She took me out the back of the church and gave me a good dusting down. Literally! She didn’t want to do it in front of the packed church. But I had obviously brushed by suit coat up against the dusty car and while I couldn’t see it, the congregation could or would, if it wasn’t for her caring intervention. Now the dust has settled from the welcome rains of May, I have no more excuses not to wash the car which seems to have had a permanent layer of dust on it courtesy of the big dry and me living on a gravel road. It always seemed futile to wash it, only to have it coated in dust before I’d got out of the driveway.
We us the phrase “Now the dust has settled”, to start a more reflective conversation after a time of flurried activity. It’s a phrase that conjures up an image of us being very busy and stirring up the dust so that things cannot be seen clearly. This can happen when there is a heated debate about a contentious issue. It can happen when we have been overwhelmed by emotional upheaval, sickness, or just being overloaded with work. There is too much happening to think clearly. We are flat out just coping. But then there is a period when we can slow down, stop, and catch out breath. “Now that the dust has settled” we say, I can see things clearer.
No one has a good word to say about dust. Dust in our house, dust on the mantle piece, dust on our clothes, dust in the air. There is money in mud, the farmers say, but dust just takes the precious top-soil away. But God can do miracles with dust. The creation story recounts that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground. Out of nothing of substance the creative force of God creates. Out of the dust and broken dreams of our lives God creates and recreates.
One of my favourite stories from the Bible is the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees, catching her in the act, take her and throw her down in the dirt in front of Jesus demanding judgement. Jesus first ignores the interruption and writes on the ground as though he does not hear them. But when the woman’s accusers continue their challenge, he states that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone. The accusers depart, leaving Jesus alone with the woman. Jesus asks the woman if anyone has condemned her. She answers that no one has condemned her. Jesus says that he, too, does not condemn her, and tells her to go and sin no more.
What Jesus wrote in the dust that remains a mystery to us, yet it clearly brought life and healing to this embarrassed woman. Sometimes sitting in the dust of our humanity is the best place to be. It is humbling. It is authentic and honest and when the dust has settled we may find God meets us there.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister