CLERGY CORNER: The Scarlett Letter

Posted on 25 April 2012 by LeslieM

The Scarlet Letter begins in 17th Century Boston, then a Puritan settlement. A young woman, Hester Prynne, is led from the town prison with her infant daughter, Pearl, in her arms and the scarlet letter “A” on her breast. A man in the crowd tells an elderly onlooker that Hester is being punished for adultery. Hester’s husband, a scholar much older than she is, sent her ahead to America, but he never arrived in Boston. The consensus is that he has been lost at sea. While waiting for her husband, Hester has apparently had an affair, as she has given birth to a child. She will not reveal her lover’s identity, however, and the scarlet letter, along with her public shaming, is her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. On this day, Hester is led to the town scaffold and harangued by the town fathers, but she again refuses to identify her child’s father.

Hester supports herself by working as a seamstress. Shunned by the community, she lives in a small cottage on the outskirts of Boston. Community officials attempt to take Pearl, her daughter, away from Hester, but, with the help of Arthur Dimmesdale, a young and eloquent minister, the mother and daughter manage to stay together. Dimmesdale, however, appears to be wasting away and suffers from mysterious heart trouble, seemingly caused by psychological distress.

Hester and Dimmesdale arrange to flee Boston together. The day before their departure, the townspeople gather for a holiday and Dimmesdale preaches his most eloquent sermon ever. Dimmesdale, leaving the church after his sermon, sees Hester and Pearl standing before the town scaffold. He impulsively mounts the scaffold with his lover and his daughter, and confesses publicly, exposing a scarlet letter seared into the flesh of his chest. He falls dead, as Pearl kisses him.

Hester and Pearl leave Boston, and no one knows what has happened to them. Many years later, Hester returns alone, still wearing the scarlet letter. When Hester dies, she is buried next to Dimmesdale. The two share a single tombstone, which bears a scarlet “A.”

Hollywood released their version of the story years ago. I had enjoyed the book as a child and, therefore, I was eager to see the movie. I was disappointed. I believe that the people who wrote the movie really missed out on what the Scarlet Letter was really about. I believe the story is about Redemption. Hester has this Scarlet letter on her chest that she must where at all times. Instead of feeling sorry for herself and cowering away, she does all she can to help others. After several years, she becomes more famous for her charitable work than she is for her Scarlett letter.

The “A” no longer represents her sin, but instead, it represents the person she has become. That is why I believe that, even after she was given permission to remove the letter, she continued to wear it – until her death.

I believe this is one of the biggest misconceptions concerning Jesus Christ. Christ does not want you to carry a Scarlet letter around. He wants to take the scarlet letter from you. 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That word “confess” simply means, “to agree.” In other words, “Agree with God concerning your sin and He will make you clean.” What’s holding you back?
What prevents you from having the relationship with God that you were created to have?
Deron Peterson is the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach.

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