Ugly Beautiful

By Sarah Cornwell

Feast of St. Matthew

A Reading from Romans 10:1-15

1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not based on knowledge. 3 Not knowing the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), 9 because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart, leading to righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, leading to salvation. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Meditation

In college, I was in a number of student films. (It’s a hazard of going to art school.) One of them was a horror film in which I was meant to be hauling a dead body down the hallway in a laundry bag. The movie’s biggest twist occurred when the audience visibly recoiled not at the moment of seeing the dead body, but at the moment my bare feet came into view. The reaction was justified. I was in the dance program, so my feet were, in a word, horrifying.

St. Paul writes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Now, at the time he was writing to the Romans, there were no orthopedic shoes and no pedicures. It is almost certain that the Church’s earliest evangelists had even more gnarly feet than mine. It seems an obvious misstep to call attention to the feet and call them beautiful when it is obvious to anyone that the exact opposite is true. Yet, through the grace of God, Jesus has a way of taking something that is ugly and despised and restoring it into something beautiful and treasured.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Matthew. The evangelist began as a tax collector, a profession that is reviled in any age. One would think this is hardly the member of Christ’s body to place front and center. Yet, it was this despised person that Jesus called to bring us the good news.

As we walk the walk of Jesus, as St. Matthew was called to do, we may rejoice in our sore, battered feet. For each callus and crack in our mortal sole may very well represent a beatifying of our immortal soul.

Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have seven children and they live in Chicago.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of West Texas
The Diocese of Mthatha – The Anglican Church of Southern Africa

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