God’s Not Dead 2
I just spent a snowy April afternoon in a darkened theater with my husband, and a handful of others, watching God’s Not Dead 2. Since the movie was released yesterday, April 1, 2016, I will not reveal spoiler alerts; however, it feels right to share the stirring of my heart after this excellent movie.
Although I am not participating this year, this is the time of year that I traditionally attended a 4-day Directed Silent Retreat. This is where I choose to be in silence with about 10-20 others at a retreat facility run by the Sisters of Notre Dame. The location is picturesque and purposefully furnished and decorated to enhance their calm and comfortable accommodations. We are fed healthy meals and eat in silence. Although I have made many friends in the short time we are allowed to speak at the beginning and end of the retreat, the important thing is to be alone with God in a spirit of silence and simplicity.
The Sisters of Notre Dame hold a Mass on Saturday and all are welcome, no matter what denomination we call our own. This is where my testimony begins.
On a table in the dining room was a note of invitation to take one of the sheets of paper if we wanted to participate in the Mass. Since I love public speaking, I grabbed the top sheet before I read the rest of the invitation thinking I would be doing one of the readings or the prayer petitions. As I read the invitation further, they were seeking individuals to participate in acting out the Gospel for the day. “Oh, even better”, I thought to myself. I took the paper back to my room to read the instructions.
The Gospel story for the day was John 8:2-11 (NIV)
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
On the sheet of paper, I found out I was going to be the adulterous women with one line. Assuming all the other papers were taken from the table already, I kept mine and rehearsed my line.
When the Gospel started, we had a narrator begin speaking as I was walked into the chapel by some of the others playing the parts of the Pharisees. The presiding Priest played the part of Jesus and when he said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” everyone around me left and I stood there alone with my face pointing to the ground in shame. When Jesus (the Priest) asked me, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” I slowly lifted my face and looked into the Priest’s eyes and said my line, “No one, Sir”.
At that moment, I no longer saw the eyes of the Priest, but rather the most beautiful radiant eyes of Jesus as I heard the words, “Then neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin.”
That moment will live with me forever. After Mass, I went back to my room and wept as I did not know what else to do with the emotions I felt from such a beautiful vision.
At the end of the retreat, we gather in a circle and share our experiences with each other one at a time. I am always blown away at how God works so personally in everyone’s lives in the 4 days of silence. One woman approached me before I left and said I did a great job in the reenactment of the Gospel and that she found it to be a very powerful moment for her. That comment solidified my experience of Jesus revealing himself in the chapel in the Gospel. I still wonder how many other people experienced this God moment.
No one deserves the grace God has to give, but he gives it so freely. All we need to do is accept his grace and live our lives for him, no matter how the world tries to beat us down.
No spoiler alert, just my testimony: GOD’S NOT DEAD!!