Welcome. Our handout features the readings for the Third Sunday After Pentecost (June 19, 2022) in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.
If we follow the lectionary reading for this Sunday, we enter Psalm 22 right in the middle of an anguished scream.
The psalmist has begun the psalm with a desolate cry of abandonment (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), and then has detailed his 5 Hear what the Spirit is saying Pentecost +2 Proper 7C Week of June 19, 2022 troubles, using vivid metaphors. He is a “worm, and not human” (verse 6). He is surrounded by “bulls,” “lions,” and “dogs” (verses 12-13, 16). He is “poured out like water” (verse 14). And he is not afraid to place blame where blame is due: “You [God] lay me in the dust of death” (verse 15).
And yet, the psalmist also knows where his help lies; strangely enough, from the same source he has just accused of foul play. As we enter the psalm, the psalmist cries, “But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!” (verse 19).
In our Forum on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, we’ll explore Psalm 22 (the entire Psalm, though only verses 18-27 will be used in worship). Please view or download the handout we’ll use in our discussion as your own exploration continues.
We believe in one God … and are instantly at a loss for words.
Welcome. Our handout features the readings for Trinity Sunday (June 12, 2022) in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.
The well-known hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” sings, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” Less well known, though, and even less understood is what this hymn truly means. How can God be three persons? Why is the Trinity blessed? Our hearts sing what our minds cannot grasp. We sing of things too wonderful for ourselves.
James McTyre, Pastor, Lake Hills Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tennessee in Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2
In our Forum on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, we’ll explore Psalm 8 (appointed for Trinity Sunday) and wonder at the relationship we have with God and with each other. Please view or download the handout we’ll use in our discussion as your own exploration continues.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit… Act 2:3-4
Welcome. Our handout features the readings for Pentecost (June 5, 2022) in Year C of our Lectionary.
The text [Acts 2:1-21] startles us with a scene of almost unimaginable liveliness verging on chaos: sound like the rush of a mighty wind filled the whole house; tongues of fire appeared among the people; and as the crowd was filled with the Spirit of God, they spoke a cacophony of languages. Galileans, Parthians, Medes … a roll call of peoples all represented in the crush of humanity as the winds of God’s Spirit blew and the ecstatic fire spread.
Michael Jinkins in Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2
Pay attention. Keep learning.
View or download the Handout for The Day of Pentecost, Year C including short biographies for Saint Barnabas and Melania the Elder. Also we will celebrate and explore our Book of Common Prayer that was first used on the Day of Pentecost in 1549. Over the centuries and throughout the world the Book of Common Prayer has been, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, revised, renewed, and revitalized to inspire our worship and faith.
When Jesus and his disciples were in the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked them “Who do they say the Son of man is?” Discussions and teachings followed “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking to him.” (Matt. 17:1-3)
In Transfiguration, Christ is in a white robe with outstretched arms and, as appropriate, is the central figure . In addition, Fra Angelico has placed him on a pedestal-like rock above everyone, and by design he is larger than the other figures. Christ is surrounded by a mandorla (a body halo) and his head is surrounded by a traditional cruciform halo.
In this painting, Moses and Elijah are each presented in bust form, not as full figures; Moses, on the left with light emanating from his forehead represents the law and Elijah on the right represents the prophets. [In some paintings of the Transfiguration, Moses is holding the Ten Commandments and a scroll is placed in the hands of Elijah.]
Below Moses, on the left, is the Virgin Mary with her hands crossed over her chest and to the right, below Elijah, is Saint Dominic. [In 1435 the Monastery of San Marcos was turned over to the Dominican order.] He is standing with hands together in a position of prayer. Dominic’s mother reported that she saw a star on his chest when he was born and sometimes (as here within his halo) he can be identified by a star placed above his head. Of course, Mary and Dominic were not present at the Transfiguration, but it is not unusual for artists to use creative license to include non-participating figures on the sidelines as observers of an important event. In the foreground are Peter, James, and John. They have just heard God’s voice say: “This is my son. Hear him” and “…they fell on their faces and were filled with awe.” (Matt. 17:5-6)
In 1407, Guido di Pietro joined the Dominican order in Fiesole, Italy (near Florence) and at his vows took the name Giovanni. Thus he became known as Friar Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John of Fiesole). Artist and historian, Giorgio Vasari, referred to him as Brother John the angelic one and today he is known simply as Fra Angelico. His life as an artist was devoted to the Church and at the monastery of San Marcos in Florence; he painted the walls of the cells (prayer and meditation rooms) with scenes from the life of Christ. Fra Angelico’s Transfiguration is in cell number six.
