Monday, November 24, 2014

What the World Could not Give

She stood trembling at the edge of the room, knowing that if she did not soon gather her courage together, she never would. She was still half- hidden from sight standing by a pillar, a veiled woman standing in the shadows, retreating from the judgemental sight of men. She knew who she was, better than any of them did, and she knew what she had done: the sordid couplings that chased the illusion of glamour and excitement, but always fell short of what they promised, the descent into shame, and the terrible place she had found herself in, when glamour and illusion had departed, laughing scornfully at her as they fled, and she found herself alone, used, degraded, despised, and with no way of existence that did not involve even further degradation. There was no bitter name they could have called her that she had not already called herself. Shame was like an acid that had eaten into her bones and left her weak and incapable. Any movement of her will had simply led to more grating pain. It was easier to be numb, to be hardened, to live from one spitefully given coin to the next. Oh, the stories she could tell of some of the men right here in this room! But who would ever believe her testimony anyway?

But then she had seen Him, the Nazarene preacher, the man who was different. She had hidden herself at the edges of the crowd, and listened, again and again. It had not been easy. Sometimes she had needed to walk away for a while because his words had re-opened wounds which she thought had long since died. No one had ever told her how painfully hope can come to the hopeless. But she always came back for more; it was like learning to breathe clean air or drink sweet water.

And now she had come to the Pharisee’s house, because she knew he would be there, and she wanted him to know how his words had changed her. She fixed her eyes on him, and as she did, her fear of everyone else faded away. There were banqueters, and servants and as always, a heap of beggarly onlookers. But none of them mattered. There was only herself and Jesus. He looked up, looked her straight in the eye, and, overwhelmed by what she saw there, she ran straight to his feet. She pushed her veil out of the way, and fell sobbing at his feet, overcome by wonder and gratitude. She took out the little jar of perfume, the most valuable thing she owned, broke the seal and poured it out recklessly, prodigally, all over his feet. She wiped them with her own hair. She could the gasps of shock and outrage around the room, but she no longer cared what those hypocrites thought.  She looked up into his eyes, and it was as if the love she found there created a shield to protect her from their cruel judgement. The world could only offer her condemnation, but he had given her something far more precious. He had given her forgiveness.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Lighten our Darkness

Lighten our darkness oh Lord we pray, for we who bear your name can no longer see our way.
We have eaten from what you had forbidden, and we know ourselves to be naked and ashamed.
We are exiled from the garden, and our world is full of bitter weeds.
There is tempest and storm and terror, and we feel ourselves shipwrecked and your deeps rise up against us
We have followed your command to leave the comfortable and familiar, but we cannot discern where the place of Your promise lies
You have promised us an inheritance and a future, but we ache with our barrenness
We wrestle with you, aching to be a people of integrity, but our fears are our downfall
Lighten our darkness, oh Lord!

Lighten our darkness oh Lord we pray.
We groan under the shackles of slavery, and do not know how to protect our own from death.
We stand on holy ground, but cannot believe your calling
We see how your judgement falls, but alien gods have twisted their fingers in our souls.
You kept us dry as we walked through the terrible waters, but our hearts are still the hearts of slaves.
We have trembled before the thunder of your commands, and are afraid to come too close to you.
We would rather worship the work of our own hands.
We have stepped back at the moment when you called us forwards, because our wilderness, whilst bitter, is safe and familiar.
Lighten our darkness, oh Lord!

Lighten our darkness, oh Lord we pray!
We have seen your victory, and rejoiced, but grew weary of the battle before the job was done.
Whenever we were not inspired, we returned to the old ways and the old habits, and were helpless to defend ourselves from oppression.
We wanted to look like everyone else around us, and your kingship was too high for us, so we made ourselves subject to the rulership of men.
We judge by outward appearance, and do not look upon the heart
We can be so faith-filled one minute, and fall prey to our most egregious appetites the next, and power and privilege are so quickly our corruption
We build your temple while our hearts are wandering away
Lighten our darkness oh Lord!

Lighten our darkness oh Lord we pray!
We all claim to be yours, but so easily divide between ourselves.
We follow corrupt leadership, because they offer us an easier way.
We find ourselves in exile from your promise, and do not believe you could have let this happen.
Only your angels stand between ourselves and ravening persecution
And when we return to the place we left, it seems a poor restoration, for the place itself has been defiled and diminished.
We strive to keep your law, and harden our hearts against each other in the process
We harden our hearts against you and do not even know what we have done.
We are proud to have put away our idols, and cannot see that we worship our  own piety.
Lighten our darkness oh Lord!

Lighten our darkness oh Lord we pray!
We need your deliverance, for we cannot redeem ourselves.
Unless you take our part, unless you take our place, we will never find your peace.
We wait for your redemption, for you are our redeemer
We hunger for that city which needs neither sun nor moon, for you, yourself are its light
We hunger for you, our only hope, our only way, our only truth, our only life.

Lighten our darkness oh Lord!