Sunday, May 26, 2019

Looking Back

This week...take a look at two past essays about the texts for this week. Reconsider what they have to say about these texts.
For thoughts on the language of John 17:6-9, strongly related to John 15:20-26, click here:
For thoughts on chains (Acts 16:16-34) click here.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

John 14.23-29: An Adequate Peace?

John 14.23-29 is part of what is usually called Jesus' "Farewell Discourse." He says to the disciples that though he himself is leaving, he is leaving an advocate with them. An advocate who will teach them and remind them. Jesus also promises to leave "peace" with them. He says it may not look like the world imagines peace to be, but it will, indeed, be peace.

How would you illustrate any of that - what "the advocate" looks or feels like, what peace (either the world's or Jesus') looks like? The illustration below, titled "In the Dale" includes the text of John 14:27: "My peace I give you..." In this work, "peace" seems associated with land and house, with calm waters, with neutral colors.
John Maxted. In the Dale.
Is that your image of peace? The world's peace? Or Christ's peace? Is this an adequate peace? What if this is not contemporary to us but is a vintage print from the first half of the 20th century? Would this seem a more-than-adequate peace for people who have survived a World War or the Great Depression? How do we talk about what Christ's peace looks like? 

What makes for an adequate advocate? See Art&Faith Matters on Facebook.
For thoughts on Lydia in Acts 16:9-15, click here.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

John 13.31-35: As I Have Loved You

A new commandment I give you, Jesus said on the night of his arrest. That you love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34). On the same evening that Jesus made this statement he had demonstrated his love of the disciples by offering a gesture of hospitality. Because no one had offered to wash the dust from the feet of the travelers, Jesus did it himself. He even called attention to the act saying in verse 13: You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. It's almost the same language as verse 34. Jesus has set an example that we are to follow.

Scottish painter David Wilkie lived in Rome in 1827. Among the scenes of devotion that he witnessed (and painted) were the women - particularly upper-class women...and the occasional grand courtesan who snuck in - who undertook the practice of hospitality in the form of washing the feet of pilgrims. From earliest times, pilgrims traveled to Rome, especially in Jubilee years. By the middle of the 15th century, more than 1,000 inns and places of lodging for visitors were available in Rome. Religious organizations became more involved in caring for visitors. Women, richly dressed as shown here, knelt at the feet of pilgrims and washed their feet.
David Wilkie. A Roman Princess Washing the Feet of Pilgrims. 1827. Royal Collection Trust.
Jesus' act of humble service was re-enacted almost from the earliest days of Christ's church. I Timothy 5:9-10 highlighted this particular act of service as exemplary: Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old and has been married only once; she must be well attested for her good works, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way. Though never named a sacrament, the practice of footwashing was a regular occurrence in churches on Maundy Thursday.

As with so many acts of faith and devotion, the practice of footwashing can be both an act of humility and an act of pride. Undertaken as an act of service, it provides a moment of tenderness and care for one of God's children. But, of course, it can also be a travesty when the footwashing is preceded and/or followed by a lack of concern for the one whose feet have just been washed. Love one another as I have loved you, Jesus said. Remember, Jesus washed Judas' feet, too. 

This week on Art&Faith Matters on closely should a pattern be followed? See it here.  For thoughts on Acts 11:1-8, click here

Sunday, May 5, 2019

John 10.22-30: Jesus in Winter

Winter. The gospel specifically says that it is winter when this exchange takes place. The Festival of Dedication is being celebrated. The Hebrew word for dedication is hanukkah. The festival we know as Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, commemorates the Maccabees' victory over the Seleucid empire, the rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem, and the miracle of restoring the Temple menorah. So as you picture the time when Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice..." (John 10:22-30) you should be thinking November-December. That time of year in Israel is the rainy season. Winter begins in late October and lasts through March. There is rarely snow, but temperatures are cool to cold and rain systems move in from the north, often stalling over Israel before raining themselves out.
Picture source here.
Why is it, then, that there are no stories of Jesus in the rain beyond those about storms that blow up on the Sea of Galilee? Jesus does use rain in his teaching (Luke 12:54: [Jesus] also said to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, "It is going to rain"; and so it happens.). But there is no rainy day recorded in the gospels, so, of course, there are no pictures that show Jesus and the disciples being caught in the rain and running for shelter in an effort to avoid a soaking.

It doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility that the conversation in John 10 took place on a winter day in Jerusalem that was cool/cold, perhaps rainy. Jesus and the disciples were in the temple, dry as they sat in the covered colonnade that is (was) Solomon's porch. Maybe a rainy day was the perfect day to talk theology.

For thoughts on Acts 9:36-43, click hereFor thoughts about Solomon's Portico, see this week's Facebook post. For Facebook thoughts about sheep hearing Jesus' voice, click here.