In Europe, during the early part of the fifteenth century, medieval art was still a presence, but the City of Florence was at the heart of the Renaissance. Fra Angelico was fully aware of the trend toward humanism that was influencing the art of his time. The changes that were taking place are reflected in his paintings.
The actual site of the Transfiguration is not known; accounts in the Gospels do not name a specific mountain. Mt. Tabor is the traditional site but Jesus and the disciples were in the district of Caesarea Philippi prior to the Transfiguration and the closest and highest mountain there is Mount Hermon. It is the highest mountain in Israel and this may have been the mountain noted in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Joseph was born at a time when his father, Jacob, was old and he became the favorite son. This favoritism caused resentment among his brothers. Negative feelings resulted also from a dream Joseph had that was interpreted to mean someday his brothers would bow down to him. Joseph was seventeen years old when he went to his brothers as they were tending sheep. When his brothers saw him coming they plotted to kill him but then instead, sold him as a slave to a passing merchant who was going to Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream which revealed there would be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. With Joseph’s guidance, grain was stored during the time of abundance and Egypt was well prepared. When famine was experienced in Canaan, Joseph’s father sent his brothers to Egypt to purchase food. Unbeknownst to them, Joseph in the ensuing years had become a high Egyptian official and he was the one they would have to meet.
Francois Gerard’s painting, Joseph Recognized by Brothers, depicts the moment Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers. The brothers are shown displaying a range of emotions; some are kneeling and in body language seem to be exhibiting guilt and remorse for what they did. In contrast to this, two of the brothers and Joseph are reaching out to each other in joy. The brothers at the far right are staying back and holding each other. Perhaps they are fearful of what Joseph might do. The young boy reaching and looking up at Joseph is likely a nephew who came with his father. Joseph places his hand gently on the child’s shoulder.
In 1663, France initiated the Prix de Rome which gave artists (and later, musicians and architects) an opportunity to study in Italy. The purpose of this award was to put promising artists in contact with Roman culture and the masters of the Italian Renaissance. One outcome of this was a trend toward classicism in French art.
In the late 1700s after years of turmoil, the French Revolution overthrew King Louis XVI and Napoleon Bonaparte took charge ultimately as 1st Consul. Classicism in art suited Napoleon perfectly and he appointed Jacques Louis David, an avid classicist, to be the head of the French Academy of art. David’s art promoted what Napoleon favored; discipline, honor, sacrifice strength of character, and devotion of one’s efforts to the state.
Though classicism was sanctioned by the state, the concept of romanticism was always present in art and Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt (1798-1801) generated great interest in Egyptology. It set off fashion fads in both France and England and piqued the interest of painters as well. Francois Gerard’s Joseph Recognized by Brothers was painted during the time of Napoleon’s Egyptian military venture.
Gerard studied under David and elements of classicism in the painting of Joseph and his brothers are apparent in their robes. Gerard’s nod to this scene’s Egyptian location is brought in by Joseph’s headdress and the sphinxes on the arms of Joseph’s chair and the background building. Were it not for these details and its title, this painting might be taken for an illustration of a Greek tragedy.
