January 2, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year C
Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12
Psalm 147:12-20 or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21
John 1:(1-9), 10-18
The opening words of John’s gospel featured in this Sunday’s lectionary texts are ones I consider among the most beautiful in all the ancient Scriptures…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. — John 1:1-3,14,18
I share with you today a piece I created rising from the ideas presented in John’s inspired writing. Having photocopied pages from a German Luther Bible I found in the paper bin of my local recycling center, I cut and pasted the Word into an image of Christ. I was working with text from Colossians chapter 1:
- His name “Christ Jesus” appears on the left side
- The vertical stripe called a clavus across Christ’s right shoulder, a symbol of imperial power and rank as worn by Roman era dignitaries, translates from the German: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” — verse 15
- Along his halo is text from verse 17 — “He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
- Featured on the Gospel book held in his right hand are words summing up the good news: “For in him all the fullness of God was please to dwell…he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless…” — verses 19,22
The small German Calvinist congregation I grew up instilled in me a great appreciation for Scripture — these words matter. The one and only visual held dear by this faith community was the open Bible on the preaching pulpit at the front of the church sanctuary – a symbol of the importance for the Word to remain central to one’s life. The lack of any other kind of imagery however, became an issue for me as I transitioned into adulthood and an artist desiring to express my faith in visual ways. Why couldn’t we SEE the “Word made flesh”?
Literally taking bits of Scripture – cutting, pasting and painting over them to create this image of Jesus is my way of embodying the words of John’s gospel. Doing this marked a new understanding and a growth point on my spiritual journey. It also symbolized a place of return and reunion between word and image 500 years after the iconoclasm of the Protestant Reformation led many groups to resist and even fear imagery. I may still consider the words of Scripture to be of great value, but it is the Christ (God made visible) who comes to teach us to live and breathe their meaning.
How about you?…
What images come to your mind as you read John’s opening words?
It is said that artists always reflect their own face when creating a portrait. I am sharing MY image of Christ with German text (I am of German ethnicity), but images of Jesus vary widely in the world – appearing as every different ethnicity.* Why might it be important to create or contemplate an image of Jesus that looks like oneself or reflects one’s own culture?
How does a wide variety of depictions further John’s concept of “Christ dwelling among us”?