Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Third Move

In the order of service for the congregation where I preached today there was an invitation. It was before the prelude, and it invited worshipers to transition "from getting here to being here." A congregation where I preach regularly includes time following the benediction and choral response to sit quietly in their seats, reflect on worship and prepare to leave worship with intention. Those are the three moves: getting to worship, being in worship, leaving worship. Though all three moves are mentioned, the gospel reading for Proper 25C/Ordinary 30C (Luke 18:9-14) focuses on two of those moves.

In the very familiar text, two men go up to the Temple (getting to worship), and they each offer a prayer (being in worship). This is often where artists stop in their depiction of the parable. Two men are near each other, but they have very different body language. One stands upright, gesturing grandly toward the other. The other may be kneeling or leaning over with body language that is closed.

The moment shown is the moment of the two prayers. Two very different prayers. Don't be like the overly proud prayer, Jesus says. The end.

But that's not the end.

Jesus' story and summary continues. It follows the two prayers from the Temple to their implied journey home. It's an important conclusion, one sometimes forgotten or overlooked or downplayed. This part of the story is worth another look, though, because it implies that what we do in worship has something to do with what happens after worship.

Dutch artist Barent Fabritius painted a series of three works, each focusing on one of Jesus' parables. The three paintings were commissioned by and hung in the Lutheran Church in Leiden. This week's gospel reading was among them.

Fabritius divides the picture space into four sections. In the center sections, the pharisee and the tax collector are each shown at prayer. The Pharisee's face is lifted up and  illuminated as he kneels before an altar. His gesture points toward himself and to the "other." The tax collector stands behind a column, in shadow, his face turned down. It is a pretty typical composition so far. But on each side of this painting are two other sections, divided from the Temple setting by large square pilasters. In each of the settings are the two prayers leaving the Temple, presumably returning to their homes and lives.
Barent Fabritius. The Pharisee and the Publican. 1661. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum.
https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-A-2959
On the left the Pharisee leaves the Temple with a rather smug expression on his face. He is preceded from the Temple by a horned and winged devil who carries a mask. The mask is an obvious symbol for the deception that is the world's perception of the Pharisee. By contrast, the tax collector leaves the Temple overseen by an angel. One of these men leaves the Temple justified, Jesus says. Fabritius has left no doubt which man that is.

The third move - leaving worship - is worth thinking about.

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