shackletown (a gritty midrash mismash on love, corruption, worship & redemption)

a midrash can be loosely defined in modern times as a creative meditative exploration of a biblical texts. in ancient times the hebrews created stories to fill in the gaps of the biblical narrative. they drew upon “rabbinic principles of hermeneutics and philology to align them with the religious and ethical values of religious teachers.” that’s all good but i heard a podcast the other day on the role of visual art and icons in worship and teaching. the speaker suggested that an image inspired from a biblical story can be a more powerful agent of revelation then simply reading the text. so let’s do both in our midrash mismash. ok, so let’s take it from there. often time the ancient hebrews would begin their midrash with a reference in the psalms or prophets, so we begin our journey into john 8 (for those unfamiliar with this story please read john 8:1-11- it will enrich the midrash  and luke 7

in Isaiah 38:17…
you have loved back my life from the pit of corruption and nothingness, for you have cast all my sins behind Your back.

now from john 8

there was a woman

she was caught in the act of adultery with a guilty man nowhere to be found


the angry mob breathing violence threw her ravaged body to the ground

“look at her teacher…this slut…this bitch…this whore on the ground”

worthless, she is worthless thought the bystanders collecting their stones in their defiant pose..


hopeless, i am hopeless – she thought to herself- i’m screwed and there is no way out

i have seen the inside of a thousand crooked lies from men who walk away from me by day and run to me by night- i know the savage caress of a dark soul burdened with distress as i have opened myself to them again and again to relieve them of their torments- here i am- hurled to the ground- a whore of a healer in a hypocrites gown, finally revealed as the worthless waste of life i am…do your worst angry mob, do to me what i did to your men!


a pause in infinity…a ripple through time…ten million years passed before she looked in his eyes…her body tense and ready to bruise

relaxed in his gaze…

they were alone…the mob became still…her confession drew near…bursting from her heart and out of her mouth as she said,


i am no one my lord…i belong to no one…i’m not hers or his or anything to anyone since the day i was ripped from my mother’s womb and thrown here at your feet. if you knew, if you only…..but you do know, you know the long lonely walks i have taken when the watchmen douse their candles in the late evening, how i shuffle past homes with soft light and warm glow, how at times i imagined a young daughter to love and husband to hold, but you know, you see it in me as i see you here, clear, alive, as close to me as the dirt beneath my feet as i walk the streets at night, i can’t take it anymore, i am a hungry woman, i stole from these men a moment, i gave them what they wanted, i left them satisfied and all i asked for in return was for them to hold me as the candle burned and shield me in the night until i fell asleep to the comfort of my dreams where shadowy figures danced through moonlight and memories flickered in-between, how could this be wrong, to kiss the darkness when no one would kiss me in the light, what the hell was i supposed to do when it was the only thing that kept me alive!


a deep breath and then the plunge.


he looked, he gazed, his eyes kissed her wounds while his hands cradled her head and called her back from amongst the dead…”my daughter, how i have longed and longed and longed to hold you in my arms. you will never know a fathers pain, a brothers rage as he watches his sister waste away. to all those who took advantage i summon my hate and cast it from this place. they are as guilty as the stones they carry. and you… you have lost your innocence, your troubled heart and quivering lips tell me this, but i. I…I!!!! call you back from destruction…with my love i love you back from the pit of corruption…i take your sin…i take your shame…so take my love, my love, my love…take


hours later the square was empty, save those arrested by the miracle, their feet were bound to the holy ground which was saturated by the souls drenched in grace who witnessed the changing of the garments of the woman they had come to know as the harlot. they watched amazed as night was disrobed for the lite garments of day. they sang like all of nature sings after a rain but so many walked away unchanged that the need to tell the story echoes and reverberates through time, affording those who turned from the miracle another chance to throw themselves to the ground, rend their garments and open their mouths in awe and wonder of the one who plucked them from the fire, who cupped his hands and gave them water, who casts their sins behind his back while their shadows had a heart attack and the windows to their souls were open as the last living mystery walked by hand in hand with the man who ransomed her heart from death and gave her back her life…

for those moved by this i offer two more movements to the midrash

jennifer knapp’s beautiful song of redemption ‘hold me now’

and a previous poem i posted entitled shackletown


6 thoughts on “shackletown (a gritty midrash mismash on love, corruption, worship & redemption)

  1. Thank you so much! I am actually quite proud of this one and did not get much of a response. Which is ok but I want the message here to impact others as it has impacted me. By far, this is my favorite story in the bible. I want to love people the way jesus loved this woman and I want to love jesus the way she loved him, with total abandon.

    1. LOL! I hate when that happens: you write something you consider one of your best and everyone is quiet. You think that either they haven’t read it or maybe they didn’t like it. Either way, not a good feeling. But yeah…it’s amazing!

      I think my favorite story from the bible is where Jesus is tipping the tables over, yelling, “What have you done to my father’s house?” In case people think Jesus could not get angry, he most certainly did. He was a mover and a shaker, alright.

  2. Prob. not- I don’t like to write about something if I have a bad attitude towards it. But a friend did suggest I write a midrash from the perspective of the angry stone throwing mob.

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