Embracing Grace: Forgiven

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 58

Scripture: Luke 7:36-50; Psalm 32:1-5; Psalm 130:3-4; Acts 2:37-39; Acts 10:42-44; Hebrews 9:21-23.

Photo Credit: Jon Sullivan. Public Domain.

I briefly entertained the notion of pursuing acting once upon a time, though you wouldn’t know it to look at me. It was in my freshman year. Our high school had  an amazing drama and music department. I had thoroughly enjoyed the previous year’s performances, so I decided to give it a go. But life sometimes hands you bitter lemons, and no matter what you do with them you are unable to sweeten the pot. The drama coach took an immediate and thorough disliking to me. It didn’t seem to matter to him that I excelled in the regional and state competitions that year, either. He simply didn’t like me, and that was that. After enduring his ridicule for a year, I withdrew from the drama team and concentrated solely on music. It wasn’t until a year or so after graduation that everything became clear. A big scandal hit the papers – the local high school drama teacher fired pending arraignment on charges of sexual molestation to several boys.

Fast forward six years. I was preparing for my role in an Easter play at my church. Though both acting and musical roles were available, I stuck to what I knew – the music. This was to be an interesting mix of choral numbers, solos, and dramatizations, complete with costumes, makeup, and a simplified set. My husband was one of the disciples involved in foot washing and the last supper, but my responsibility was to portray Mary Magdalene in a solo about halfway through the production. Here is a short bio on her…

Mary Magdalene is mentioned in all four of the Gospels and seems to be set apart from the other Mary’s by the use of a second name, Magdalene (Luke 8:2.) Some have thought that this referred to a town, Magdala, on the western shores of Galilee. In Hebrew מגדל Migdal means “tower”, “fortress”; in Aramaic, “Magdala” means “tower” or “elevated, great, magnificent”.1

Mary Magdalene is the only one named as witnessing all three of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and the empty tomb. Mark 16:9 and John 20:16 come right out and say that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene alone after He rose. Jesus cleansed Mary Magdalene of “seven demons,” according to Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9, and she was the first person to see Jesus after He rose from the dead (Mark 16:9.)

Tradition paints her as a prostitute, but this popular notion is nowhere reinforced in scripture. The confusion of her with another Mary who washed Jesus’ feet is thought to be the reason for this error. She is described as having paid for Jesus’ ministry out of her personal income2, and early Christian writings refer to her as “the apostle to the apostles.”

Back to my story…

We gathered several times each week to rehearse, and as is the way of creative productions, the content began to morph until it best fit the personality of the team. The drama coach nixed some lines and fleshed out others to add something “more” to the current cast of volunteers. Two weeks before our first performance, she asked the choir director if he would mind her adding a speaking part to my character. Our director agreed and suddenly I was once again thrust into the role of actress.

Rehearsals of my spoken lines were… adequate, but I struggled recapturing the natural ability I had earlier shown in high school. Rather than embarrass me, I think, they decided to keep my part and tried working with me on acting more, well, natural.

The years in college performing classical songs didn’t do much to help – there is nothing natural about opera.

Dress rehearsal was a total bomb, but they kept saying this was a good sign.

A good sign? You’ve got to be kidding!

The day of the first performance came without fanfare. It dawned clear and cool. I readied my makeup and costume, warmed up my voice, and was as ready as I was going to get. Then it began. I was surprised to find it actually was pretty good, as far as church things go. It seemed but a moment before my turn came. The house lights dimmed. I walked out to center stage, stopping at a taped “x” and picked up the microphone which had been set on the floor at this spot for me.

I don’t remember all the words my character spoke, since this was over thirty years ago, but I do remember what happened when I got to the part where I said “I’ve been forgiven…” For some reason, I broke character and stared at the audience in silence, a dawning realization coming over me. Looking down, I repeated it quietly, “I’ve been forgiven…,” as though speaking to myself, for I was. Then I looked up and said it again, this time more boldly, feeling my eyes widen. Picking up with the rest of my lines, I stood then sang the song to a spell-bound audience – not from some great performance of mine, which it wasn’t, but from the simple shared knowledge that we all have been forgiven.

Truly.

And I’ll never forget this one elderly man – he must have been at least 70 – who with others came forward at the end and received forgiveness from the only One who could give it – Jesus. Like the thief on the cross, he grasped the Truth that without forgiveness we all are doomed to eternity apart from God. It was a holy moment, the result of finally understanding that his sins had been nailed to the cross and that he had been

Forgiven.

Read: Luke 7:36-50; Psalm 32:1-5; Psalm 130:3-4; Acts 2:37-39; Acts 10:42-44; Hebrews 9:21-23. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, thank you for paying the price, for giving Your Son, for me. For me. In a world full of all sorts of superstars, you take the time to love me as though I was the only one You died for. Thank you for sending Jesus, amen.

_____________________

1 Wikipedia contributors. “Mary Magdalene.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 Apr. 2011. Web. 12 Apr. 2011.
2 “Mary Magdalene: Profile & Biography of Mary Magdalene, Female Disciple of Jesus.” Austin Cline. About.com Guide. 12 Apr. 2011. http://atheism.about.com/od/biblepeoplenewtestament/p/MaryMagdalene.htm

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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