Tag Archive: Sin


If you only knew…

This was Sunday’s sermon at Community Lutheran Church in Sterling, VA, done in spoken word/slam poetry style from the perspective of the unnamed woman in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 7:36-8:3).

If you knew what kind of woman I was,
You would know
that you should run –
Take off,
Say “I’m done”
Flee from the very sight of me,
And never look back,
Not for lack of compassion,
But because the rules tell you so.

You would know
As soon as I barged into that place,
The look of fear,
Disgust,
Disgrace,
Sweeping over that Pharisee’s face
is your cue –
Do what our culture says to do.
Walk away – forget what you’ve seen.
If you only knew.

Imagine – I’ve heard it all before.
The whispers, the stares, the shame that floods,
Do they think I don’t care?
Do they think I don’t see the glances?
Praying instead for second chances?
Do they think I don’t feel?
Like I don’t have any worth?
Hurt.
Day in and day out.
I carry it all.
If they knew what kind of woman I was.

But somehow in my heart I know,
You’re not like them.
And so I take the last remaining shred
Of street cred and dignity and go to buy
The alabaster jar.
Hope beyond hope
That you’ll forgive the sin that mars
My life
My future
My relationships.
If you only knew what kind of woman I was.

So I’ve come here among your ranks,
Overflowing,
Gushing,
Weeping,
In sheer thanks,
For forgiveness you have yet to bestow.
Low I crouch,
And anoint your feet,
Beat,
Beat,
Beat,
My heart thumps as tears flow freely,
Jesus, will you see me?
If you only knew what kind of woman I was.

I glance Simon in the corner of my eye,
He’s wondering why
I’m here,
Without an invitation
He dines with
The healer of the nations.
“She doesn’t deserve it,
What a waste.”
Waiting to put me in my place,
But unable to pull me
Away from this table,
Even as he burns up inside:
“If he knew what kind of woman she is.”

Every one of my tears
A prayer,
Crying out for all of my years:
“Don’t shove me aside.
Love –
let there be love.
I don’t want to hide.”

And you don’t.

You tell that Pharisee,
Although he thinks he can see,
Although he thinks he perceives,
And thinks he believes,
Rightly –
He’s wrong.
I’m forgiven and free –
Mercy
Washes over me.
I’m seen and I can see –
You know who I was
And who I can be.

You send me on my way,
Saying,
“You’ve been saved.”
And for the first time
I’m light,
Airy,
The weight’s been lifted,
And I want run all around,
From town to town,
Proclaiming,
“If you only knew what kind of woman I was!
If you only knew what kind of God he is!”

You see,
Because that’s your game,
Taking,
Shame,
Blame,
Pain,
And forgiving,
Giving,
A new way of living.
If you only knew what kind of God he is.

But people always misunderstand,
Land to land,
We’re all the same,
Stuck in our sin,
In – ward looking,
Pointing at others,
Blind to our own misdeeds.
On a campus where
Crime is seen as just a youthful fancy,
Or in Latvia –
Women preaching the Gospel
Have made men antsy.
If you only knew what kind of God he is.

Gossip,
Racism,
War,
Hate,
Sins of scarlet
Far and near,
Mark our world,
Jar our lives.
Drowning in disappointment –
Is there a balm –
An ointment?
To soothe our weary souls?

So don’t ask me to simmer
When there are people who need
A glimmer
Of hope
Mercy
Justice
A voice and a choice,
In a world gone bad
With people who are mad –
Trapped in their own mistakes,
Fears,
Trying to break others
Cause they can’t deal
With their own stuff.
Enough!
If they only knew what kind of people they were,
And could be.

We’ve been anointed,
Appointed to tell the story,
Of YOUR glory,
Of your cross,
Your rising
Your Spirit,
To all who will hear it.
To proclaim your kingdom,
Be heaven to earth
Bringing
People of peace
Loving the lost and forgotten
If we only knew what kind of people they are.

Because up your sleeve there’s an ace.
Grace –
Yes, a table of grace,
A place
We can meet you face to face,
Touch you
Like a woman
At another table,
Who loved much.
If we only knew…

© 2016. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

(From: http://www.heqiart.com/2-the-life-of-jesus.html "Mary Magdalene" by He Qi - This woman is unnamed, but some have associated her with Mary Magdalene)

(From: http://www.heqiart.com/2-the-life-of-jesus.html “Mary Magdalene” by He Qi – This woman is unnamed, but some have associated her with Mary Magdalene)

Sermon from June 28 at Community Lutheran Church in Sterling, VA.

