of the Middle East, Iran does it, Syria does it, Lebanon does it, Iraq does it, Libya does it and if you want a real lesson in retaliatory justice then just watch the Jews.  But then again we support Israel so when the do it we don’t call it terrorism.

And remember that Christ said that he didn’t come to destroy the law.  Also keep in mind that we are dealing with an imperfect world.  We need to accept the reality of a system which punishes the lawless and rewards the lawful. 

In a perfect world there would be no murder so there wouldn’t need to be laws concerning murder.  In a perfect world there wouldn’t be adultery so there wouldn’t have to be laws concerning adultery. 

In a perfect world there would be no divorce and nobody would ever break a promise or cheat on their spouse but we don’t live in a perfect world so God laid down regulations, regulations for everyone, believer, non believer, Christian pre-Christian, redeemed unredeemed.  We live in a less than perfect world, and although the law is not perfect it was concerned with checking the evil which threatens to destroy society.  And so Christ accepted the necessity of an imperfect system to deal with an imperfect world.

But he felt that his followers needed to go beyond the law, it wasn’t enough for them not to commit murder they were to refrain from hating.  It wasn’t enough for them not to cheat on their spouse they couldn’t even think about it, and we are going to deal with that next week. 

The Mosaic Law punished evil doers; Jesus sought to eradicate evil.  Not by eradicating the evil doer but by redeeming them, by changing them.

If’n you want to stomp out evil by stomping out the evil doer then the Law of Moses is fine.  But if’n you want to destroy evil and salvage the sinner then you need a completely different approach.

The law tells us to react in kind, and that suits our human personality.  We are quite willing to kill the killer, hate the hater, and be close minded to the close minded.  But Christ isn’t content with those who call themselves by his name reacting in the same way as the world.  Instead of reacting in kind, he commands us to react in contrast.

Indeed, he goes so far as to tell us in Matthew 5:39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.

Now I can almost ready your minds, “He can’t be serious.  Jesus didn’t understand what the situation would be like today.  But you know Jesus wasn’t referring to international situations, and Jesus didn’t intend for this to be taken serious, besides all of that Jesus only meant this as guidelines in relationships between Christians.”  I had a Professor in Bible College who said “When you say ‘that isn’t really what it means’ then it must have hurt”

Jesus was talking about October 16, 2016, he meant for his words to be taken literally and he was referring to all of our interpersonal relationships.  To top it all off Jesus even lays down some examples from the everyday life of his listeners.

Matthew 5:39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  

Often we don’t read into this statement what Christ intended for us to see.  We see someone who struck another person and we don’t see more because we are relating this statement to 2016 Canadian culture and that isn’t the time or place that Jesus was when he made this statement. 

     “ would you come up here for a minute, let me demonstrate.  In the culture of Christ, the backhanded slap was the greatest insult going; as a matter of fact, it was twice as insulting as being slapped with the palm of the hand.

What Christ was saying was not only “do not retaliate” but “don’t resent either”. 

Now don’t make the major error of limiting Jesus’ words to a physical slap. 

In 2016 Canada you will probably never be physically struck, just doesn’t happen in polite company. 

But there will be verbal blows, insults, and rumours.  They will be real and imagined, petty and large, personal and general.  Don’t forget the words of Christ in Matthew 5:11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.  Christ didn’t say “If that happens” he said “when that happens” and there’s a big difference in those two little words. 

Christ was a lot nicer person then me and he was called a glutton and a drunk, he was accused of being a friend of tax collectors and prostitutes, and he was beaten and spit on, hey I haven’t got a chance.

Early Christians were called cannibals and accused of all kinds of gross immoralities.  Time and time again Christians suffer real and imagined insults.  They aren’t nominated for a position, they’re forgotten in a note of thanks, or they are snubbed by someone in the church or heaven forbid by the Pastor. 

But the true Christian has forgotten what it is like to be insulted because they have learned from the master to accept any insult without reprisal, and without resentment.

