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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gospel According to Janis Ian

At Seventeen
Janis Ian

"To those of us who know the pain 
of valentines that never came.  
And those whose names were never called 
when choosing sides at basketball.  
It was long ago and far away, 
the world was younger than today.  
And dreams were all they gave for free 
to ugly duckling girls like me."  

Several weeks ago on a road trip back home, I listened to a compilation CD that had this song on it.  Either I had never heard the song before or I had never really listened to the words.  But I found myself lost in the lyrics.  Because I was driving back to the place where I grew up, suddenly these words came to life.  This is exactly how I felt at seventeen!  I felt ugly, awkward and most of all I felt insignificant.  I don't think this is uncommon in teenage girls, but when you are that girl it feels horrible.  

We are entering into Holy week and my mind was taken to the book of Isaiah where the prophet was describing the coming Messiah.  And it seems that this Jesus would not have been the handsome olive skinned, curly haired man that we portray in pictures and movies.  Chapter 53 verses 2 - 6 in the Message say this: The servant grew up before God - a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.  There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look.  He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.  One look at him and people turned away.  We looked down on him, thought he was scum.  But the fact is, it was our pains he carried - our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.  We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures.  But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him - our sins!  Through his bruises we get healed.  We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.  We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.  And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong, on him, on him.

What do you suppose Jesus teen years would have been like if he had lived in America today?  From what I've read, I'm guessing he would have spent a lot of time alone.  I'm also guessing it would have been alright with him.  I get sickened sometimes when I see the display that we put on in the name of Jesus to produce a church service; hair...makeup... wardrobe...lights... camera... action!  Let's do this service!  At least that's how it feels sometimes. 

Would we have chosen the Jesus described in this passage to pastor any of our churches?  Would we have even embraced him as he walked through the doors of our building?  Maybe I'm thinking of myself here, but I am doubting that I would give a second glance unless simply to judge this ugly man. 

Janis sings "those of us with ravaged faces, lacking in the social graces. Desp'rately remained at home, inventing lovers on the phone, who called to say come dance with me and murmured vague obscenities.  It isn't all it seems At Seventeen".  When I see the picture perfect Jesus portrayed in movies and paintings I know that it isn't all it seems either.  Jesus wasn't beautiful, but what he represents is beautiful.  He lived a short life and walked a long road for me even though I wasn't perfect.  In fact he did this because I'm not perfect.  

As we enter into Holy week I hope that we are reminded as we plan our services that there are those who will come to services broken and alone.  They will feel dirty and ugly.  I hope that I am able to have the eyes to see beyond what may turn me away from embracing the one who feels insignificant.  

Thanks for stopping by,

Amy

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