Summary: We are transformed by the way God sees us
Some years ago Jill and I went on holiday to Cyprus, the Mediterranean island. Towards the end of our holiday we saw an advertisement for a Christian Musical by a man called Roger Jones. We had met Roger on two occasions when he came as a guest to the Conference Centre we were running at Winterborne Whitechurch in the 1980`s. We had liked his music then, so we decided to go along to hear his new offering. It was called "Mary Magdalene", the story of the young prostitute brought to Jesus by the Jewish authorities for condemnation - but Jesus didn`t condemn her. He forgave her and told her to "go and sin no more". She became one of His Disciples.
I was expecting the Musical to be sung by a young choir, and to be full of "Renewal Music", up to date and lively, so when the choir arrived I was staggered. Their average age was probably the late 60`s. The first chorus was raucous, dissonant and amateurish. I thought to myself, "Have I got to sit through two hours of this?".
The second piece was a duet between "Jesus" and "Mary". The conductor, who was getting on a bit, sang the part of Jesus. Mary was a grey-haired lady with dark, heavy spectacles, who turned out to be his wife. "Jesus" started to sing - the song was called "You are beautiful to me". I groaned - "What a travesty. She’s not beautiful at all" I thought! I was just about to give up on it when a dialogue started up in my head, which I began to realise was a dialogue between myself and God.
He said, "Its very easy to be critical, Eric, but take a closer look at those two people up there singing their hearts out. They love each other, they really do. She really does look beautiful to him. Don`t be so critical!"............ I pondered this for a minute or two, and then said, "What are you saying, Lord?"............ "I`m saying that she may be grey-haired and short-sighted to you, but she`s beautiful to HIM and she`s beautiful to ME, just as Mary Magdalene was beautiful to me!".
I thought about that whilst the music went on, and I felt ashamed of myself. Then, tentatively, I said, "Lord, am I beautiful to you?" expecting the answer "No" because of my critical reaction, but He said, "Yes, Eric, you ARE beautiful to me, and I love you". I dissolved into tears, because I need to know this - and I expect that you do too. God looks at us and says, "You are beautiful to me", no matter how ugly we are or consider ourselves to be on the outside or on the inside - and when He says it, it transforms us.
Yes, that evening was transformed for me. Instead of it being an event that I had to sit through and put up with, it became an intense emotional experience. I looked at that woman standing there in front of Jesus, and thought about Mary Magdalene - how the ugliness of her life was transformed by the way that Jesus saw her.......... and then something quite strange happened. I began to look at that choir with new eyes, and the transformation was amazing. I saw that their very amateurishness was giving the performance a freshness that it would never have had with a professional choir. Then, as I looked, it was as if their faces became very familiar. Many of them reminded me of people back at home. There was even one, a little plump man of about 60, who looked just like the Churchwarden of my Parish. Ffleetwood (that was my Warden`s rather unusual Christian name) had died just six or seven months before. He had been a good friend of mine, and I missed him a lot - but here he was standing before me as if risen from the dead, singing his head off. It still cuts me up even to think of it.