A new short story.
It was Tuesday evening, which meant it was the church youth group's Bible study. The church's teenagers began arriving at the house of Alan the youth pastor and his wife, Wendy. Some of them were being dropped off by their parents, others had walked.
The young guests removed their shoes as they entered, as they knew that Wendy and Alan asked for shoes-off in their little house to protect their carpets.
One of the members of the youth group stepped into the house. She was a pretty blond girl of sixteen, by the name of Emily.
Emily was wearing a pair of towering high-heeled shoes.
"Nice shoes," commented Alan after she stepped inside.
"They're new," replied Emily. "My dad bought them for me the other day." Emily's parents were divorced. She did not see her father as often as she would have liked, but he seemed to make up for it by buying her lots of presents.
Emily began walking down the hallway. She made no move to remove her shoes.
The girl gave Alan and Wendy a pouty look as if daring them to ask her to take off her stilettos.
Alan looked at Wendy in a silent inquiry as to whether to say something to the girl. Wendy shrugged, as if to say this was typical Emily-behaviour and to be humoured.
Emily was staggering in her new shoes. She was clearly not used to walking in high heels. Wendy stifled a laugh.
"Sexy!" said one of the boys, looking down at Emily's shoes. "Shut up!" said one of the other girls, while another boy gave him a playful thump.
Emily sat down on the sofa in the living room where they held their Bible study.
A girl called Hannah, who was sat on the floor near to the sofa turned to Emily.
"You should take your shoes off, Emily," Hannah chided.
"I don't want to! These shoes are new," replied Emily.
"OK, people, can I have your attention?" announced the youth pastor.
The noise of chatter died down slowly.
"We're going to be looking at a passage in the Bible tonight. But first we need to find it. I've written the reference on a piece of paper that is hidden somewhere in this room. You need to look very hard to find it," instructed Alan.
"If we can't find it, can we watch television instead?" asked one of the boys.
"No!" replied Alan and Wendy together.
The young people immediately began busying themselves looking through every corner of the room. All except Emily. She remained seated on the sofa. Perhaps she was starting to worry about damaging the carpet and thought it best to remain still.
Wendy sighed. She supposed she should have just asked Emily nicely to remove her shoes when she had first arrived. It was rather too late now. If she did it next time, she would just have to be straight with her.
Eventually, the paper with the passage was found; lodged carefully between two CDs.
"It's Isaiah 53:1-10; if you've got your Bibles with you," announced Wendy.
Wendy then proceeded to read the passage in a brightly coloured edition of the New International Version.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Alan then gave a short summary of the passage, explaining that the passage was a prophecy regarding Jesus Christ, explaining that it foretold Jesus' suffering and death on the cross.
"On the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins," said Alan. "He was punished for all our cheating, all our stealing, for all the bad language we used and for all the lies we told. Have you ever been mean or disrespectful to somebody? Jesus was punished on the cross so you could be forgiven."
Throughout Alan's short sermon, Emily looked very uncomfortable.
One of the girls asked a question about whether forgiveness was automatic or whether repentance was needed. Alan gave her a careful reply. Once that was done he took out his acoustic guitar and began leading the young people in a worship song.
During the song, Emily slipped off her high-heeled shoes and tiptoed out to the hall. She then pattered back in her bare feet now looking far more cheerful than she had when she came in.
Wendy gave her a warm smile. At least something of the evening's message had sunk in.