Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Seven pictures rather than a thousand words

Our texts for this coming Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday, are Exodus 24:12-18 and Matthew 17:1-9, which can be read here.

The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus before his disciples, which is traditionally read on the final Sunday of Epiphany--meaning it is one of the few stories we hear every year!--is one of the most perplexing in all of scripture. Though Matthew, Mark, and Luke all attempt to describe what happened on that mountaintop, saying things like, "his face shone like the sun" and "his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them," the Gospel writers--not to mention Peter, James, and John, who saw this event with their own eyes--seem somewhat at a loss of words to convey the mystery they witnessed.

I think it's interesting, though, that even if the physical descriptions of the transfiguration are brief, this has been one of the most-painted scenes from the Bible throughout history. It has captured the imagination of artists across the centuries, all who have envisioned the moment of heavenly transformation on the mountain differently.

I looked at a number of these images this week, and found several I found compelling not just individually, but in how incredibly different they are when put together. Spend some time pondering the images below, then reflect on Matthew 17 on your own. If you had to create a piece of art to represent what you imagine this scene looked like, what colors would you use? What textures? What would you hope to convey?

15th century, Theophanes the Greek:

Classic early Renaissance depiction by Giovani Bellini:

19th century piece by Alexandr Ivanov:

An icon of the scene from the contemporary St. John's Bible:

A modern oil-on-canvas by Judy Racz:

Interpretation by African artist Jesus Mafa:

An abstract piece (artist unknown):

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Now?

As I have gone through this week, as much as I have been reflecting ahead on the scriptures for this upcoming Sunday (Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Matthew 5:21-37), I have been reflecting back on the week our congregation just spent in partnership with Cape St. Claire United Methodist in offering emergency housing to 32 people without homes in these cold days through the Winter Relief program. I have been thinking about the new relationships formed, how spending time together over meals and watching the Olympics and American Idol and going through life in community with these individuals offered chances to connect and hear each other's stories. I also have been reflecting on the series of circumstances that led these men and women to lose housing...and how hard the road is back to finding a place to call home, a stable living environment.

All this makes me think, What now? What can we do, as Christ's community, moving forward to address this issue that is more prevalent in our neighborhood than we think? In our area ministerium, where local clergy on the Broadneck peninsula gather monthly, we have been talking about the fact that we are fairly certain that Anne Arundel County is the only county in Maryland without a permanent homeless shelter--there are transitional programs, and the moving shelter provided for several months of Winter Relief, but no stable shelter you can go to if you find yourself suddenly with nowhere to go. Our ministerium is talking together about what we could do about this, and we would welcome your input.

But beyond this, I want to introduce you to another program being initiated by Arundel House of Hopes: the 100,000 homes program, which is being implemented in cities across America in an effort to get the most vulnerable off the streets in a more effective, permanent way. In a great convergence, there was a segment about this 100,000 homes program on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night. You can find it by following this link, or the video is hopefully embedded below--it is about 13 minutes long, and I hope you will take time to watch it. How do the things you hear resonate with or challenge your experiences during our Winter Relief week? What now for us as we seek to care for our neighbors? I would love to hear your ideas and feedback! As people seeking to choose life and live by Jesus' teachings as we hear in this week's scriptures, these are vitally important questions for us to consider.