When God Asks the Questions: do you see this woman?

A Prayer for the Brokenhearted
Offered in worship at Montecito Covenant Church
Sunday morning, October 23, 2011
in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Luke 7:36-50

“Show your face, God of grace,
Enter in, enter in, enter in.”

Even as we let the last echoes of that song 

rise to the rafters of this room, Lord God,
our hearts continue to cry:
“Show your face, God of grace…”

We sit here in these pews,
reminded as we have been this morning
 of unjust and oppressive acts
of violence,
of judgment,
of hatred and disdain,
of objectification and condescension
and perhaps most of all,
of blindness
that psychological and spiritual
blindness which is the root cause of it all.

We sit here and we try to take it all in,
and we might be tempted to either brush the whole idea off
or to quickly lay the blame for it all
at the feet of others.
All those others out there –
those others who lack
our insight and education;
who lack
our resources and opportunities;
all those others.

But before we get too far down either one of those roads, Lord,
the one that leads to a quick shrug of the shoulders 

or the one that leads to rage against the machine –
we need to take a really deep breath.
And we need to ponder
our own complicity in this whole cycle.

Help us, then, as we begin with a time of
honest personal reflection,
acknowledging the ways in which:

we are impatient and uncomfortable with
this whole topic and wish it would
just go away;

the ways in which we are sure this has nothing to do with us! and the ways in which we’re beginning to think it has everything to do with us;

the ways in which
we are like Simon the Pharisee in our sermon story,
 so quick to judge others first, last and always by
how they look,
what they’re wearing,
what others say about them;

the ways in which we so easily look right past people –  
 sometimes even the people closest to us – 

failing to see them
for who they truly are,
failing to recognize how very like us they are,
and how very like you;

in short, Lord, we need to ponder and acknowledge and confess the ways in which we are dishonest, uncharitable,
mean-spirited and blind – so unlike the One we profess to follow.

So, hear our prayer, O Lord. Hear our prayer.
Forgive us our trespasses,

As confessing and forgiven people, Lord,
we are now bold to ask that you give us hearts that are tender –  
even as you did for the woman with the perfume in Luke’s gospel.
Will you give us hearts that are broken for your sake?
Hearts that will help us look beyond the surface,
beyond the first impression,beyond the…
“How are you today?”
“Oh, I’m fine, just fine…”

to see YOU in the broken hearts of our friends
and our neighbors,
the broken hearts of our wives
and our daughters,
the broken hearts of women and men everywhere.

Because the truth is, Lord,
there isn’t a whole-hearted person
on this planet.
We’re all wounded.
Help us to own our pain and then
to allow that pain – baptized and blessed by your Holy Spirit – to change us.

We are your people, O Lord.
At least we say we are.
And we want to see each other as you see us,
as human beings created in your image,
created male and female,
two sides of the human coin,
designed to work together as partners,
reflecting the fullness of who you are.

So I want to thank you today for Jesus,
who came to show us the way,
who came to save us from our worst selves,
and who asks us every single day,
“Do you see this woman?”
“And this one, and this one and this one…?”
Oh, may we hear and answer!
May we answer with our words and with our actions,
with our hearts and with our minds,
with our wills and with our pocketbooks,
with our eyes open,
our ears in tune,
our spirits in sync with your own.

If we don’t do this, Lord, who on earth will?

May your kingdom come!
May it come with power,
and justice
and grace.
May it come to us,
and in us,
and through us.
For Jesus’ sake.
For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

It was strange to stand up in the pulpit again after 11 months away. Very strange. It was a rich worship experience in every other way – the sermon, the scripture readings, the music! Oh, the music. I want to include here the words to a hymn which was new to me and quite powerful. The text is by Brian Wren, an extraordinarily talented hymn writer who penned this wonderful multi-verse story of women in scripture way back in 1983. This version has two verses in addition to the six we sang and it is just plain gorgeous. I offer it, along with the prayer, in lieu of other reflections on yesterday’s service. And I share it with Michelle and with Jen, as I try to do each week in response to their kind invitations: 
“Woman in the Night,” anthem and hymn; text by Brian Wren, 1983. Set to a Methodist hymn tune by Charles Webb, 1989. 

Woman in the night, spent from giving birth,

                   guard our precious light: peace is on the earth!

Refrain (sung after each verse):
                   Come and join the song, women, children, men.

                   Jesus makes us free to live again.

                  Woman in the crowd, creeping up behind,

                   touching is allowed: seek and you will find!

                  Woman at the well, question the messiah,
                  find your friends and tell, drink your hearts desire!

                  Woman at the feast, let the righteous stare;
                  come and go in peace; love him with your hair!

                  Woman in the house, nurtured to be meek,
                  leave your second place: listen, think, and speak!

                  Woman on the road, welcomed and restored,
                  travel far and wide; witness to the Lord!

                  Women on the hill, stand when men have fled!                                             
Christ needs loving still, though your hope is dead.

                  Women in the dawn, care and spices bring;

                  earliest to mourn; earliest to sing!


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  1. They are all around us. Hurting women who are believers but are still in the healing process. They were there this morning when I shared about times we have feelings of not being worth anything, and of no value. Then God reminds us that we are special and that he is still working on us and we are not finished yet. One lady told me, she is just now after two years coming into wholeness. Loved your poetic words!

  2. shrinkthecamel says

    “He came to save us from our worst selves…” Thank God for that. Recognizing, and then reaching.

  3. Okay, I just came from Deidra’s place and, as you know, I wrote about The God Who Sees. And Michelle wrote about seeing our neighbor before us. Now here you are talking about our deep,deep desire to be seen and the call to truly see others. Hmmm…I think maybe God is trying to tell me something today. What could it be? Think, think, think…

  4. It’s always easy to spot the splinter in someone else’s eye. Harder to see it in our own. I was reflecting on that this morning, too. It’s scary to ask for the blinders to be taken off, because it’s no fun to see in the mirror when the rose-tinted glasses come off.

  5. Oh, Diana. So much said here. And what a gift it must have been to have you in the pulpit again!

    This is my Father’s World and He is working…even when I can’t see it. Offering a prayer for these wounded ones today.

  6. I love it when we sit and ponder questions from God. Great post. Glad I connected with you.

  7. All I can pray now, after reading these words of yours, is “yes, Lord, help me see…”

  8. How beautiful to bring this prayer to the throne of God for women, especially those that have no words. I joined you in praying it as I read. Thank you Diana. =)

  9. Thank you all for your kind words, for reading along with this prayer. Since posting this, I’ve been struck by the number of posts out this week that are touching on similar issues – needing to see people, the deep yearning to be seen, the struggles of women in particular in this whole area. And women in abusive relationships, no matter what form the abuse may take, need to be seen…and heard. So this was a moving service to be a part of and continues to niggle away at me as I move through this week. I always appreciate your taking the time to drop me a word – thank you all.