Fourth Sunday of Lent

The Somnambulist’s Dream by Jerry Uelsmann — gelatin silver print, 30 x 24 inches, 2014.

March 19, 2023 Lectionary Texts — Year A
1 Samuel 16:1-13 • Psalm 23 • Ephesians 5:8-14 • John 9:1-41

View Lectionary

Image description: A black and white photograph blending multiple images together. A large boulder under a sky of scattered clouds sits on a rockface that transitions into gushing water. A crop of evergreen trees can be seen in the distance to the left. A shadowed figure at the center of the composition walks towards the boulder on which appears a large eye.

Eternal One (to Samuel): Take no notice of his looks or his height. He is not the one, for the Eternal One does not pay attention to what humans value. Humans only care about the external appearance, but the Eternal considers the inner character. — 1 Samuel 16:7

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted. Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me where I go, always, everywhere. I will always be with the Eternal, in Your house forever. — Psalm 23:4,6

When the light shines, it exposes even the dark and shadowy things and turns them into pure reflections of light. This is why they sing,
Awake, you sleeper!
Rise from your grave,
And the Anointed One will shine on you.
— Ephesians 5:14

Jesus: I have entered this world to announce a verdict that changes everything. Now those without sight may begin to see, and those who see may become blind. — John 9:39

Before the arrival of digital photography and Photoshop editing, photographer Jerry Uelsmann found a way to create surreal scenes such as The Somnambulist’s Dream. Using multiple enlargers (the darkroom device that projects the negative image onto photo paper), Uelsmann exposed and and blended together several images to create a fantasy world.

It is my conviction that the darkroom is capable of being, in the truest sense, a visual research lab; a place for discovery, observation and meditation. — Jerry Uelsmann, 1967

People loved to ask Uelsmann about the meaning or inspiration of his works. Other than explaining that he follows his intuition in selecting what to combine, Uelsmann said it was important to allow the viewer to “complete” the image by arriving at their own conclusion about the meaning of the photograph. Many of his photos are left untitled for this reason. You will note that this piece does have a title — somnambulist being the official term for a sleepwalker.

I try to create things that are authentically who I am. I’m inner-directed. I invent a reality that’s more meaningful to me — and hopefully to others — than the world we see with our eyes. — Jerry Uelsmann

How does this image draw you to “seeing” the world on a spiritual level?

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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