Amy Grant · Bible Study · Church of England · Media Article · Prayer · Sermon

Mercy in the Middle

Wounded Christ and Julian

Mercy in the Middle

Sermon for students of Ripon College Cuddesdon at All Saints Cuddesdon
16 November 2022 – for Safeguarding Sunday


Trigger Warning!

What follows has material concerning sexual abuse which may be unsettling to some.  Please do not read further if this may affect you.

If, after scrolling down the page, something you read does affect you please be diligent in seeking care and counsel.

Blessings – Andrew.





Text:  27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’      (John 20.24-27)

God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers

We begin with a song by Amy Grant which she wrote about a friend who survived incest.

“Ask Me”[1]

I see her as a little girl hiding in her room
She takes another bath and she’d spray her Momma’s perfume
To try to wipe away the scent he left behind.  But it haunts her mind
You see she’s his little rag, nothing more than just a waif
And he’s mopping up his need, she is tired and afraid
Maybe she’ll find a way through these awful years to disappear

Ask me if I think there’s a God up in the heavens
Where did He go in the middle of her shame?
Ask me if I think there’s a God up in the heavens
I see no mercy and no one down here’s naming names
Nobody’s naming names

Now she’s looking in the mirror at a lovely woman face
No more frightened little girl, like she’s gone without a trace
Still she leaves a light burning in the hall.  It’s hard to sleep at all
So she crawls up in her bed acting quiet as a mouse
Deep inside she’s listening for a creaking in the house
But no one’s left to harm her, she’s finally safe and sound
There’s a peace she has found

Ask her how she knows there’s a God up in the heaven
Where did He go in the middle of her shame?
Ask her how she knows there’s a God up in the heavens
She said His mercy is bringing her life again

Ask me how she know there’s a God up in the heaven
(How do you know?)
Where did He go in the middle of her shame?
(Where did he go?)
Ask me how she know there’s a God up in the heavens
(How do you know?)
She said His mercy is bringing her life again
She’s coming to life again… (repeats)

It was supposed to be a place of sanctuary.
It was supposed to be a place where my brother and I could grow into adulthood and independence.
Standing in the shadow of St George’s Cathedral Cape Town, where later God was to call me to the priesthood, I was certain that this young men’s hostel was the best place for two twenty-something brothers to flourish.

And then I made a new ‘friend’…

Seven years of living in dormitory accommodation at boarding school had made me, and I still am, someone who rebels against being locked into rooms.  Something which my very welcoming ‘friend’ and abuser knew and made free with my freedom by coming into my room late at night.

I was already in bed and hoped he would not stay long.Person in dark hall
Telling me stories of his own lonely childhood he approached closer.
He sat on my bed
He caressed my arms.
and (presuming my lack of response gave him permission) lay on top of me and started moving his body against mine.

I froze.
I was silent.
I was horrified.
He came to a climax
as did I… (something which I now realise has affected every moment of intimacy since)
and then hurriedly he left my room and moved out of the hostel the very next day.
I never met him again.

Too many years later (such wounds run deep) during the beginnings of the #MeToo movement a Gay priest friend tweeted how he had been assaulted when in a bar, and the memories returned.

As I went over my memories forty years after the event[2] I questioned myself as to why I did not say anything then?

I had a voice, why didn’t I use it?
A private school educated White man in apartheid South Africa, surely people would listen to me?
Or would they…?
How many of my friends would tell me to just ‘man up’?
How many would blame me for not locking my door?
And if I told the Police…?

Then, (in the 1990s 1 in 4 South African girls and 1 in 8 south African boys are abused before they are 25) and to be honest sadly even now, it was not the kind of thing that was taken seriously.

And even if I told my family I was frightened that they would say ‘I told you so’, about my decision to move out of home, while at the same time not give me space to return there.

So, like the one Talent slave (Matthew 25.14-30),  I buried the shame that was not my shame and tried to ‘man up’ and live life to its fullest.

I now know that my spirit has limped a little because of this abuse.
I know also that having my beloved next to me for more than forty years has helped heal me and brought joy back to intimacy.
I weep for those who have no one to tell,
no one to hold them in the darkness,
no one to believe them.

My heart breaks for those who have no voice and no agency at all (almost always women) and who are ignored because they were ‘asking for it’.

I am angered that too many people are victimised victims – blamed for being abused.

