Online Sunday Service:
The Beauty of Brokenness

In this reflection, we will be exploring the interaction between Jesus and the woman who anointed him with her tears and expensive perfume. This interaction has some fascinating themes involving brokenness, acceptance and extravagant self-giving. It is a beautiful illustration of forgiveness, as described by St. Catherine of Siena: "Strange that so much suffering is caused because of the misunderstanding of God's true nature. ... God's forgiveness to all, to any thought or act, is more certain than our own being."

We will begin with a time of sacred reading, leading into a video with some reflections on the reading.

 

To begin with, I invite you to listen to the following piece of music as an invitation to open your heart to the healing presence of the Spirit:

Female Statue broken light paige bradley.jpg

Sculpture by Paige Bradley

Lyrics

O gather up the brokenness

And bring it to me now

The fragrance of those promises

You never dared to vow

 

The splinters that you carry

The cross you left behind

Come healing of the body

Come healing of the mind

 

And let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb

 

Behold the gates of mercy

In arbitrary space

And none of us deserving

The cruelty or the grace

 

O solitude of longing

Where love has been confined

Come healing of the body

Come healing of the mind

 

O see the darkness yielding

That tore the light apart

Come healing of the reason

Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing

An undivided love

The Heart beneath is teaching

To the broken Heart above

 

O let the heavens falter

And let the earth proclaim:

Come healing of the Altar

Come healing of the Name

 

O longing of the branches

To lift the little bud

O longing of the arteries

To purify the blood

 

And let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb

 

O let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb

Sacred Reading:

 

Read the following passage through slowly two or three times, and allow yourself to use your imagination to enter into the story.

Luke 7:36–50

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."

Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Tell me, teacher," he said.

"Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven."

"You have judged correctly," Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

As an ending to the talk, listen to the following song/prayer by Alana Levandoski, in collaboration with James Finley:

The Hurting PlacesAlana Levandoski and James Finley
00:00 / 03:47

The following track is a reading of the poem below, The Unbroken, which you could listen to, or spend some time reading the poem for yourself:

The Unbroken poem and musicPoet: Rashani Rea
00:00 / 02:13

The Unbroken

There is a brokenness 

out of which comes the unbroken, 

a shatteredness 

out of which blooms the unshatterable. 

There is a sorrow 

beyond all grief which leads to joy 

and a fragility 

out of whose depths emerges strength. 

There is a hollow space too vast for words 

through which we pass with each loss, 

out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being. 

There is a cry deeper than all sound 

whose serrated edges cut the heart 

as we break open 

to the place inside which is unbreakable 

and whole 

while learning to sing.

Open Prayer:

I encourage you to spend some time now in personal or quiet prayer, holding open to God's tender presence whatever may have been touched in you, any hurting or tender places, any sense of vulnerability, brokenness, shame or exclusion - allow these wounded and shattered pieces to be gathered up in your own heart and in the infinite Heart of Love.

Statue broken light paige bradley.jpg

Sculpture by Paige Bradley

For further reflection:

Below are some of the quotes from the talk, together with a few additional quotes, for you to reflect on further:

Elizabeth Lesser:

"How strange that the nature of life is to change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be."

St Catherine of Siena:

"Strange that so much suffering is caused because of the misunderstanding of God's true nature. God's heart is more gentle than the Virgin's first kiss upon the Christ. And God's forgiveness to all, to any thought or act, is more certain than our own being. ... I have seen what you want; it is there, a Beloved of infinite tenderness."

 

Ezekiel 36:26

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;

I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Isaiah 55:10-12

As the rain and the snow
   come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
   without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
   so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
   It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Hafiz:

Tilled ground the soft heart,

and words like these the seeds,

and words like these the water,

and words like these a sun.

Beneath the surface of this game,

behind the veil,

all is working on your behalf.

Surely then you will rise up and embrace

what will make you most happy.

As a closing prayer, listen to the following song by Lauren Daigle, titled "Broken Vessels":

Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)Lauren Daigle
00:00 / 03:50

Lyrics

All these pieces, broken and scattered
In mercy gathered, mended and whole
Empty-handed but not forsaken
I've been set free, I've been set free

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me, ooh-oh
I once was lost but now I am found
Was blind but now I see

Oh, I can see You now
Oh, I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying Yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

You take our failure, You take our weakness
You set Your treasure in jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord, I'll be Your vessel
The world to see, Your life in me

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me, ooh-oh
I once was lost but now I am found
Was blind but now I see

Oh, I can see You now
Oh, I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying Yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

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