April 7, 2023 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 • Psalm 22 • Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 • John 18:1-19:42
Image description: Among congregating pigeons falls the shadow of a figure onto a paved pebble-encrusted surface. The night scene is only partially illuminated by an unknown light source from behind the figure. Several pigeons are in flight – the closest to the camera is a bright blur of wing feathers. In the distance is a dog — head down in white plastic bucket. A pigeon on the ground partially in the figure’s shadow appears as though it is sitting on it’s shoulder.
Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground. He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—he had no physical beauty to attract our attention. So he was despised and forsaken by men, this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend. As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way; he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him. — Isaiah 53:2-3
My God, my God, why have You turned Your back on me? Your ears are deaf to my groans. O my God, I cry all day and You are silent; my tears in the night bring no relief. A throng of evil ones has surrounded me like a pack of wild dogs; They pierced my hands and ripped a hole in my feet. But You, O Eternal, stay close; O You, my help, hurry to my side. Save my life from violence, my sweet life from the teeth of the wild dog. — Psalm 22:1,2,16,19,20
When Jesus was on the earth, a man of flesh and blood, He offered up prayers and pleas, groans and tears to the One who could save Him from death. He was heard because He approached God with reverence. Although He was a Son, Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered. And once He was perfected through that suffering He became the way of eternal salvation for all those who hear and follow Him — Hebrews 5:7-9
So Pilate reentered the governor’s palace and called for Jesus to follow him.
Pilate: Are You the King of the Jews?
Jesus: Are you asking Me because you believe this is true, or have others said this about Me?
Pilate: I’m not a Jew, am I? Your people, including the chief priests, have arrested You and placed You in my custody. What have You done?
Jesus: My kingdom is not recognized in this world. If this were My kingdom, My servants would be fighting for My freedom. But My kingdom is not in this physical realm.
Pilate: So You are a king?
Jesus: You say that I am king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the cosmos: to demonstrate the power of truth. Everyone who seeks truth hears My voice. — John 18:33-37
The image I’ve chosen to explore today is confusing and weird. What does it have to do with Good Friday and the death of Jesus? The answer on one level is… absolutely nothing. But on the levels of emotion, feeling and metaphor, there is potential to gain new understanding. I enjoy the challenge of an image such as this.
Looking at the main elements of the photo…
Who might the dark shadowy figure represent? Christ? The religious leaders?
Who do the pigeons represent?
What might the dog signify?
How does the image as a whole represent the chaos of Jesus’ night of arrest? a fallen world in need of a savior?
What in this photo embodies fear? betrayal? danger?
Practicing Visio Divina:
- 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
- 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
- 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?