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Lent 2011

Come Out From Behind the Stained Glass Window

Day 27

By by Deaconess Sandi Hortman, Columbus, Ga.

Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and lo! there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead. We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully. We wait for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions before you are many, and our sins testify against us. Our transgressions indeed are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning away from following our God, talking oppression and revolt, conceiving lying words and uttering them from the heart. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and whoever turns from evil is despoiled. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle. According to their deeds, so will he repay; wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render requital. So those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord, and those in the east, his glory; for he will come like a pent-up stream that the wind of the Lord drives on.

—Isaiah 59:9-19

In the Old Testament, Isaiah tells us that sin separates us from God and hides from our eyes the things that give us peace. John tells us in the New Testament to walk with our Christ, in confidence, even though we may suffer the loss of friends and even life itself. If we don't walk with our Lord, then justice stands "afar off."

In the song "Stained Glass Masquerade" by the band Casting Crowns we are warned about "our shiny plastic steeples with walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain."

Do we go out into the byways with the love of Christ in our hearts?

Does "justice stand afar off" in our communities? Are we hiding behind walls and smiling at one another and not the brokenhearted? Do we extend an invitation to all of our community to join us inside those walls, under those steeples? Do we go out into the byways with the love of Christ in our hearts?

At Open Door Community House in Columbus, Ga., where I minister as a United Methodist deaconess, we see persons who are brokenhearted and downtrodden every day. They may not look "pretty" or smell "pretty," but they are loved by Christ, and if we are to be an incarnational ministry they should be loved by us. Are we masquerading behind our stained glass windows? Do we truly invite all to join us at the communion table?

As I write this devotional, I think of a man who entered Open Door, confused and afraid. He was a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, a man who, after experiencing untold atrocities of war, lived for years as an alcoholic in the woods of a very rural community until a Christian friend brought him to our United Methodist mission. There he felt love in the arms of Christ as he was invited to join a culinary arts class, was referred to a men's shelter, and was given food and clothing all in the name of Jesus. Only later did he tell us that he intended to commit suicide on the very day he came to Open Door. Today, he is receiving disability payments, cooks wonderful meals for himself and his neighbors, rents a small cottage, and has taken in a homeless dog he named Sweet Pea. He loves the Lord with all his heart, and although he still cannot sit inside a church with a crowd of people, he worships outside the "stained glasses" on the sidewalk of a church across the street from his cottage.


Gracious God, help us, as Easter people, walk the streets of our towns and cities where we may meet justice that is "standing afar off." Help us walk with Jesus the Christ as we encounter the suffering. Give us strength and guidance, and help us grow closer and closer to you and offer Christian love and the gospel invitation to every broken heart. No more stained-glass masquerade—only a humble walk of justice with our fellow human beings. Amen.

Last Updated: 04/15/2014

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