When Compassion Clothes Shame

In the midst of the religious exposition and exploitation of a highly vulnerable woman, we witness Jesus' embodied compassion in action. He is literally and figuratively teaching us how he goes about clothing the naked vulnerability of shame. We hear and see how Jesus responds in word and action to accusers.

This passage may trigger a traumatic response in those who have been exploited in similar ways. If this is you, be most compassionate with yourself. Ground and care for yourself in this present moment by placing your feet on the ground, tapping your arms and taking some deep, calming breaths. If you can, seek to find a safe place in your prayer where you most connect with the loving compassion of Jesus. Always you have freedom to step away from the prayer if that is what you need.

John 8:1-11 (NLT)
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

What feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this story? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings. Ask for what you need. Ground yourself in the present moment.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s compassion for you.

When Jesus Comes Towards Us

Unexpectedly, Jesus comes towards us often disguised in ways in which we cannot see him. Jesus comes to us in our place of need, yet sometimes we are desperately afraid of our true need. It is hard to imagine Jesus wanting to meet us somewhere we do not want to be. Still, he comes and descends gently upon us through his Spirit. Be still and rest in Christ's presence as you pray with John's testimony of Jesus coming towards him.

John 1:29-34 (NLT)
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

Amen: Agreeing Together

The week of the long walk to the cross is underway. The text slows down remarkably, and we are given glimpses into the last intimate moments of instruction and wisdom mingled with love and compassion that our Rabbi Jesus offers to his disciples.

This text may invoke a longing to be in agreement with God through prayer: that place where our innermost desires become unified and we long for the same thing. As we become more like Jesus, these desires increasing shift from being externally imposed on us to springing up from a well within.

As we enter into prayer, we may ask ourselves, "am I having faith in God or the outcome of my prayer?"

Mark 11:20-25 (NIV)

20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word(s) or phrase(s) in the passage call out to you?

What prayers has God placed in your heart? What doubts do you have about these prayers? Bring these into conversation with God.

Where are you noticing that your desires are aligning with God's desires? Journal what you notice.

Is anything (or anyone) blocking your freedom to come to God in prayer? Invite God to show you - offering and receiving forgiveness as the Holy Spirit prompts.