It was John Maxwell who said “If you want to help others and become a person of influence, keep smiling, sharing, giving, and turning the other cheek.”

The second illustration comes in Matthew 5:40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.  All except the very poorest of the Jews would have a couple of shirts.  The coat on the other hand was their outer garment but it was more than that.  It was like a long poncho and the people of the day wore it as a garment during the day and used it as a blanket at night. 

Most Jews had only one cloak, and the cloak was such an important part of the Jews wardrobe that it was protected by the law.  We are told in Exodus 22:26-27 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as security for a loan, you must return it before sunset. This coat may be the only blanket your neighbor has. How can a person sleep without it?

By Jewish tradition and Jewish law, you might ask a man for his shirt, but never His cloak.  And yet Christ is saying, even that which is protected by law, be ready to give up.  Even that which you don’t want to give, give.  Unfortunately, the church is full of people who militantly stand on their rights and their privileges, and they won’t be pried loose from them. 

People like that haven’t even started to see what Christianity is all about.  The Christian doesn’t think of His rights he thinks of his duties; he doesn’t dwell on his privileges but remembers his responsibility.  He has forgotten that he has any rights at all.  The man who vehemently stands on his rights, who will fight to his death over his legal rights both inside and outside the church has a lot to learn about giving up his cloak as well.

The third illustration comes from Matthew 5:41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.  Here is a picture taken from an occupied country and it’s tough for us to even imagine what Christ is talking about because we can’t imagine being forced to do anything.  Yet in Palestine 2000 years ago at any time a Jew might feel the flat of a Roman spear on his shoulder and the Soldier on the other end command them to do anything, even act as their porter and carry their baggage for a mile.

Do you remember Simon of Cyrene?  He was the man who was forced to carry the cross of Christ.  That was the only other time that this word which we translate as forced was used in the Bible.

Now you could obey the soldier one of two ways:  the first would be with grudging acceptance, like the little boy who was told to stand in the corner and he sat there with his arms crossed and said “I may be sitting on the outside but I standing on the inside.” 

You ever do that?  I sure have.  Or you can cheerfully do your best.  There are always two ways to do something 1) doing it with the bare minimum and that’s it, or 2) do what you’re asked to do and more, graciously and cheerfully.  But listen up, don’t wait until you are pressed into service by a Roman soldier because it probably won’t happen.  But you will have all kinds of opportunity at work, school and church.

The ineffective employee, the resentful volunteer the ungracious helper has no idea what the Christian life is supposed to be about. 

The Christian shouldn’t be concerned with only doing what he likes to do instead he should only be concerned with being able to help, even when the demand is discourteous and unreasonable.  And so Jesus has given us three guiding principles for our Christian life: 1) Christians shouldn’t resent or seek retaliation 2) Christians shouldn’t stand on their rights 3) Christians Shouldn’t demand the right to do as They Please.  Instead they should be seeking to help, or go the second mile if you will.

Christ summed it all up in Matthew 5:44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  as a matter of fact if you were reading in the New King James Version of the Bible it goes into even more depth because it says “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,  But you ask, “how do I love people like that?”  Good question and the way to the answer is to first get a proper understanding of the word love.  There are all kinds of “love” out there and we relegate them to one word.  I love your shirt, I love my wife, I love my kids, I love my church, I love to fly, I Love pizza.  And yet I love each of those things in a different way.

The Greeks got around this problem by using different words for love.  1) Storge, was family love it was what you would feel toward your children or your parents.  2) Eros, was the love you felt toward your husband or wife, it’s where we get the word erotic. 3) Phileo was a close friendship.  There was a fourth word used by the Greeks for love and that was Agape.  And this was an act of the will not of the heart. 

It’s not an if or because love, you know I’ll love you if you do this or I love you because of that.  This type of love is not based on the actions of others.  It’s not the love of family, friend or lover although it may grow into one of these.  And this is the type of love that Jesus commands us to show to others even our greatest enemy. 

