Truth Personified

There is a lot of richness to this short excerpt from John’s Gospel, which we will read on Sunday morning for Reformation Day.  One word that John uses often in his Gospel, and it comes up here, too, is TRUTH.

I’d like to share a piece of art with you that I found compelling.  It’s by Francois Lemoyne (1688-1737), a French rococo painter who spent his entire career in Paris, working on commission, mostly for the palace.  The subject of Lemoyne’s art was often these grand ideas portrayed in Greek mythology, or Christian bible stories.

The title of this work is Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy.  Today, this painting hangs in London.

Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy - Francois Lemoyne, 1737

The first thing I notice about this painting is that Time is strong, determined, and obviously triumphant.  Truth is more delicate, the only figure portrayed as female.  But Truth is lifted higher even than Time.  Falsehood has cowered, mask exposed, completely powerless.  And Envy is subsumed in the background–almost faded away–the first to have been conquered.

What do YOU notice?

If you had to draw art portraying John’s Gospel story, what/who would truth look like?

What picture of truth is John’s Gospel painting–with words–this week?

Powerful Creator, Loving Savior, Comforting Spirit, you are truth personified.  Amen.

Daring to Ask

No one was able to give [Jesus] an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.  -Matthew 22:46

By my count, there are five separate, but related, questions in our Gospel Reading for Sunday, October 23, 2011.  The first one of the questions arose from the group who wished to confront Jesus.  And the four remaining questions come from Jesus, back to his confronters.

It’s pretty clear that at least on this occasion, Jesus answers their question with more questions.

Some criticize the church of today for its lack of certainty, the wide variations among traditions, the differing viewpoints on social issues.  Perhaps that criticism is well-deserved.  It is also possible, though, that not having an answer for every question that perplexes us gives room for Jesus to speak once more.

Be warned, however:  daring to ask Jesus a question, he may answer your question with still more questions.

Holy Jesus, your answers to our questions can turn us in circles…until we simply trust you.  For this, we are grateful.  Amen.

Image-ination

The Gospel passage for Sunday, Oct 16 is another exchange between Jesus and those who are looking to arrest him.  This time, they pose a question about the payment of taxes which turns into an object lesson, as the Roman coin, a denarius, is studied.  Jesus asks who is on the coin, and though the Bible we read translates those words as “head” and “title,” what Jesus is really asking is whose image is on the coin.

Image.  The images we behold hold us.  I think not only of coins, but of all sorts of images we see on a daily basis:  the red and white Coca-Cola slogan; the family portrait on our wall; the plastic-and-metal symbol embedded into the center of our steering wheels; our own faces in the mirror in the morning; the tattoos that we pay someone to imprint on us.

When we think of the almighty God, what image comes to mind?  Is knowing that you (Yes, you.  Really.  YOU.) have been made in God’s image hold more power in your life than the Coke bottle, the money in your pocket, or the tattoo you contemplated for years?

Holy God, give us holy image-ination, to trust your power beyond our oft-competing loyalties.  Amen.

New Member Inquirer’s Classes

What does it mean to belong to a church?  What are some of the beliefs Lutherans share?  I’m new to town; how can I be involved?

Starting on Sunday, October 16 at 9:30 am, a series of three sessions will be held in the Church Library.  These forums, sponsored by the Board of Deacons, are geared toward beginners, inquirers and those contemplating membership at First Lutheran Church.

Oct 16 About Membership

What does it mean to belong to a faith community?

Oct 23  About Lutheranism

History and theology, today’s Lutheran church

Oct 30  About First Lutheran-ism

Conversation about the specific ministries and programs of First Lutheran Church

New Member Sunday will be celebrated on Sunday, November 6 at 10 am

Shadows

As we approach the end of our Church year (November 20th is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church year) the selected readings from Matthew include more and more statements of judgment that often rattle the church goer sitting in the pew.

This past Sunday Jesus said in his parable, “For many are called but few are chosen.”  He says this right after condemning one person to the outside darkness for not wearing his wedding robe to a banquet.  Some readers and preachers choose to shy away from these harsh words, but should we?  Or can we embrace these words of judgment that overshadow all of us because we are all sinners, but then embrace Christ’s great act of forgiveness that casts a much larger shadow over us, the shadow of his cross?

Can we be so bold to know that our God who created us, also loves us enough to tell us what it’s like outside his love?

 

Liberan Lutheran Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Women of the ELCA, if you were in Spokane this summer, you came home electrified by the faithful, prophetic voice of Leymah Gbowee, a member of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, who gave a keynote address.

It was announced that Ms. Gbowee and two other women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011. Here is the press release, just posted four minutes ago.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.  Matthew 5:9

Great Line!

How many movie lines do you have memorized?

I’ll be back. 

Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.

Show me the money!

Do you ever find yourself quoting a movie line to make a joke, or to explain yourself, or simply to change the subject?

In Jesus’ day, there were no movies. No books.  No common, inside jokes (except very localized ones).  Because of illiteracy, the only things most folks knew were from memory.  And, essentially, the only words people in that time memorized on a large scale, as a group, were Holy Scripture and/or songs.

In our Gospel reading for Sunday, Jesus tells a pretty grim parable.  And after the parable is given, he asks the listeners to interpret his words.  They do. And then Jesus does some interpreting, too.   In Matthew 22:42, Jesus quotes Psalm 118, a great psalm his listeners would all know for its use in temple worship, as one of six psalms that comprised what is known as Judaism as the Hallel. The Hallel, Psalms 113 to 118, is similar to the Great Thanksgiving—a sort of super-duper thanksgiving litany.  To this day, in Judaism, on all festival days, these psalms are recited in their entirety, with the final ten verses of Psalm 118 being recited twice each.

And so Jesus ends his parable with recitation of a commonly-quoted thanksgiving to those who are hostile to him.  More than simply a great line, this portion of Psalm 118 was reintrepreted by Jesus to point to himself.  “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes.”

God, you made your only Son to be rejected so that we might be included.  Pretty amazing.  Amen.