Imana ishyimwe! Praise God! Our mission trip to Rwanda was a incredibly eye-opening and moving journey. On the one hand, I learned up close about the depth of human hatred and depravity. On the other, I left feeling like I had never encountered such a depth of joy in all my travels. How could both of these things be present in the same place and even among the same people? As I reflect and try to understand, I can only think that it is because we were able to glimpse both death and resurrection.

During the genocide in 1994, men were both disproportionately the perpetrators and victims. Afterward, some 70 percent of the country was women. Many of whom had been abused, raped, wounded, and widowed. Or whose families had perpetrated crimes against others and were now in prison. How would they be able to go on after such a horrific tragedy? Men had been breadwinners and now the world had been shaken to the core. Those who were left were hurting, sick, suffering from PTSD, dealing with poverty, and finding it nearly impossible to build trust or community.

I think about the woman in the lesson this morning. She had suffered with hemorrhages for twelve agonizing years. No one could help her. And because of her disease, she was unclean and isolated from society. She must have felt so completely cut off from everything she once knew and enjoyed. Perhaps she had once loved life in her village, but now it was a place of isolation, loneliness, hurt and distrust. How could there be hope for a future?

After the woman in the Gospel quietly touches Jesus’ clothes to receive healing, she is unable to hide any longer. She tells him her whole story about all the doctors, the years of suffering, the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and shame, and how she knew she would be better if she could only touch even his clothes. Jesus looks at her and says gently, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

I hear this story and I think about those Rwandan women after the genocide, and what they must have gone through. They, too, struggled to find hope and a future. They, too, must have felt relegated to the land of the dead as opposed to the land of the living. They, too, must have felt shame for what they suffered or what they or others had done.

But slowly, things began to change. Women began to realize that in order to move forward, they needed to work together. They gathered to talk and weave. Hutu and Tutsi women began sitting together, side-by-side, weaving peace baskets, which nest to show how intricate and how long a process the road to peace and reconciliation is. All over Rwanda, co-ops have formed. People have come together across ethnic lines to begin building, or weaving, a future for their country and for their children.

We were blessed to experience this healing and resurrection in many places on our trip, but particularly in the villages of Gitarama and Nyange. In Gitarama, we participated in Azizi Life, an experience shadowing Rwandan women for the day, learning about their lives, and having the amazing opportunity to share cross-culturally.

While there, we helped prepare lunch, we harvested and planted sweet potatoes, we collected water by walking to the spring with jerry cans, we cut elephant grass and balanced it on our heads to take to the cow, we ate lunch together, prayed, sang and danced, and learned how to make earrings and bracelets from banana leaves. It was incredible. Together, these women have a co-op and they make beautiful handicrafts to sell around the world. They receive a fair wage and are able to support themselves and their families.

Sitting on Our Host's Front Porch Making Jewelry (Azizi Life)

Sitting on Our Host’s Front Porch Making Jewelry (Azizi Life)

DSCN9905

With Pauline who Taught Me (Errr… tried to teach me!) How to Make Banana Leaf Earrings and a Bracelet

I found myself sitting on the front porch of our host’s home filled with joy – not wanting the moment to end. We had been so warmly embraced by these women. Their smiles and laughter made me overflow with joy. So much so that when I went to say goodbye and thank you to our host, I found myself tearing up with gratitude. How could this come from the unfathomable depth of suffering of the genocide?

In Nyange, we sat with the village elders with whom Pr. John, Robin’s husband, has been working. They are rebuilding their community by working together to decide what is important for them as a whole. Together, they have decided that they are most in need of new roofs. And in the process, Pr. John has been coaching and encouraging them so that they can put together an action plan, hold meetings, make presentations to government officials, and reflect on their project and its effectiveness. I asked them what has changed as a result of this and one woman said, “We used to not even want to wash our clothes. We were ashamed and we didn’t want to interact with one another. Now we want to take care of ourselves. We are even discussing family planning. We can make presentations to people without being afraid.” Each one of them mentioned how their confidence had increased – how they are once again able to look others in the eye.