Why Agape?  Because. That is the love of God for the world.  A love based on no external factors.  This commandment can only be comprehended and obey by Christians, because it is only when Christ lives in our lives that bitterness dies and love springs to life.

We also need to note that this commandment isn’t just passive, we are required to commit ourselves to action.  We are commanded to pray for our enemies.  We cannot go on hating a man in the presence of God.  In prayer bitterness dies.  It’s pretty well summed up in Matthew 5:48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Sometimes people have some problems with that verse.  They think perfect like God, hmm kind of sounds like Genesis 3:5 when Satan told Adam and Eve that they could be like God.  And that isn’t what the word perfect implies here. 

Again if we were to go back to the original language of the New Testament we would discover the word used was Telios and it literally means complete.  This word is used to indicate that something is perfect for the job at hand.  A fully grown man is telios compared to a half grown boy.  A graduating student is telios compared to a freshman.

God is perfect as God.  He is a perfect God, he has perfect knowledge, and perfect power and that is a perfection which we can never attain because we’ll never be God.  And yet God has a perfection for each one of us and that is when we come to a place where we are complete for the task set before us.  When we live a life with perfect love, perfect motive and perfect obedience.  It comes when we live by the Sermon on the Mount not because we have to but because that is the inner most desire of our heart.  When even politicians realize that if they profess to know Christ then they need to act it, and maybe a part of that is not participating in attack ads and personal attacks against their opponents.  I understand you can even win elections with that philosophy.

And now I leave you with the words of Martin Luther King Jr.  “That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Have you ever had a song or a part of a song stuck in your head?  You know like, . . .  “Mahna Manhna.”   You’re welcome.

Back in the early eighties I heard a song once, only once as far as I can remember.  It was in the kitchen of our family home on Golden Grove Rd. in Saint John.  We were that family that always had a radio playing in the kitchen.  And one afternoon I hear a song, didn’t catch the name of the artist but the words of the chorus stuck in my head.  For over thirty years they have lived there, and every once in a while I’d try and track down what the song was.  And low and behold the other day thanks to the power of the interwebby I found it.

The song was recorded by a young Christian artist by the name of Robyn Pope who had limited success for a few years in the United States.  Why it was played on a secular radio station in Saint John New Brunswick is beyond me.  But the line that has been stuck in my head for the past thirty years, is “Cast the first stone if you think you’re so hot, if you think that she’s wicked and you think that you’re not.”

To put it into context, here is first verse and chorus song by Robyn Pope. 

Maybe you know the story and maybe you don’t.  It was read this morning from the book of John Chapter 8 the first eleven verses.  It’s pretty self-explanatory; really all you have to do is read it to get a sense of what is happening.

And today I’m sure that if someone was tweeting about this event the hashtag would be #castthefirststone.  We are in our second week of our “Hashtag This” series, and over the next few weeks we will be looking at various words and phrases from the bible that deserve a hashtag.

A woman had been caught committing adultery, a sin that was considered a crime under Jewish law.  As a matter of fact the Rabbis said “Every Jew must die before he will commit idolatry, murder or adultery.”  A view that obviously wasn’t shared by everyone.  In particular, a view that must not have been shared by this woman, at least not in practice.

You’ve either heard the story or you’ve heard the phrase “Cast the first stone” which is the central part of what happened that day.  This morning we are going to look at the characters who made up the story.

1) The Accused Let’s start by clearing a couple of things up right away.  First you ever get the impression that the woman here was an innocent spectator? You kind of get the idea that she was just standing on the side of the road and they grabbed her and dragged her to Jesus.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this message preached and I’ve always gone away feeling sorry for the woman.  Hold it.  The woman was an adulteress.  The Bible says that she’d been caught in bed with a man who wasn’t her husband.  Now I don’t know for sure what she was doing in bed with the man who wasn’t her husband but I’d be willing to bet they weren’t playing checkers. 

