Ordinary Time: Proper 23

The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt van Rijn — oil on canvas, 51 3/4 x 41 1/8 inches, 1657. Photo by the National Gallery of Art.

October 9, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year C

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Psalm 66:1-12 • 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c and Psalm 111 • 2 Timothy 2:8-15 • Luke 17:11-19
View Lectionary

Image description: Seated in a wooden chair at a small writing desk, Paul holds his writing quill in his right hand resting on his leg. He appears deep in a somewhat anguished thought/prayer. His forehead rests in his left hand as his elbow is propped up on the arm of the chair. A pile of parchments sits on the table in front of him while a large twisted iron sword stands against the wall.

Remember Jesus the Anointed, raised from the dead, descended from David’s royal line. This is the crux of my good news! This is why I suffer and why I am bound and chained like a lawbreaker. But God’s word is not in chains! That’s why I endure everything for the sake of God’s chosen: so that they might experience salvation with lasting, eternal glory through Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King. — 2 Timothy 2:8-10

For You have put us to the test, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You trapped us with a snare; You have laid upon our backs a heavy burden. You allowed us to be conquered and let our enemies run over us. We journeyed through dangers, through fire and flood, but You led us finally to a safe place, a land rich and abundant. — Psalm 66:10-12

Rembrandt painted numerous portraits of Saint Paul, the New Testament’s major contributor and a person of great interest and fascination to the artist. The sword in this painting is a multi-faceted symbol representing Paul’s early days as a persecutor of the church, his own beheading and martyrdom as well as his teaching on the armor of God which includes wielding the “sword of the Spirit” which is the Word.

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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