Meeting with the Community at Nyange

Meeting with the Community at Nyange

Meeting with the Community in Nyange

Meeting with the Community in Nyange

I hear in that an echo of the woman from the Gospel. She was healed and able to tell her story of her movement from death to life. These communities have been healed, by the grace of God at work in the world and by their faith that there could be a future. And now they are able to tell their stories – to share the joy of their resurrection with us. To point to what God can do – crossing all walls and boundaries and bringing resurrection from the darkest depths of hatred and death.

The day after our Azizi Life experience we heard about the shooting in Charleston. I was sad. I was angry. We had just visited a church in Rwanda that was the site of the killing of 10,000 people. Now here was a shooting in a church in our own backyard. Why? Why do we continue to hurt one another? Our sin runs deep. Racism, lack of compassion for those who are different, hard hearts unwilling to learn and grow and change… We have an opportunity at this moment to begin to discuss what has happened and to work together across races and ethnicities to build a better future for all people. I know that Christ can bring life out of this hurt and death – I know that more deeply after visiting Rwanda. But are we open to his working in us to do so?

Christ healed a woman on the fringes of society and brought her back into her community. He is at work in Rwanda through women and men working together to rebuild their communities. And he is at work even now, starting conversations and reconciliation among Americans in communities across the country. Might we, like the disciples, be overcome with amazement at what God is able to do. Amen.

© 2015. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

This was the sermon I preached on February 1 at Community Lutheran Church.

Sitting here on a Sunday morning, maybe it’s hard to see what this morning’s story about casting out demons has to do with your life today.  But can you imagine what it would be like if this passage was playing out before you? Shut your eyes for a moment.  Imagine the stone walls of the synagogue.  You hear a man speaking at the front of the room on a raised dais.  He’s teaching about the Scriptures you’ve heard your whole life, but there’s something different in his voice.  Instead of debating and discussing what these Scriptures mean, it sounds like he knows.  There is a confidence and authority that carry his every word.

As you listen, all of a sudden you hear a cry – eerie and otherworldly, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”  You see a man crying out in this voice, running to the front of the synagogue.  The teacher speaking at the front of the room yells sternly, “Be silent, and come out of him!” Before your eyes, the man shakes violently and cries out loudly.  You cannot believe what you’ve just seen and heard and you’re wondering who this teacher could be.  Who is this man who carries such authority in his words and actions? You cannot wait to tell others.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/f9/ea/40/f9ea4079b6eed15e4e40d0b8765adf5e.jpg

Open your eyes.  Welcome back.  When we hear this story, I think we tend to lump it into a group of biblical stories that we feel may have been relevant to people thousands of years ago, but feel like they have little to say to us today.  We hear about Jesus casting out unclean spirits – exorcising a man! – in the middle of a worship service and it makes us feel… well, maybe a little uncomfortable.  Do we just ignore this story? I don’t think we should – I think we’d be foolish to do so.

Mark’s Gospel has been moving along with lightning speed.  So far, God has torn open the sky at Jesus’ baptism, sending the Holy Spirit to dwell within and empower Jesus for his ministry.  Then that Spirit drove him into the wilderness to be tested by Satan.  And last week, we heard that Jesus called disciples to follow him.  Today, we have Jesus’ first recorded ministerial act in Mark’s Gospel – and it’s an exorcism!

The Gospel tells us that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath when all of this occurred. On a day when people are called to rest, take delight in God, worship and renew relationships with others, an unclean spirit causes chaos.  But Jesus will have none of it – where chaos, destruction, and harm try to reign, Jesus ushers in God’s kingdom and restores the natural balance once more.  Jesus brings healing to the possessed man and restores him to his place in his community.  In essence, Jesus frees and allows him to once again enjoy the Sabbath given by God.

And while the spirit inhabits one man, it utters, “what have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” This spirit could be speaking on behalf of the forces of evil as a whole.  But I also think this tells us that Jesus is not just engaging in a one time battle with one spirit, but in a fight against all that would seek to threaten, destroy or enslave creation.

This language may sound odd, but we actually hear it every time we celebrate a baptism.  In the baptismal rite, which is basically an ancient form of exorcism, we are asked, “Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God?” and “Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God?”  Three times we are asked to renounce sin, death and the devil, and three times we affirm our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The unclean is washed away, and we are given the Holy Spirit – “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy” in God’s presence.  From baptism on – often the very beginnings of our lives in the church – we are shaped by Jesus’ authority and power to drive out sin and the forces that defy God.

So why do we skirt these readings? Why do we relegate them to stories from the past? We write these stories off, but they have so much to teach us about God.

