Ordinary Time: Proper 19

Die Ordnung der Engel (The Hierarchy of Angels) by Anselm Kiefer — Oil, emulsion, shellac, acrylic, chalk, lead propeller, curdled lead, steel cables, band-iron, and cardboard on canvas, 133-1/2 x 220-7/8 x 22-3/4 inches unframed, 1985-1987. Photo by Walker Art Center.

September 11, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year C

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 and Psalm 14 • Exodus 32:7-14 and Psalm 51:1-10 • 1 Timothy 1:12-17 • Luke 15:1-10
View Lectionary

Image description: A massive canvas (over 11 x 18 feet in size) portrays a dark and brooding landscape. A grey-blue cloudy sky appears in a thin strip at the very top of the piece below which a equal strip of ocean with foamy waves meets a flat beach. The muddy looking beach is marked with ruts or tracks moving in perpendicular directions. The paint has been applied heavily and thickly with much of it also running or dripping downward. A large three-dimensional airplane propeller of two blades is attached at the shore line. It tilts slightly with the right blade higher. Both blades are bent so the ends touch the canvas. Suspended by wire cables from the top of the canvas are nine curdled lead “stones” of various sizes. These are hung at various lengths mostly near the bottom of the artwork. Each stone is labeled with a small, hand-written paper tag representing the orders of angels: angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim.

I looked at the earth and saw that it was again formless and empty; I looked at the heavens and saw no light. I looked around and saw no hint of life. The people were gone. The birds had fled the sky.
Eternal One: The whole land will lie in ruin, but I will not completely destroy it. Because of this devastation, the earth will mourn and the skies will darken — for I have spoken. Once I have decided, I will not change My mind. I will not turn back from this.
— Jeremiah 4:23,25,27,28

Jesus: Can’t you understand? There is joy in the presence of all God’s messengers over even one sinner who changes his way of life. — Luke 15:10

My art selection this week is a favorite piece of mine; and because it resides in Minneapolis, I have stood in front of it many times over the years. My first exposure to it was during my college days. I remember watching my art professor survey it with excited curiosity. Such a piece is a massive undertaking just in terms of it’s size. Most of us don’t even have the studio space to complete something that is this tall and wide. Not many of us have seen first hand the devastation of a war zone, but standing before a piece like Keifer’s can be a powerfully similar experience. Then there is the curiosity of the suspended “stones” representing angels. It is most perplexing that they should be depicted with weighty items that cannot “fly”. My thoughts go to the burden which war, desolation and evil place both on God and the heavenly beings.

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?
    What blessing or prayer is rising in you?

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