Now in 2016 Adultery may not seem all that serious.  Across the border in the presidential race one candidate is an adulterer and the other candidate is married to an adulterer and it hasn’t seemed to hurt either of them.   And all most of us probably know at least one adulterer or adulteress, but in Jesus day it was a pretty dangerous accusation.

The second impression that you get from hearing some of these sermons was that she was just caught in the act right then and dragged from the scene and thrown at the feet of Jesus, but it doesn’t even imply that it had just happened. 

So we probably should presume, because we don’t know any different that the woman was fully clothed and her husband or her partner’s wife or whoever had caught them, had reported them to the powers that be and now action was being taken.

The third impression that you get is that the man got away with it.  You hear preachers asking that question “Where was the man”?  And then saying things like “She couldn’t have been alone.”  As if this was some grand conspiracy where only the woman involved in adultery was punished.  And then the preachers start speculating that the person that she had been caught with was one of the religious leaders or someone important.

Maybe, but according to one source the Mishnah, or Jewish codified law states the penalty for adultery would be strangulation and it even lays down the method.

It then reiterates that death by stoning is the penalty for a girl who is betrothed and then commits adultery.  So, maybe the guy had already paid the price.

We know nothing else about this woman other than the bare facts laid down in John’s narrative.  She was caught in adultery and was being sentenced.  There was no defense for her; she couldn’t appeal to a higher court. 

She had started writing the story and her accusers would finish it for her.  As a Jewish woman, in a Jewish culture, raised in a knowledge of the Jewish law she would have known the consequences of her actions. 

We might ignore the words of the law laid down in the Old Testament but for her that wouldn’t have been an option so she would have known that Leviticus 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.

When she started down that path, she would have known the ultimate destination if she got caught.  She may very well have thought that she wouldn’t get caught but she knew what the law dictated would happen if she did get caught.

We might feel sorry for her, we might feel that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, after all what would happen today if adulterers & adulteresses were put to death.  Other than the fact that the unemployment problem would be solved with all those jobs opening up, Hillary would be a widow, the Donald Trump question would have already been answered, Hollywood would be a virtual ghost town and most of us would lose some friends.

And as much as we might feel that this was extreme and unjust action, in her country, under her religion according to her traditions and customs she was simply getting what she deserved no more no less.

Which brings us to 2) The Accusers The scriptures tell us they were the teachers of religious law and Pharisees.  These men were the court of Israel.  They were the legal experts of the day.  When you had an issue that needed to be resolved this is where you brought it. 

And so it was to these men that the woman was brought.  Probably by her husband who explained the situation and presented the witnesses.  You see it wouldn’t be enough that he had caught her in the act because the law may have been harsh but it tried to be fair and so it said in Deuteronomy 17:6 But never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses. 

That is reiterated in Deuteronomy 19:15-19 You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. “If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, then both the accuser and accused must appear before the Lord by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you.

Now that’s the bare bones of the situation, but it’s not all the story.  To put a wrinkle in the story these men did not have the right to put this woman to death, and they knew it. 

“But Denn, you said”, I know what I said.  I said that the penalty for her crime was death under Jewish law.  Right?  Right. 

But they weren’t under Jewish law, remember they were an occupied country and they were under Roman law, and under Roman law nobody but the Roman Authorities could impose the death sentence.

You might recall that is why the Jews took Jesus to Pilate to be condemned to death; they didn’t have the authority to do it.  I don’t know what they were going to do with the woman, but it wasn’t going to be death.  Or at least there had been a pretty good chance that it wouldn’t be.

But then they started spouting off things like John 8:5 “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” And that’s when the reality of the situation started to sink in.  She knew that the penalty for adultery was death but it had been a while since the penalty had been carried out and she wasn’t really all that interested in seeing a return to tradition.  But why now?  What was happening here? 

Well, to be truthful I don’t think that this woman or what she did was all that important to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses.  Oh they would have looked at her with contempt, and probably made some rude comments about her private life. 

