Everyday means of God’s gracious presence:
“The Word that becomes flesh and dwells among us, full of grace and truth”
When the Wood is Green
A midrash on Luke 23:31, told in
the voice of Angela, a woman
living in one of Georgia’s prisons
by Jane E. Fahey ’01
I was 14 when it happened. It seems like a lifetime ago. But I guess I should say it was a life sentence ago, because that’s what I got. I was young, green, just a girl who might have become someone who . . ..
Well, who knows what might have been?
But no one stopped long enough to ask “Who is this girl accused of killing her aunt?” The prosecutor just said, “We will try her as an adult.” The lawyer appointed to represent me just said, “Take the deal; avoid the risk of something worse.”
I know now that the “deal” was the worst I would have gotten if tried and convicted: a life sentence.
No one bothered to listen to my story of being sent back to live with the father who nearly beat me to death when I was five, or being raped by my brother and my mother’s friends. No one noticed that I was slow, with what I’m now told is borderline mental retardation. No one heard the doctors’ recommendation, just before my aunt’s death, that I should receive inpatient psychiatric treatment. No one bothered to see a troubled girl who needed more than a prison cell with a steel door and adult roommates.
And now, in my late 20’s, I hear the voice of Jesus, himself a convicted criminal, carrying his cross, on his way to becoming the executed God. I hear Jesus saying to the fearful folks around him, to locked-down America, to the community who jailed me, “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. . . . For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Jane Fahey is director of Columbia’s Faith and the City program. She has recently been called to be pastor of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, Atlanta.
The Christ was with me and in me as I looked with a shattered heart upon an 86-year-old “mother and woman of God.” My nurse’s eye told me she would not live without life support and that all the powers of this earth would push for that eventually. Alone with her in a hospital room, I began to pray and the Holy Spirit of God, Christ in me, started praying with a power and a voice previously unknown to me! My whole body, mind, and heart were involved. My fists were clenched, my body bent double, rocking to and fro. I heard myself demand of God that my precious friend be given mercy. “Take her now, take her now, no machines, no suffering, take her now.” It was done a few hours later. Mercy and Grace won the day. I continue to wonder at my boldness before God! The Spirit, the Christ, the Holy One was with me that day for that moment! Praise be to God!
Todd Jenkins ’90
I was dreaming as I
flew down the interstate
‘bout a world in which
people could all relate
where time is always taken
for friendship in the makin’
and hearts can be
tender without fear.
If ever there came
a time and place
with kingdom approaching
falling into grace
each learning to rest
for love to serve best
beyond translucent veil
holiness breathably near.
God’s grace reflected in the face of a Warao Indian in the Mamano River basin of Venezuela
Ben Mathes ’78
Yesterday I witnessed, perhaps, the most blessed worship service of all my life, and it seems beyond adequate description. Elders Guttierrez, Howard, and Iverson conducted a baptismal and communion service which was a high and holy moment in the story of church renewal. I congratulate the Classis [of Passaic Valley] in giving permission for these elders to act in the place of a Minister of the Word and Sacraments. God is doing a work that is exceedingly and abundantly above all.
In my memory I have never experienced such a blessed service—and that covers 80 years.
There were 21 baptisms and two re-affirmations of faith—a far call from when I had four active members in attendance on World-wide Communion Sunday. The three families baptized included toddlers and children up to teenage, fathers and mothers. The preparation regarding salvation, the church, and Christian life in membership classes had been quite thorough. Dressed in Sunday best, each with a rose, they knelt on a cushion in front of the baptismal fount in side-view to the congregation. Each baptism was seen as personal and significant. The congregation clapped with a joy at each one.
Bill Iverson ’52
Incarnation is that wonderful word that singularly defines the mystery and majesty of God. Word became flesh! How can this be? Only a miracle could allow it or provide it, but then again miracles are for God a part of the eternal day to day. I have always loved what I first heard Roland Purdue say about the incarnation of God. He said, “God got dressed up in the overalls of humanity, into something that you and I could understand.” Isn’t it wonderful that the greatest gift of all at Christmas is none other than Jesus Christ!
Ernie Johnson ’72
I have been using this image taken after a summer thunder-and-lightning storm to ponder the presence of God during the silent times in my life: The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13
April Love-Fordham ’06
When I arrived in West Point, MS, 13 years ago, I found a small congregation of committed Presbyterians determined to be an example of what the church of Jesus Christ looked like—rich and poor, young and old, black, and white—with doors open to everyone no matter where they were in their faith journey.
They were the loyal remnant that remained with the denomination, never missing Sunday worship in the house they purchased on the corner of Mulberry and Main Streets to continue the church in a new place.
The congregation has changed over the years, but to me, the church that is, and those no longer with us, will always be the incarnation of the grace of God with us, and I miss them.
Rita Cochrane ’94 (TH.M.’95)