I am furious that the response and reporting about abuse is too often focussed on the victim, mostly women, avoiding attack instead of challenging the predatory behaviour, mostly men[3], of the attacker.

(…and let’s start naming it what it is.  These are attacks not abuse!)

I am deeply saddened that the Church, which has given me shelter and provide healing for me, too often is silent to the cry of victims and seems to be more committed to pastoral care for attackers and the protection of the Institution.

How then are we, called to protect and feed the lambs that belong to the Lamb of God, to respond to a society that sees sexual attacks on women and men as ‘just how things are’?

How can we minister in a church that, despite many reviews and recommendations, still seems incapable of being a voice for the voiceless?

As with Amy Grant’s friend in the song whose life has been overshadowed by incest, we too may say;

Ask me if I think there’s a God up in the heavens
Where did He go in the middle of her shame?

skynews-bullying-abuse-racism_4682323My friends you will, as you take up the yoke of your vocation, ask the same question; for the people of God tell their vicars the deepest most hidden parts of their life story.  And you will then know what it means to stand at the foot of the Cross.

Where indeed is God in the middle of our shame?  For these wounds belong to each one of us.

Then I remember we worship a Wounded Healer.

Every time I meditate on the meeting between our risen Redeemer and the grief-stricken Thomas I ask Jesus, ‘Did it hurt when Thomas put his finger in the holes made by the nails?  Did you wince when he thrust his hand into your side?’  And my Lord looks at me with a smile and says ‘Yes, but to heal his pain it was worth revisiting my own crucifixion.’

This should not surprise us.  A faith founded on the worship of a wounded Healer is able to offer healing within his and despite our own wounds.

This is part of what Amy Grant’s friend means when she finds ‘mercy in the middle of her shame’ which is ‘bringing her life again.’

Listen to what Mother Julian of Norwich wrote in her 10th Revelation:

With a glad expression our good lord looked into his side and beheld it, enjoying. And with his sweet looking he led forth the understanding of his creature by that same wound into his side, within. And there he shewed a fair, delectable place, and large enough for all mankind that shalle be saved to rest in peace and in love.                      (Julian of Norwich – 10th Revelation)

‘A delectable place, and large enough for all mankind that shalle be saved to rest in peace and in love…’

Yes, we are a wounded people called to work in a wounded world.

Yes, we belong to a faith that has too often looked at reputational risk rather than the Resurrection.

Yes, we have been guilty of victim blaming and cover-up and have used non-disclosure agreements[4] to hinder justice and blackmail the children of God.

There are times when I look at the Church and wonder if we will ever be worthy of the title ‘Bride of Christ.’  Then I look in the mirror and, seeing my disfigured wounded face, am embarrassed by my own failures to imitate and follow the Way of the Cross.

My beloved Redeemer how deep is your love that you can be betrothed to ones such as we!

But Jesus stands before each of us, victim, survivor, attacker and broken Church, holding all our pain, with hands outstretched and gaping wound in His side and says, ‘touch me.’


Reach out and touch the Lord, as He passes by.
You’ll find He’s not too busy to hear your heart’s cry.
He is passing by this moment, your needs to supply.
Reach out and touch the Lord, as He passes by.

A prayer of Ignatius Loyola

The Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, comfort me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
In your wounds hide me.
Do not allow me to be separated from you.
From the malignant enemy, defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And order me to come to you,
That with your Saints I may praise you forever.

..a final thought 

‘If you can not soar up as high as Christ sitting on his throne, behold him hanging on his cross. Rest in Christ’s Passion and live willingly in his holy wounds’.
(Thomas a Kempis)


Please Note: This post is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2022.  It may be reproduced without charge so long as the source is acknowledged.


[1] This, and other songs by Amy Grant, are part of a series of Lenten reflections.  If you would like to read them and listen to more of her music you can find them here: Mercy & Grace – 40 Days With the Music of Amy Grant.

[2] A newspaper article about this may be found here.

[3] Many will try to ‘balance’ the statistics on sexual attacks by mentioning that men are also attached by women.  This only deflects from the fact that attacks occur and, in a patriarchal society, it is men who have the most agency to report and prevent these crimes.  I would recommend the work of Restored and their First Man Standing resources and campaign for any who want to pursue this further.

[4] This blog post in Surviving Church documents the experience of one curate.

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