Art takes us out of ourselves into the imagination of the artist – and can also open our own imaginations. For Lent this year, you are invited to look at a different piece of art each week, coupled with a scriptural reference, to explore and reflect upon different aspects of our Lenten journey, as we progress from wilderness to the Last Supper.
It may be helpful by way of preparation to look at the image, read the description, and reflect upon the passage of scripture each week.
Each session will last an hour and will be presented in the church and simultaneously via Zoom. Please click on the appropriate highlighted link each week for the next Zoom session, or for a recording of the previous session(s). If asked for a Zoom password, please use 07720.
Wednesdays at 12:30 CET, in the church or via Zoom.
- Week 1, 24 February: Reaping the Whirlwind – recording (Hosea 8.7)
- Week 2, 3 March: The Return of the Prodigal Son – recording (Luke 15.11-32)
- Week 3, 10 March: Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37.1-14)
- Week 4, 17 March: Last Scapegoat—A Requiem (Man of Sorrows/Suffering, Isaiah 53.1-9)
- Week 5, 24 March: The Last Supper (Mark 14.12-26)
Week 3 – Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones – Cody F. Miller
Can these bones live? The answer to this question posed to the prophet Ezekiel seems painfully obvious in such a macabre setting, depicted in this mixed media collage by Cody F. Miller as a place of skull heaped on skull, where all hope is lost. In one of the great reversal narratives of the Bible, Ezekiel’s visionary vista of desolation and destruction undergoes an astonishing transfiguration. The jumbled bones knit together, take on flesh, and come to life as a sign of the future national revival of the Jewish people, held captive in Babylon, an image with universal meaning for other peoples in other valleys. Building up his composition from drawings and patterns made from magazine clippings, Miller depicts the moment of divine empowerment as coming with wind and fire like the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In a pose that plays off the graveyard soliloquy scene in Hamlet, the prophet delivers God’s call to new life to just one of the many dead in this charnel heap, suggesting that collective renewal begins with transformed individuals. “My pieces are about hope,” says Miller. “Not necessarily in a bright way, but in a way that reveals the hidden fingerprint of God, letting us know, ‘I was here all along.’”
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’
Week 2 – The Return of the Prodigal Son – Marie Romero Cash
In our time of social distancing, this carved wood sculpture of the return of the prodigal son by Marie Romero Cash reminds us what it means to hold and to be held. A native of New Mexico, Cash works with natural pigments and local woods like pinyon pine to make her folk art pieces, keeping alive the traditions of the Hispanic “saint-makers” who once crafted simply styled holy images for outlying communities in what is now the American Southwest, at a time when religious artefacts from Mexico were in short supply. The father from the parable lifts his eyes toward heaven in gratitude for the return of his wayward son, now safely at rest in his arms. The father’s features and kneeling pose evoke imagery of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, praying for the will of God to be done. Says Cash, “It hurts not to be able to reach out and touch a loved one, especially if you live alone. You feel like an orphan with no one but yourself to navigate through days that run together. In this sculpture, the son is back in an embrace he has missed for so long.”
Jesus went on: ‘Once there was a man who had two sons. The younger son said to the father, “Father, give me my share in the property.” So he divided up his livelihood between them. Not many days later the younger son turned his share into cash, and set off for a country far away, where he spent his share in having a riotous good time.
‘When he had spent it all, a severe famine came on that country, and he found himself destitute. So he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed his pigs. He longed to satisfy his hunger with the pods that the pigs were eating, and nobody gave him anything.
‘He came to his senses. “Just think!” he said to himself. “There are all my father’s hired hands with plenty to eat – and here am I, starving to death! I shall get up and go to my father, and I’ll say to him: ‘Father; I have sinned against heaven and before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son any longer. Make me like one of your hired hands.’ ” And he got up and went to his father.
‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and his heart was stirred with love and pity. He ran to him, hugged him tight, and kissed him. “Father,” the son began, “I have sinned against heaven and before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son any longer.” But the father said to his servants, “Hurry! Bring the best clothes and put them on him! Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet! And bring the calf that we’ve fattened up, kill it, and let’s eat and have a party! This son of mine was dead, and is alive again! He was lost, and now he’s found!” And they began to celebrate.’
‘The older son was out in the fields. When he came home, and got near to the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what was going on.
‘ “Your brother’s come home!” he said. “And your father has thrown a great party – he’s killed the fattened calf! – because he’s got him back safe and well!”
‘He flew into a rage, and wouldn’t go in.
‘Then his father came out and pleaded with him. “Look here!” he said to his father, “I’ve been slaving for you all these years! I’ve never disobeyed a single commandment of yours. And you never even gave me a young goat so I could have a party with my friends. But when this son of yours comes home, once he’s finished gobbling up your livelihood with his whores, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
‘ “My son,” he replied, “you’re always with me. Everything I have belongs to you. But we had to celebrate and be happy! This brother of yours was dead and is alive again! He was lost, and now he’s found!” ’
Week 1 – Reaping the Whirlwind – David Baird
David Baird’s artistic practice is intimately entwined with his work as an architect. He begins each day by painting, experimenting with countless geometric variations. In a recent series, he overlays biblical texts with columnar forms which migrate across collaged pages. Even when he is not working directly with scripture, an exegetical impulse runs through much of Baird’s work, especially the wooden constructions he produced for his show at Wesley Theological Seminary, entitled Between the Lines: Biblical Speculations. One might expect an architect to render Noah’s ark or the tower of Babel as recognizable, even functional forms. Yet Baird’s interest lies in puzzling out the logic of the text itself, assessing how narratives are fashioned into complex, incongruous, even self-defeating structures. The work above represents a bold new direction for Baird, in which he has begun to scale up these constructions and place them in local Nevada landscapes, not unlike those of biblical lands. Here, his twisting forms feel like wind-worn rock formations, recalling Hosea’s warning that those who “sow the wind . . . shall reap the whirlwind” (8:7). Yet his sculpture also seems to keep watch from the margins, standing austere and inscrutable like a prophet.
Set the trumpet to your lips!
One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord,
because they have broken my covenant,
and transgressed my law.
Israel cries to me,
‘My God, we—Israel—know you!’
Israel has spurned the good;
the enemy shall pursue him.
They made kings, but not through me;
they set up princes, but without my knowledge.
With their silver and gold they made idols
for their own destruction.
Your calf is rejected, O Samaria.
My anger burns against them.
How long will they be incapable of innocence?
For it is from Israel,
an artisan made it;
it is not God.
The calf of Samaria
shall be broken to pieces.
For they sow the wind,
and they shall reap the whirlwind.
The standing grain has no heads,
it shall yield no meal;
if it were to yield,
foreigners would devour it.