They may have granted her husband a divorce and made life pretty miserable for her.  But she was just a secondary concern; they had bigger fish to fry.

The woman was just an excuse; she was bait for the bigger fish.  You see this young carpenter from Galilee, Jesus was getting on their nerves and they were looking for some way to discredit him.  It wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last; remember these were the same guys who asked him in Luke 20:22 “Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

And in Matthew 19:3 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

and in Mark 8:11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.  Kind of a recurring theme wouldn’t you think?

And so the question they pose to Jesus is this, “Will you side with the Jewish law, the law of your forefathers or will you side with the Roman oppressors?”    It was really a lose, lose situation for Jesus. 

If he said “stone her” then they could go to the Romans and say, “Look here’s a man who’s challenging your authority.  On the other hand, if he says “don’t stone her” then they go to the Jew’s and say “See, he’s challenging the authority of scripture.

The woman was a nothing to the Pharisees and rulers of the law, she had no name, no personality, no feelings, and she was simply a pawn.  A piece to be played in the game they waged against Jesus.  They were using her the same way they would use a tool.

3) The Forgiver And so it’s in this little soap opera that we see Jesus at his best.  Because unlike the Pharisees, Jesus knew the woman, he had been there when she was created, he knew her when she was being knit together in her mother’s womb, he knew the numbers of her hair and he knew the condition of her heart. 

And unlike the Pharisees he cared about the woman, it was for her that he left heaven and came to earth, it was for her that he was willing to live as a mortal for thirty-three years, and ultimately it would be for her that he would allow himself to be nailed to a cross and die.

You gotta get the picture.  Jesus is teaching a crowd of people, and as was the custom of the day when a Rabbi had something very important to teach he did it sitting down with people gathered all around him.  And so there he sat, and there they stood. 

A woman who if not full of remorse was almost certainly full of shame, her head bowed, her eyes looking at the dirt, knowing that she was guilty.  Surrounded her were the religious teachers, her judges, the ones who had her very life in their hands.  And they were demanding an answer. 

And he didn’t say a word, he just bent over and started doodling in the dirt, and they stood there looking down on him demanding that he make a decision concerning this woman’s life.  And he continued to write in the sand, kind of an interesting reaction. 

Wonder why he did that?  There have been at least four suggestions.  1) To give him time, he didn’t want to be rushed into a rash statement, so this was a little bit of a time out.  Perhaps he was thinking things through and more importantly taking time to ask his Father what he should do. 

2) Perhaps by doing this he was forcing the Pharisees and scribes to repeat their charges, so they could hear exactly what they were saying. 

3) Maybe he did it so that he wouldn’t have to look in their eyes.  The leering, lustful looks of the religious leaders, the morbid curiosity of the crowd, and the shame of the woman all combined to twist his heart in knots.  So he hid his eyes.

4)  The most interesting suggestion by far is that as he sat there doodling in the dust, he was actually jotting down the sins of the men who stood before him.  This goes a little deeper than mere speculation.  Again let’s remember that the Bible wasn’t written in English, it was written in Greek which was a much more expressive language then English.  English is kind of a lazy language.  We’ll take one word and make it mean half a dozen different things. 

Like the word fast.  It can mean quick, it can mean go without food, it can mean to tie something up, it can mean that the colors won’t fade, it can mean to be loyal, it can mean to be sexually promiscuous or it can mean that your watch gained time. 

The Greek word that would normally have been used here for writing should have been graphein which simply means to write.  But John adds the prefix of Kata to the word which means against.  Making the word katagraphein which meant to write down a record against someone. 

And so some have suggested that Jesus was confronting the men with their own sins.  Bob beat his wife last week, Fred cheated on his taxes, Joe stole from his neighbor, and Jacob slept with Marks wife.  I’ve also heard it suggested that he was writing the names of their girlfriends in the dust for all to see.

