There are many ugly faces of faith
for all the world to see-
black garbed murderers with hearts of hate,
cruel minds carrying faggots to the fire,
complacently unlovely self-elected ones,
the self congratulatory proud,
those quick to judge, scorn and condemn
whilst turning their backs on those in need,
abusive shepherds feasting on their flocks,
the sourly ascetic,
the argumentative and blindly ignorant
claiming the keys to truth-
too many with hearts obdurately hard
hiding behind a self-righteous facade.
Yet I have read of faces of faith
with a strange, unique beauty-
the harlot who dared invade
a Pharisee's rich feast
to sob at the feet of the Nazarene
in helpless flood of tears
so abundant they washed his feet;
who kissed them, loosed her hair to wipe them dry
and poured upon them precious perfume,
asking nothing but to give these tokens of love
whilst all around her in tight-lipped silence
uglier faces internally grumbled and condemned-
or the sad old woman
unable to straighten herself,
bent double for eighteen long years,
who one day in amazement
heard his voice bid her to come
and in simple trust shuffled her slow way
around the dividing partition,
across the gender barrier,
through the crowd of men
to stand before him in humble obedience
in the synagogue's scandalised hush-
or that man of little stature,
an ostracised, much hated tax collector,
denied what he so desired
by the elbowing, shoving, blocking crowd
and who in desperation rushed ahead
to climb a sycamore tree,
requiring for himself nothing more
than a momentary glimpse through the leaves
of the humble glory passing by.
who in simple faith each only desired
to love, to heed, to glimpse,
feeling that this was as much as they could expect
from a world that held them in contempt.
Yet it was to them recognition came.
They heard thrilling words
and their hearts surely surged.
Tenderly, to the sobbing harlot:
"Go in peace. Your faith has saved you"
Clearly, placing both hands on the bent back:
"Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity."
Looking up at the little, despised man in the tree:
"Come down. I will stay with you.
Salvation has come to your house."
Then, amid much ugliness,
there are true faces of faith
that grow as years progress,
perhaps, like those three from old,
beginning in recognition and humility,
developing in gentleness of mind,
compassion, understanding and mercy,
always desiring to be patient and kind
and putting on love, like a cloak,
in lives of simple praise,
not entirely motivated by the great reward,
but in purity of heart and adoration
and as an inadequate response for glimpsing,
momentarily through the leaves from a tree's branch,
the incandescent glory and wonder of the Lord.