Monday, August 18, 2014

Rocks, Arks, Baskets and Water

On this rock I will build the church. That's what Jesus tells Peter (Matthew 16:18). The baptismal font at Coventry Cathedral (England) takes that statement literally, building the church of Jesus Christ one baptism at a time using a rock baptismal font. Though almost completely destroyed by Nazi bombs on 14 November 1940, the cathedral was rebuilt, merging the ruins of the old cathedral with a contemporary expression of the cathedral form in an effort to give physical presence to the ideas of hope for the future and reconciliation.  

For Coventry Cathedral: http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/

The rock, a boulder from near Bethlehem, has a basin on top in the form of a scallop shell on the top. Ralph Beyer, a German-born letter-cutter, sculptor and teacher, designed and carved the shell. Beyer's family left Germany in 1932, but his mother, who was Jewish, returned to Germany during World War II, was incarcerated at Auschwitz and died there in 1945. Among many other commissions, Beyer carved Paul Tillich's gravestone in New Harmony, IN.

This font ties together the texts for Proper 16A/Ordinary 21A/Pentecost+11 remembering that in baptism the community remembers other stories of God's salvation expressed through water:
In the time of Noah, you destroyed evil by the waters of the flood, 
giving righteousness a new beginning.
You led Israel out of slavery, through the waters of the sea,
 into the freedom of the promised land.
Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church (USA)

The idea comes full circle in the Hebrew word for "ark" (תֵּבָה - tbh - tebah). This same word is used to describe the "basket" woven by Moses mother when she put him in the water to save him from Pharaoh's decree. Moses is saved when he is put in an "ark" on the waters of the Nile.

For a contemporary take on the reading from Hebrew scripture alone, click here.

For an old/new hymn that might be a good addition for this week's worship, see the Art&Faith Matters Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/artfaithmatters

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