Winning the Prize of Rome was coveted, difficult, and highly competitive. Gerard’s teacher Jacques Louis David was rejected three times and considered suicide before receiving the award on his fourth attempt. [In later years Eduard Degas and Maurice Ravel were rejected.] Gerard, too, was rejected but because of his mother’s death, he was unable to complete a painting to submit to the jury the following year. After that, he fell into poverty but recovered to gain success and acclaim through portraiture. Napoleon commissioned paintings from him and then after he fell from power, Gerard became the court painter of Louis XVIII.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And then the Lord commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Often in the past, the period after the fall of the Roman Empire was referred to as the “Dark Ages.” This assessment was based on a mistaken belief that without a central government, civilization was at a standstill. After the fall, there was a period of uncertainty initially, nevertheless, monasteries continued to function as centers of learning. When Charlemagne became king of the Franks, he initiated a cultural revival that was continued after he unified Europe and formed the Holy Roman Empire in AD 800. Two centuries later, the spirit of the Carolingian Renaissance remained a presence in Europe. When Otto III went to Rome in AD 996 to be crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim was there and attended the coronation. While in Rome, Bernward was impressed with several large doors that he saw on churches, and upon his return to Hildesheim, he commissioned doors for St. Michael’s Cathedral.
The fourth panel from the top of the left door is a depiction of God arriving to accuse Adam and Eve of eating the forbidden fruit, prior to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Panel 5 on the left side of the door) after they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The forward-leaning figure of God seems angry as He points to Adam and accuses him of disobeying God. In a familiar human reaction, both Adam and Eve try to shift the blame. Adam is embarrassed, is feeling guilt, and senses that he is without clothes. He tries to cover himself and points to Eve in an effort to blame her. Eve, in turn, tries to cover herself and points to the serpent to blame it.
Instead of casting separate panels for each scene, Bishop Bernward’s artists chose to cast each door as one unified piece. First, relief figures of each panel – eight on each door – were created in wax. Sprues of wax were added; after burnout they would serve as funnels into which the molten bronze would be poured. Also wax rods were attached; they would become vents through which gases would escape when the piece was being cast. After the wax pattern – with sprues and vents attached – was completed, foundry workers encased it in a plaster-like substance called investment and placed it in a furnace where the wax was melted and burned out completely (hence the term, “lost wax process”). This burnout created a clean hollow space into which molten bronze was poured to replace everything that was at one time, wax. When the bronze was cool, the investment was chipped off to reveal the doors. Sprues and vents were removed and the doors of St. Michael’s were cleaned and installed.
The panels on the left door depict images from the Book of Genesis and the panels on the right show events from the life of Christ.
The figures in these doors are not anatomically correct and the perspective is not accurate yet, the images are direct and intense. It was not until the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century that perspective and foreshortening became known. The figures on the doors at Hildesheim are primitive by Renaissance standards, yet they are expressive and filled with emotional depth.
Every year, the Last Sunday After Epiphany is also the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Glory and the Cross for our contemplation.
Transfiguration, fresco, 11th Century, unknown artist of Cappadocia
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking to him.” (Matt. 17:1-3)
When the western part of the Roman Empire collapsed the eastern portion thrived and in time became the Byzantine Empire which extended eastward from Constantinople into Asia Minor. In a region known as Cappadocia, Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians often required protection from invaders and found it in rock formations created by volcanic eruptions. By carving into the soft rock, Christians created spaces that gave them shelter from the elements and made invasions by outside forces difficult.
In this setting, a monastic compound known as the “Dark Church,” was carved and its interior walls and ceilings were covered with frescos. Among the paintings is The Transfiguration. In it, Moses and Elijah are with Jesus in an event interpreted as a revelation that Christ is the fulfillment of the law and prophets. Moses represents the law and in paintings he often is shown holding the Torah or a stone tablet. Elijah represents the prophets. In this fresco, neither Moses nor Elijah has been given an identifying symbol but we can assume the gray-haired bearded man on the right is Moses and the un-bearded figure on the left is Elijah.
Mt. Tabor is the traditional site of the transfiguration but other places have been proposed. One of the sites that have been suggested is Mt. Hermon which has three distinct peaks. Often in paintings of the transfiguration, as in this painting from the Dark Church, three peaks are shown. In this painting,, Christ is standing on the center peak. Moses is standing on the right peak and Elijah is on the left. Below them are the disciples kneeling and crouching. At the bottom left is Peter with white hair and a beard. He is pointing upward toward Christ. The disciple John is depicted in the center as a beardless youth (his face is partially obscured by damage) and James is to the right with brown hair and a beard. Linear rays indicate there is a direct connection between Jesus and each of the disciples.