But whatever he was doing the leaders continued to demand an answer and so Jesus gave it to them John 8:7-8 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

 Maybe this was when they noticed what the words actually said that he was writing out, I don’t know but something struck a chord because the Bible says John 8:9-11 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Now as a side bar to our sermon, you may have noticed in your bibles a footnote that says that this particular story was not included in many of the early manuscripts that have been found of the New Testament. 

And that is true; the earliest manuscripts don’t include this story.  However, some scholars feel that it wasn’t included in the earliest manuscripts because those who edited the text of the New Testament thought that this was a dangerous story, a justification for a light view of adultery and therefore omitted it. 

None other than Augustine said that the story was removed from text of the gospel because some were of slight faith and to avoid scandal.

William Barclay who wrote the daily study Bible Commentary had this to say “We may be sure that this is a real story about Jesus, although one so gracious that for a long time men were afraid to accept it.”

Now back to the message.  It’s easy to draw the wrong lesson here and to get the impression that Jesus took the woman’s sin all too lightly, as if it didn’t matter.  He didn’t say “I am not going to judge you”.  What he said was “I am not going to judge you just now, go and sin no more.” 

Jesus was asking her if she was an adulterer or if she had simply committed adultery, and there is a world of difference.    It was Richard North Patterson who wrote  No one should be judged by the worst moment of his life.”

So what he was doing wasn’t so much abandoning judgment as much as deferring judgment.  He was saying, “Go and prove that you can do better” Jesus attitude to this sinner and to us as sinners involves a number of things.

1) It Involved a Second Chance, it was as if Jesus was saying, “I know that you’ve made a mess of things, but life is not finished yet, I’m giving you another chance a chance to redeem yourself.”  Let it be known in Jesus is a gospel of second chances. 

Jesus was always interested not only in what a person was but in what a person could be.  He didn’t say that what people had done didn’t matter, broken laws and broken hearts always matter but he knew that people not only have a past but they have a future.

And isn’t that what Jesus has done for all of us, give us a second chance?  Where we can come and ask him to forgive our sins and repent, that is turn from our sins, and through his help seek to do better.

2) It Involved Mercy The basic difference between Jesus and the Pharisees was they wished to condemn the woman he wished to forgive the woman.  If we read between the lines of the story we can see that they were taking great pleasure in what they were doing and would relish in being able to stone the woman.

3) It Involved Challenge.  Jesus confronted this woman with the challenge of a different life.  He wanted her to know the reality of 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  But what he didn’t say was “It’s all right, don’t worry: just go on as you are doing.”  he said “it’s all wrong, go out and fight and change your life from top to bottom, go and sin no more.”

It wasn’t an easy forgiveness, instead it was a challenge which pointed a sinner to heights of goodness which she couldn’t even imagine.

4) It Involved a Warning.  It may not be said but it is certainly implied.  Here we are face to face with the eternal choice.  Jesus confronted the woman with a choice that same choice he gives each one of us, either to go back to our old ways or to reach out to the new way with him.  This story is unfinished, for every life in unfinished until it stands before God.

So where are you at?  If you can’t put yourself in the woman’s place, then you are putting yourself in the Pharisees place. 

Listen to me very carefully.  There isn’t any sin in the world that you aren’t capable of.  I had a friend of mine who told me he couldn’t imagine how anyone could commit adultery and today he is living with another man’s wife while his wife lives alone.  You best be careful before you pick up a rock and throw it. 

Maybe you’re standing where the woman stood and you know that you’ve done wrong and you can’t imagine what Jesus would want with the likes of you, and he’s saying “The story’s not over yet, go and sin no more.”  That doesn’t just involve being sorry for sinning it involves being so sorry that you turn from your sin and that is called repentance.  listen to the message that Jesus has for you today “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”


Do you remember when your kids were teens and you would leave them at home alone, maybe for an hour or a weekend?  If so then you know that the most important thing that you wanted them to remember were your last words.

“I love you, remember your homework”, “I love you don’t forget to do the dishes and clean your room.”  “I love you, remember no parties and don’t burn the house down.” 

