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.
This incredible story of grace in the gospel of John testifies to the practice of putting aside tradition, taking a moment to breathe, and opening ourselves to the possibility of other options that become apparent when we don't simply succumb to what has always been.
As Jesus doodles in the sand, he creates a moment for reflection, for contemplation, for consideration of alternatives rather than acting on default. A simple space for breathing made space for a new perspective.
I'm sure there were those in the crowd that day who grumbled at Jesus' seeming indecision. I'm sure there were some who were disappointed that he didn't assert tradition or even institute something new. And yet, his simple doodling enabled others to be awakened to a grace filled possibility - that of setting aside their righteousness and showing compassion for others, a compassion in which there was the potential for change and for growth.
As we begin to review the experience of the first tranche of congregations involved in Path of Renewal, it is apparent that, at the very least, what has been achieved is that space for grace. A space to step back, take a breath, review the defaults and begin to achieve a new perspective. God enters that grace filled space changing hearts and minds, changing a culture that feels as though it is set in stone.
There is a time and a place for drawing a line in the sand and beginning something new. There is also a time and place for doodling so that a fresh perspective that can be the seed of renewing an inherited culture is planted. What will emerge is as yet unknown but a seed sown in love and grace carries the potential for a great awakening to the wisdom of God and the mission of God for the world.