Note: The “Dark Church” is so named because it has only a small opening (oculus) for light, thus the interior is dim.
Dark Church is at the left side of photo.
Among the various people of ancient Cappadocia were the Armenians who were known then as being horse breeders. “Cappadocia,” the historic name for this region is believed to have been derived from “Kapatuka,” an Old Persian term meaning, “Land of beautiful horses.” The Crusaders referred to the region as Terra Hermeniorum: “Land of the Armenians.”
According to tradition, Byzas, a Greek colonist founded the ancient city, Byzantium, in BC 667. Later, Byzantium, along with eastward lands became part of the Roman Empire. In AD 330, when Constantine moved the capital of Rome to Byzantium, the city’s name was changed to Constantinople. After the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, its name was changed to Istambol (Turkish: “City of Islam”), and in 1930 it was changed again and is now, Istanbul.
Art to illustrate the parable of Jesus found in Luke 12:35-37
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
As Jesus talked to his disciples, he spoke about values and how their lives should be conducted. They were told to sell their possessions and instead, lay-up treasures in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. It is here that we have Jesus’ much-quoted statement, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus continued with a parable
about waiting, watching, and being both patient and prepared. [This is known as the Parable of the Faithful Servant or Parable of theDoor Keeper.] “Be prepared for action and have your lamps
lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding
banquet so they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those…whom the master finds
alert when he comes.” Jesus ends the
parable with, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an
When Peter asked, “Lord are you telling this parable to us, or to everybody?” Jesus continued with the need for responsibility and ended with another much-quoted statement, “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required, and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.” This message was spoken to the disciples but also is a lesson for everyone in leadership roles. It has been interpreted as being applicable particularly to religious leaders.
Dutch artist, Jan Luyken (also spelled, Luiken) was of the generation of artists that followed Rembrandt. Early in his career, he became attracted to etching and engraving, and the making of prints occupied him throughout his life. He wrote poetry as well and often they were published with his prints. Among Luyken’s publications was Martyrs Mirror which included 104 engravings depicting religious persecution. He was well aware of persecution even in his own time. At the age of twenty-six, he had an “awakening” experience and accepted Anabaptist teachings. Ana Baptists were regarded to be a threat to Catholics as well as Protestants and they were persecuted by both,
In Luyken’s The Faithful and Wise Steward, the master of the house – who was away attending a wedding banquet – has just arrived home by horseback. Through the doorway,T a servant is seen tending the horse and the master is being greeted with a warm welcome as he comes through the door. The steward gestures toward the other servants who are seated and standing around a dinner table awaiting their master’s return. The master is pleased as he smiles and places a hand on the shoulder of the steward who greeted him.
Two dogs add a symbolic note to this etching. Dogs have long been a symbol of loyal devotion and love. Their presence gives a sense of warmth to the scene and re-enforces the theme of the parable. The dog in the doorway seems happy to see his master again while the other one has found something to sniff.
At the time artist, Max Beckmann volunteered to serve in the German army’s medical corps during World War I (1914-1818), the nations of Europe had not been in an all-encompassing conflict for almost a century. During those years the industrial revolution changed not only the way people lived but it changed the way wars would be fought. Humans were up against tanks, machine guns, mortar shells, and airplanes. As a member of the medical corps, Beckmann was unnerved completely by the carnage he saw. This led to a breakdown and subsequent discharge from the military.
After its defeat, Germany was in disarray and the aftermath of war left people without direction or purpose. An uncertain future and relaxed social values during the Weimar Republic aided the onset of moral decay, and many Germans were living for the moment. Entertainment and self-indulgence was available in popular cabarets that offered escape into a world of drinking, dancing and shows featuring lewd performances, nudity and bawdy songs. Prostitution was commonplace and to Beckman, this was all a continuation of an abhorrent world.