Some of Jesus’ last words to his kids, the apostles were read for us earlier.  Or at least a portion of those words, the part that Mark recorded.  If we want to capture all of those words we need to look in all three gospels and the book of Acts.  And when we put them together we get something like this:

But then after 40 days of miracles, and teaching Jesus has this to say to His followers: “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.  But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. These signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them.  With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’ You are witnesses of all these things.
Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Those fragments by the way are found in Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-19, Luke 24:47-49 and Acts 1:8-9. 

This is week one of our “Hashtag This” series and over the next couple of months we will be looking at various phrases and words in the bible that would warrant a Hashtag. 

And perhaps you are wondering:  What is a hashtag?  According to Wikipedia: A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content. Users create and use hashtags by placing the hash character (or pound sign) # (also known as number sign or octothorpe) in front of a word or unspaced phrase, either in the main text of a message or at the end.

So, in this case each of those scriptures might have included the hashtag #gointoalltheworld

This is also week one of Partner Month at Cornerstone.  Each October at Cornerstone we highlight various partners who we have chosen to work with to change the world.  In today’s case you will hear from Selinda Van Horn who represents GP or Global Partners, which is our sending partner. 

And the reason that we have partners at Cornerstone can be summed up with #gointoalltheworld.

The words that were read for us earlier are in reality the mission statement of the early church.  You know what a mission statement is right?  It is when you have boiled the purpose of your life or the life of your church down to a concise statement of purpose. 

Over the past three Sundays we’ve looked at why Cornerstone is what it is and why we do things the way we do. 

And it ultimately goes back to our mission statement.  Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exist to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit.  That is our mission statement, the short version is Cornerstone Church exists to reach pre-Christians, the even shorter version is Cornerstone exists to help de-populate hell. 

And if Cornerstone Wesleyan Church does not reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit, then we have failed to do what we set out to do. 

The greatest measure of our success is how well we fulfil our mission statement.

But it’s more than that for you and for us because along with the mission statement that we have for our church is Christianity’s mission statement which was given to us by Jesus: “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded.” 

If we are not doing that then we have failed, so let’s look at the mission statement of the church.

1)  What Is Supposed to be Done There has to be a reason why the church is here and why the Lord leaves us in the world after we get saved.  I mean let’s think about it, the world is cold and uncaring, full of pain and grief and heaven has none of that. And so isn’t that where we really ought to be?  But that isn’t where we are. 
So, why are we here and not there? In John 20:21 Jesus, tells His disciples why they are being sent out John 20:21 As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
 So we are being sent by Christ in the same way that Christ was sent by the Father, and why was that?  Apparently to help depopulate hell.  John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Winning the lost is the bottom line that’s why we are here, that ought to be the mission statement of every Christian and every Christian Church, to reach the lost. 

It was Charles Spurgeon who wrote:  “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

Sounds like Spurgeon was committed to keeping people out of hell.   

But more than that Jesus reminds us in John 10:10  . . . I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.   So how do we not only help people obtain an eternal life when this life is over, but make the life on this side of eternity a full life, an abundant life? 

Well, Jesus offered a couple of suggestions in his teachings when he told the disciples in Matthew 5:13  “You are the salt of the earth.” And so we are told that we are to be an influence in the world, both preserving it and flavouring it as salt, and then Jesus added to that in the next verse when He said Matthew 5:14  “You are the light of the world.”  So we are to light the way and brightening the world as light. 

2) Where It’s Supposed to Be Done 

 Jesus told his apostles in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   Today that might sound like this;
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Halifax, throughout the Maritimes, in Canada, and to the ends of the earth.”
Basically that means everywhere.  Too often we qualify the word missions by adding either foreign or home to the beginning of it.  But the church only has one mission and that is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.
We have an obligation to reach people where ever there are people.
That means that we have an obligation to reach our next door neighbour, to reach the guy across the street, to reach the lady on the other side of town, those in Quebec and California as well as those in Ghana and Haiti.