I think sometimes we tend to get comfortable with God.  We forget what Mark’s Gospel is trying to tell us– that this is a God who tears apart the heavens to be with humanity.  A God whose first act is to get rid of the dangerous spirit that is impeding a man’s ability to be a part of his community, his ability to worship God, and keeping him from enjoying life.  A God who tears apart chaos, confusion and hurt in order to bring healing and wholeness.  A God who will be broken and torn to bring redemption to all of creation.

We get a little too comfortable and settled, thinking we know what God is up to – that we’ve heard it all before and there’s nothing new.  Maybe we even think God acted in the past, but we feel that it’s clear from the news that God is nowhere to be seen or powerless to act. I think we all do this, myself included.  But I think when we find ourselves thinking this way, we end up selling God short.  We don’t trust that God wants to be at work and is at work in the world and in our lives.  Each of us has our own demons and unclean spirits we struggle with.  Pride.  Greed.  Insecurity.  Lack of trust. Judgmentalism.  Lack of confidence.  An inability to say no. Fear. Consumerism. All of these things can possess and paralyze us – making us unable to move forward as followers of Christ.

As Frederick Buechner wrote, “God knows we have our own demons to be cast out, our own uncleanness to be cleansed. Neurotic anxiety happens to be my own particular demon, a floating sense of doom that has ruined many of what could have been, should have been, the happiest days of my life, and more than a few times in my life I have been raised from such ruins, which is another way of saying that more than a few times in my life I have been raised from death – death of the spirit anyway, death of the heart – by the healing power that Jesus calls us both to heal with and to be healed by.”

Christ offered healing on the Sabbath to the man possessed and he offers healing to each of us today.  Through the Word speaking to our lives, bread broken and wine poured out for us, and this incredible community of loving saints, Jesus offers us healing and a way forward through the confusion.

One thing that strikes me hearing this passage is that the unclean spirit Jesus cast out did not go quietly – it convulsed and cried out before finally departing.  Sometimes the way to healing is going to be loud, messy, and confusing, but always, Jesus is at our side, working for our well-being.  We are followers of the cross – and Jesus hasn’t promised that the road will be easy.  The cross is at the heart of Mark’s Gospel – it is where Jesus will be revealed as the Messiah.  And just as the sky ripped in two at Jesus’ baptism and God declared Jesus’ “Beloved Son,” on the cross, the curtain in the Temple will be torn in two, showing for once and all who Jesus is and that God’s people are no longer separated from God.  The road may be difficult, but God is always with us.

As Buechner pointed out, the healing we experience is never just for us as individuals alone.  Often, God uses others to heal us and uses us to heal those around us.  We are blessed to be given the opportunity to walk with others in their difficulties, to pray for and encourage them, and to reassure them that God cares for them.

We think of some of these stories as meant for people far different from ourselves, but are they really that different? We hear of violence around the world or even in our own backyards, or struggle with addiction, chronic illness, or the memories and regrets of the past. There is evil in the world and there are real, undeniable difficulties in our lives. Why wouldn’t we say that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, crucified and risen from the dead, has the power to heal and make whole all that is wrong in this world?

So today, on this Sabbath, and in this house of worship, where do you desire healing in your life? Where do you feel broken and long for Jesus to put you back together again? What demons and past regrets would you have Jesus cast out?

Our healing may not be as dramatic as this morning’s reading or always look like what we were expecting, but Christ is working to bring healing in all areas of our lives.  Healing in our relationship with God, with others, with ourselves, as well as physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Thanks be to God! Amen.

© 2015. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Thank You

Where suffering, wounded and broken hearts abide,
There within them you humbly reside.

Where pains and hurts are too great to tell,
There among them you have chosen to dwell.

Where confounded by worry, fear, and sin’s snare,
There with tenderness, love and mercy you patiently care.

Thank you.

© 2013. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

Salvation

Salvation.
The word is so loaded.
Weighed down,
ensnared in a web
of lines drawn between
in and out,
right and wrong,
redeemed and tossed aside.

But the word itself,
is salve.
It is healing, wholeness –
the thing that binds up wounds,
rifts and cavernous divides
between Creator and beloved creation,
between your aching heart and mine,
between your grievous sins and my own.

Salvation.
The word is so loaded.
Saturated with mercy,
Laden with freedom
bursting through the lines
we perpetually draw
to keep God’s grace
contained in our limited boxes.

© 2013. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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