Despite social conditions, Beckmann’s reputation in the art world grew immensely during the 1920s and many awards were received. He also was awarded a teaching position at the Frankfort School of Art. With the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, however, Hitler determined that modern trends in art and music were unacceptable and Beckmann was dismissed from his teaching assignment. In his youth, Hitler himself sought a career in art and believed he was an excellent judge of value. Beckmann’s art was among works that he called, “degenerate.” When World War II appeared to be inevitable, Beckmann left Germany to live in Amsterdam. A degree of peace finally came to him when he arrived in America in 1947 and taught at George Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
The parable of The Prodigal Son was given by Jesus and recorded in the Gospel of Luke but when Beckmann depicted a portion of the story, his imagery was based on conditions he witnessed in Weimar during the 1920s. The parable’s older son’s complaint that his wastrel brother had been living among harlots was a description that brought up images of a seamy reality that Beckmann knew.
In Beckmann’s painting, the prodigal son is in a brothel surrounded by three coarse, tawdry and partially clad women with claw-like hands; all are under the watchful eye of a Madam. The unsmiling bare-breasted blonde has wrapped her arms around the prodigal son while the woman wearing a blue hat and blue-corset is holding a drink and looking on with a vacant smile. None of the figures seem to be enjoying themselves and the young man looks “wasted.” His hands prop up his head as he remains without expression. Perhaps he is realizing the attractive fantasies of his youth were not based on reality.
The Prodigal Son is not painted in a “realistic” style but it reflects a reality that Beckmann observed. The painting’s style, like its subject matter is raw, harsh, and visually abrupt. It is not “pretty.” The black smudges throughout its surface add to an effect of something unclean. Though some would prefer art to be an escape to a lovely place, this painting’s subject matter and style reflects Beckmann’s thoughts and experiences during difficult times.
The Vision of the Lord Directing Abraham to Count the Stars, wood engraving, 1860, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1794-1872
Commentary by Hovak Najarian
The Book of Genesis gives an account of Abram being visited by God. Abram was notified of God’s covenant and that he (Abram) would be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. Abram was told, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them” and God said, “So shall your descendants be.” Abram was ninety-nine years old when his name was changed to Abraham (“father of many” in Hebrew) and a covenant with God was made.
In nineteenth-century Europe during the lifetime of German artist, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, there was renewed interest in classicism. This interest in Greek and Roman art was due partly to the discovery of the Roman cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum during the eighteenth century. In AD 79, these two cities were buried by the volcanic ash of Mt. Vesuvius. Cultural changes also brought conditions that favored a return to classicism. Artists who worked in this “neoclassic” style tended to take a formal and intellectual approach to art. Their contemporaries, the Romanticists led by Eugene Delacroix, however, believed art should come from the heart and reflect emotions. When Schnorr first studied in Rome, he admired the art of the late middle ages and Early Renaissance. Later, he was influenced by artists of the High Renaissance, but by mid-nineteenth century, at the time he engraved, The Vision of the Lord Directing Abraham toCount the Stars, there was dramatic action (a characteristic of Romanticism) in his work.
Schnorr first studied engraving with his father and then attended the Vienna Academy in Austria. From there he went to Rome and joined a brotherhood of likeminded artist who sought a return of spiritual content in art. The artists that were part of this fervent group affected biblical manners in their clothes and hair and were soon called, “The Nazarenes.” After ten years in Rome, Schnorr returned to Germany and settled in Munich where he established a successful career painting frescos and designing windows for churches.
While on a visit to London in 1851, Schnorr was commissioned to create a Picture Bible. During the next eight years, he completed more than two hundred wood engravings in which he interpreted biblical stories and events. Schnorr’s Bible contains the dramatic engraving that depicts God calling Abraham’s attention to the heavens. When Abraham looked at the stars, he was awed and fell to kneel on one knee. God is there before him pointing to the stars. As in Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel, God is shown surrounded by figures symbolizing unborn generations that are to come to earth when it is their time.