Billy Graham tells the story about a man who was shipwrecked on a deserted island. He managed to build a hut to live in, and stored the few possessions he was able to salvage from his boat that washed ashore.
Every day he would watch for a ship or airplane passing by to be rescued. He prayed to God for help. Some days he would get discouraged and wonder if he would ever be found.
One day, while he was off on the other end of the island, he noticed some smoke coming from the direction of his hut. He ran back as fast as he could, only to find the hut and all his belongings destroyed by a fire. He had left a small candle lit inside, and the wind had gotten hold of the flame.
He was devastated by his mistake.
Later that day, a ship appeared on the horizon, and he was rescued. When he asked how they found him, they told him they saw smoke off in the distance… they thought it was a signal for help.
His wrong-doing turned out to be his salvation.
In our Gospel, the woman caught in adultery is rescued as well. Jesus sees her sin, her wrong-doing, and saves her life. He doesn’t blame her, he looks ahead. “Go, and sin no more.”
Odd as it sounds, if she didn’t sin, she would not have been rescued. She’s never mentioned in Scripture again, but I’d like to think that from this moment on, she became a disciple, and followed Jesus. To the foot of the Cross and beyond. Wouldn’t you?
This Lenten season, we’re asked to consider all the obstacles – our private sins, our biggest fault – that get in the way of our relationship with God. In some way, every one of us is shipwrecked.
But we also need to remember when God says to the Israelites in exile, “Remember not the things of the past, the things of long ago — see, I am doing something new!” – He’s talking to us.
Today’s readings assure us that we will be rescued from our deserted island of pain and remorse. That our sin is not the final word. In fact, maybe the very thing we are most ashamed of — our greatest sin – is how God will find us. Heal us. Forgive us. Set us free.
Just like the man on the island. Just like the woman in the Gospel. We will be rescued from our wrong-doing.
We will be rescued.