And it needs to be intentional.  It won’t just happen.  If we don’t plan a way for it to happen then don’t count on it happening.

At Cornerstone reaching the lost is a priority, not just in Hammonds Plains which is our Jerusalem, but also in our Judea, our Samaria and to the very ends of the earth. 

And early on we realized that we wouldn’t be able to fulfil all of that mission by ourselves.

3) Who is Supposed to Be Doing It If we were to look at who was there on the day of the ascension we would discover the eleven remaining apostles, but the great commission had to have been for the entire movement at that time, it wasn’t enough for those eleven to be committed to evangelism without the rest of the group being committed as well. 

The great commission is meant to be a mission statement for all Christians.  It doesn’t matter what Christians call themselves, whether it be Wesleyan, Nazarene, Baptist, Pentecostal or whatever.  They have a common mission and that is, to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded. 

For Christianity to survive, Christianity has to be committed to the mission of winning the lost. 

When we stop making disciples and stop baptizing people then at that point the Church will begin to die, and it will die within one generation.

But the great commission has to go beyond simply being for all of Christianity; it needs to be a burning passion for the Wesleyan Church.  Without the desire to win souls to Jesus Christ our denomination will become just another empty shell in the ecclesiastical wastelands of our country.

But the great commission has to go beyond simply being for all of the Wesleyan Church it needs to be for this church right here.  Without the desire to win souls to Jesus Christ our church will become just a service club, we’ll be like the Lions or the Rotary Club. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with the Lions or the Rotary club it’s just that they are not the body of Christ and we are, or at least that’s what we are supposed to be.
It would be so much easier to convince people of the value of evangelism if the Bible said that the only way that you could get into heaven is if you brought somebody with you, but it doesn’t. 
However, listen to the words of Christ in John 14:21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
You want to be loved by God and by Jesus?  Sure you do.  Well here’s the ticket all you have to do is to obey Christ’s commands and one of those is Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”
If that was a command of Christ and we don’t do it then John 14:21 says that we don’t love him, and only those who love Christ are loved by the Father and only those who are loved by the Father are going to get in.

4) How it’s Supposed to Be Done  The power of the Holy Spirit is the means; the method is not defined.   Deng Xiaoping said “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.”  When we allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives neat things happen.  The Bible tells us in: Mark 16:17-18 (Jesus Said) These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Now some people get really caught up in those particular things, but they are simply indications of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who minister.  It is a promise of enablement and protection. 

How many people who were serving evil now serve God?

When Selinda and Jesse move to their new field they are going to have to learn to  speak in a new tongue because their mother tongue is English. 

When Val, Joel and Dana were working in the clinic in Haiti last spring weren’t they placing their hands on sick people to heal them? 

I don’t think that you ever have to worry about me picking up snakes, and I think some churches try to prove the deadly poison promise with the coffee they serve.

Sometimes we get so caught up in how we should do it that we never do it.  It was Thomas Jefferson who said “In matters of style swim with the current in matters of principle stand like a rock.”

Do you remember when Nike used the phrase “Just Do It.”?  I would like that to be my message to the church, “Just Do it”  Listen again to the promise of Christ in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Canada, throughout the Maritimes in Canada, and to the ends of the earth.”

There are two things that happen when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, two evidences of his presence. 1) We receive power 2) We will tell people about Jesus. 

If our lives do not exhibit power and we are not witnesses than it would appear to be very obvious that the Holy Spirit has never come upon us.

As far as evangelism on a personal level that is all of our responsibility, you can no more shirk that than you can walk past a drowning man and not throw him a rope. 

But on a broader spectrum there are those who God has called to reach people where you can’t.  And that’s why we have partners.

We realized very early in our existence that we couldn’t do it all, and in many cases there were already people doing it.  Which is why we have chosen to partner with organizations like Soul’s Harbour, World Hope, Compassion, Open Doors and Global Partners in order to change the world.

After all “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded.”